Complementary Therapies for Managing Side Effects

It is common for gynecologic cancer treatment to cause side effects, but many patients find relief through palliative care, integrative therapies, dietary changes, and more. If you are experiencing side effects, talk to your doctor. Be sure to get approval from your medical team before trying any of the below methods.

Palliative Care & Integrative Therapies

Palliative care is a medical subspecialty focused on helping people improve quality of life while facing serious illness. Palliative care is sometimes confused with hospice care; however, palliative care is not hospice care. It is available and recommended at any time throughout treatment to help alleviate symptoms caused by side effects of treatment, or the illness itself, and can have an enormous positive impact on daily life. Learn more about how palliative care works, and how to talk to your doctor about receiving palliative care.

Acupuncture and Acupressure

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese practice, performed by a licensed acupuncturist, in which thin, sterile needles are inserted into the skin on strategic points of the body to help with pain relief and a host of other symptoms, including neuropathy; nausea and vomiting; anxiety; depression; fatigue; sleep disturbances; hot flashes; and dry mouth. Acupressure enables patients to administer pressure on their own bodies to relieve symptoms whenever needed. Learn more about how acupuncture and acupressure can help with symptom management.

Massage and Reiki

Traditional massage, performed by a therapist who specializes in palliative care massage, can help provide relief of symptoms such as pain, fatigue, and nausea, and may also help alleviate stress, anxiety and depression.

Some patients may also find that reiki, a healing art that originated in Japan, helps them feel more relaxed and calm. Reiki is performed by a reiki practitioner, and is different from traditional massage in that it focuses on healing energy, and may not involve physical touch. The recipient of reiki therapy will remain fully clothed while the practitioner either places their hands near the body, or uses a light touch, to help provide relief.

Mindfulness, Meditation and Guided Imagery

Mindfulness techniques, such as meditation and guided imagery, can be useful in relaxing the body, and alleviating stress and anxiety. These activities can be especially useful because of their convenience — patients can follow along with sessions online, whenever works best for them, from the comfort of home.

Diet, Nutrition, and Supplements

There is no perfect diet for those in ovarian cancer treatment, and no supplement that has been proven to fight the disease. However, it is important to maintain a healthy, balanced diet that delivers nutrients and vitamins. A healthy diet allows the immune system to function at its best, and can make a difference in how your body handles treatment and its side effects. In some cases, your doctor may be able to recommend certain foods, vitamins or supplements that may relieve symptoms. Learn more about nutrition, and find answers to commonly-asked questions about diet for ovarian cancer.

Exercise and Physical Therapy

Provided the doctor approves, there can be real benefits to exercise for ovarian cancer patients. Even activities with moderate intensity, such as a brisk walk or gentle yoga, can lead to increased energy, pain relief, better mental health, and improved quality of life.

Physical therapy can provide a guided, professionally-led routine, to help restore and maintain mobility and strength after surgery and throughout treatment. Your doctor can refer you to a physical therapist who specializes in patient programs.

Support Programs

Connecting with others who understand what you are going through can help you feel less alone, and mental health benefits may even have an impact on your physical symptoms. OCRA’s Staying Connected support series, Woman to Woman peer support program, and online community through Inspire, are all available to gynecologic cancer patients, free of charge.