Complementary Therapies

"Complementary therapies are those activities or therapies that are used by specialists together with the patients to complement or support the doctor’s treatments. Therapies are discussed with the counsellors and the patient in collaboration with the doctor to settle for the best therapy. The patients choose the type of therapy they prefer in view of their condition and type of cancer. The Cancer Association has conducive rooms for all the available therapies to be carried out. - Introduction "







When one is diagnosed with cancer, people have different reactions and feelings such as shock, denial, anger, confusion, anxiety, self pity, depression, fear of treatment, fear of loosing family and friends, fear of outcome and fear of death. Reactions to the diagnosis are different from person to person and the levels of stress are also different. However, most patients find disruption in harmony of the mind, body and spirit. The effects of stressors bring about changes in behaviour, emotional state and the immunity system. This state results in creating abnormal physiological response. The body responds through activation of fight and flight response, or violent activity of the sympathetic nervous system. The heart-rate, force of contraction and cardiac output increase, the blood pressure increases, muscle blood flow is increased, while blood flow to the stomach, intestines, digestion and salivation are decreased. The environment created by stressors is not conducive for healing.

The introduction of complementary therapies to the patients is meant to diffuse or relieve the stress and related symptoms. The techniques used in therapies are similar in that they encourage the relaxation response. During the complementary activities, the stimulation of the relaxation response is enhanced by activating the parasympathetic activity which prepares the body for rest and recovery. This response counteracts the violent activity by decreasing the heart rate, cardiac output and blood pressure while increasing the digestive process, gland secretions and glycogen or energy stores.

Repeated exposure to diffuse the negative stress responses through therapies will help the body to deal more with recovery activities. The state encourages rest and creates a balance of the hormones which help with the healing process.

Some complementary therapies offered through the Cancer Association:

  • Relaxtion Classes

    This is a technique which involves a systematic process of contracting and relaxing of muscles. The guided process of contracting and relaxing the muscles help the individual to draw the attention from the feeling of tension and distress towards feelings of comfort. This is referred to as active relaxation because of the component of tensing various groups of muscles from the feet to the head.

    The process of a relaxation session

    • The therapist prepares the room, the couch and provides a quiet environment for the full hour of the treatment.
    • In a slow controlled manner, the patient is asked to lie comfortably, switch off the cell phone and detach oneself from the outside proceedings.
    • Starting with both feet right through the body to the head, the patient is guided through contraction and relaxation of different groups of muscles.
    • The exercises should be gentle and not hurt the patient. In between the process, the patient does deep breathing, using abdominal muscles.
    • The second half hour is used to calm the mind through guided imagery. This is use of purposeful mental images that are used to produce emotional calmness, relaxation or feelings of being in control.
    • The effects of guided imagery are meant to enhance self healing. The complete relaxation process brings positive changes to the body and mind.
  • Meditation Classes

    These are classes that are meant to help the patient to relax the mind and body, bring stillness and inner peace. It helps to create self awareness and more focus to the inner self. The process helps individuals to be in touch with the present. When the patient is going through stressful periods, there could be a tendency to avoid dealing with the problems at hand. More time is spent on doing activities like concentrating on the job, answering telephones, writing emails and meeting dead lines. Meditation provides the opportunity for the individual to reflect on the thoughts as they come and just let them pass. Concentration on the present process of breathing creates relaxation of the mind as well as of the body. During quieting of the mind, imagination of positive and happy situations are encouraged and with more practice it is hoped the negative thoughts will be replaced.

    The process of meditation :

    • One sits up quietly, in a comfortable position, with eyes closed and both feet on the floor, this settles the mind without realizing it.
    • Concentration or focus can be done on the process of breathing, while listening to your favourite music, while watching a burning candle or just gazing at a favourite pot-plant.

    Benefits of Meditation :

    • Provides an opportunity to come to terms with personal situations.
    • Creates connection with what is deepest and most nourishing with the individual.
    • Gives meaning and direction in times of high stress levels.
    • Controls attention, promotes harmonious functioning of biological processes.
    • Gives time for imagery which helps to create a healthy mind, body and spirit.
    • Creates time for an individual to take stock of ones life.
    • Allows the mind to disengage from hurtful thoughts and baggage of the past.
    • Dispels negative thoughts, self doubt, deepens faith, enhances happiness, improves productivity.
    • Many of the patients who practice meditation express enhanced good health, increased energy and self awareness.
    • Meditation is one of the essential tools of wholeness, healing and wellness, anyone can do it.

  • Aromatherapy – Massage


    The state of being diagnosed with cancer is received with various emotions which affect well-being and quality of life. These intense emotional responses are natural. Each person is unique and the way to cope is also unique, it varies from person to person. Because of the psychological, social, physical and spiritual aspects that are affected, a variety of therapeutic approaches is available to improve the quality of life of cancer patients. Aromatherapy is one of the approaches that addresses issues of facilitating communication, one to one interaction and dealing with emotional issues. The issue of touch stimulates therapeutic effects in most patients increases circulation and relaxation.

    The expects in aromatherapy massage provide the service to the patients at the Cancer Association, where a conducive environment has been created.

    The process of Aromatherapy:

    Aromatherapy massage is a systematic massage and manipulation of body tissues performed with hands. It is meant to produce therapeutic effect on the nervous system, muscular systems and the circulation. The gentle systemic mechanical manipulation of the soft tissues of the body are done through pressing, kneading, rubbing, rolling, slapping and tapping. All these are meant to promote circulation of muscles, relief from pain, improving metabolic balance. Some patients have expressed calming effects relief in symptoms of nausea, anger, insomnia, headache and stress.

    Since the process is done on cancer patients, the aromatherapists use a lot of discretion taking into account the condition of the patient, the nutrional status , the type of cancer and the level of the treatment. This gives guidance to the level of pressure or movements to be applied to the patients as well as the frequency of sessions. It is a comfortable therapy for some patients, thus it is important to first go through the counseling sessions and discussions with the therapist and the medical specialists. The procedure is only done by specialists who are trained in massage using special oils, thus consultation with the whole medical team is vital.

  • Reflexology

    This is a process of doing massage on the reflex areas of the feet which is done by a reflexologist. The process helps to unblock energy channels and this allows the energy to flow freely and encourage healing. The feet are a mirror of the body while the left foot represents the left hand side and the right foot representing the right side of the body. Different parts of the sole connect in some way to such organs as sinuses, eyes, neck, ears, heart, lungs, stomach, spleen, liver, pancreas, large and small intestines. By applying special foot massage techniques to the correct points it is hoped the body is stimulated to heal itself.

    The Cancer Association provides these special therapies through qualified specialist volunteers who give their time to offer the services. Most cancer patients find reflexology helpful and effective. Other complementary therapies that are provided for the cancer patients are Indian head massage and shiatsu.

    Information on these therapies is available on request. It is of great importance for the cancer patients to make an appointment with counsellors for more help and information.