Complementary Treatments

Mesothelioma treatment can range from curative chemotherapy to life improvements. Nearly one-third of all cancer patients pursue complementary therapies to work alongside standard treatment.

This is an image of two elderly people doing yoga for complementary therapy.

What Is Complementary Treatment?

Mesothelioma patients typically follow a multimodal treatment plan that involves a combination of standard treatments, like chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery. The type of cancer treatment depends on the patient’s general health and stage of the disease, or how far it has progressed.

In some cases, other treatment methods, like complementary treatments, may be used in combination with standard treatments. Complementary therapies are treatment options that do not directly kill cancer cells, but help patients feel better and cope with symptoms or side effects from conventional treatment.

Complementary vs. Alternative Treatment

The terms “complementary” and “alternative” are often used interchangeably and can collectively be defined as cancer treatment using products, practices, and treatments that are not part of standard or traditional medicine, according to the American Cancer Society.

However, mesothelioma patients should know the differences between the two words. Complementary treatment can involve multiple treatments or practices alongside or in combination with standard chemotherapy. Alternative treatment refers to non-standard treatment used in place of standard treatment.

In some cases, using alternative treatments in place of standard mesothelioma treatment can be dangerous or sometimes deadly. While alternative therapies can be appealing to some cancer patients, some methods can incorrectly claim to prevent, diagnose, or treat cancer. Alternative treatments can help you manage side effects and symptoms but do not cure mesothelioma. Talk to your oncologist or cancer care team before starting any non-traditional therapy.

Herbal Medicine

Herbal medicine involves the consumption of certain plants and is used as a treatment for a variety of conditions, including cancer. Supplements can include vitamins, minerals, herbs, botanicals, or amino acids. Consumption of herbal supplements typically involves ingesting some form of capsules, tablets, pills, powders, or liquids. Some herbal supplements have proven to help with cancer symptoms or treatment side effects.


Consuming one clove of garlic per day gives the body a boost in antibacterial and antiviral properties while protecting the immune system.


Eating fresh ginger root in your meals can help reduce inflammation and ease nausea. The body can receive most of the root’s benefits by consuming it directly, instead of ginger supplements.

Green Tea

A chemical in green tea called polyphenols provides the body with a rich source of antioxidants, which helps reduce inflammation. Patients can drink up to three cups each day to notice results. Green tea may interfere with certain chemotherapy treatments. Talk to your doctor before consuming large amounts.

Ground Flaxseed

Flaxseed contains an abundance of omega-3 fatty acids, which are healthy fats known to help prevent heart disease and stroke. Omega-3 also helps control lupus, eczema, rheumatoid arthritis, and certain cancer side effects.


Turmeric is a plant that’s ground into a spice and often used in curry powder, mustard, and cheese. The chemical makeup of the herb has the potential to help the body fight cancer. Curcumin, found in turmeric, may kill cancer cells and slow tumor growth.

Vitamin D

The body needs Vitamin D to absorb calcium and promote bone growth. Taking vitamin D supplements can improve calcium absorption and helps the immune, muscle, and nervous system run efficiently.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that may help the body fight cancer cells. Consuming vitamin E through food or supplements may help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals, which are unstable atoms linked to disease.

Mind-Based Therapy

Mind-and body-based therapies are designed to help patients both mentally and physically strengthen the body before, during, and after standard cancer treatment. Each patient has a different outlook and receptiveness to mind-and body-based treatments and should talk to their doctor before pursuing them.


Though the term has many definitions, the American Cancer Society defines hypnosis as a “state of inner absorption, concentration, and focused attention,” in which we can use our minds more powerfully. Hypnosis researchers believe hypnosis can allow people to improve quality of life and learn self-control.

The procedure begins when a therapist places the patient in a hyper-focused state. Once the patient is under a hypnosis state, the hypnotist offers suggestions to deal with distress and improve daily experiences. More research needs to be done before researchers can fully understand the benefits of hypnosis.


Meditation is a form of practice that involves connecting with a natural state of mind. Cancer patients may practice meditation to help their minds and bodies relax and feel better. Meditation can help cancer patients control pain, difficulty sleeping, feeling sick, tiredness, and high blood pressure. This form of treatment involves focusing on breathing patterns and holding a specific position or movement.

Music Therapy

Music therapy involves treating patients with music for emotional support. Researchers believe music therapy can significantly calm and relax patients who are having a difficult time expressing or releasing emotions due to cancer. The process can involve listening or moving to music, singing, or discussing music.

Body-Based Therapy


Acupuncture is a form of complementary therapy that involves the stimulation of locations throughout the body on the skin with several thin needles. The therapy can treat multiple symptoms associated with mesothelioma and standard treatment. Acupuncture can reduce nausea and vomiting, pain, and fatigue.


Like acupuncture, acupressure involves the use of pressure points, but uses physical pressure on those spots instead of needles. Dyspnoea, or shortness of breath, affects a large portion of pleural mesothelioma patients. Studies have shown acupressure may help eliminate symptoms caused by dyspnoea.

Chiropractic/Osteopathic Manipulation

Chiropractic care is one of the most common complementary treatment because of its ability to relieve symptoms associated with mesothelioma, including pain and stiffness in joints and muscles. The treatment can also increase mobility, flexibility, and strength, while decreasing stress levels.


It’s important to keep the body as healthy as possible during cancer treatment. Mesothelioma patients can benefit from gentle exercise to help combat fatigue. Exercise can improve the quality of life, improve physical function, and boost mood.

Tai Chi and Qigong

Tai Chi and Qigong are both ancient forms of martial art that combine breathing and steady movement. The technique can aid in restoring balance to the body. Both therapies can calm the mind, improve stability, reduce muscle and joint pain, promote focus, and increase flexibility.

TENS Therapy

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) can benefit mesothelioma patients by reducing pain associated with cancer. The treatment typically involves altering pain perceptions through electrical stimulation of nerve fibers.


Yoga is a practice that involves breathing, exercise, stretching, and meditation. For thousands of years, people have been practicing yoga to help improve focus, strength, flexibility, and balance. Cancer patients can benefit from yoga because of its ability to strengthen the body during treatment.

Risks Of Complementary Treatments

A survey conducted by the American Society of Clinical Oncology determined nearly half of all Americans believe alternative therapies may cure cancer. However, using alternative therapies in place of standard treatment does not increase your chances of survival.

According to the American Cancer Society, the use of complementary treatment in place of standard treatments could stop or delay remission and allow cancer to grow or spread. Further, some patients who used complementary treatment in combination with standard treatment have had serious problems, including death.

Certain supplements may increase the risk of developing an illness or a different form of cancer. In some cases, a supplement you may come across could have no scientific evidence that supports its purpose.

Many supplements have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and could have harmful side effects. Talk to your doctor before trying any complementary treatment.