[caption id="attachment_2823" align="alignleft" width="103" caption="Dr. Cynara Coomer"][/caption]
Recently, Chris Kilham, better known as "The Medicine Hunter," was a guest on my Strategy Room show "Headline Health." He travels the world in search of alternative medicine and there was a tremendous interest in the show when he was here.
Our discussions got me thinking about my own stance on alternative treatments and my patients. As a breast cancer surgeon, I stand by conventional treatments for fighting breast cancer. But, I do see a place for alternatives to cure some of the side effects associated with certain traditional therapies.
Acupuncturehas been used for thousands of years to help alleviate pain. For cancer patients, I've found that it is extremely helpful for post-surgery pain. We don't know why it works exactly, but it is worth looking into. There have been several clinical studies to support its use for therapy-related symptoms rather than management of the disease itself. It can also be used to combat nausea, vomiting and fatigue. Sometimes the medications we prescribe are just not enough. Supplementing treatment with acupuncture is something that can greatly improve your quality of life.
Medical hypnosiscan also be used to manage post-surgery pain and nausea. It works like this - the patient visualizes their healthy cells attacking the cancer cells and eliminating them. Patients should become very relaxed during medical hypnosis and be able to "shut off" the pain. This technique has been used in children quite often, and I think that is because children have such a vivid imagination. It is easy for them to battle cancer cells in their brains. Whether or not this actually works is hard to say, but giving the patient a sense of empowerment over their disease is important. As a cancer patient is it vital to have a positive attitude and strive for a better diagnosis.
Arnica Montanais an herb that I spoke about with the "Medicine Hunter" on the show. It can help heal bruises and ease overall soreness and trauma to the body. The properties in this plant, which looks like a yellow flower, act very much like ibuprofen. I've heard that athletes use it to bounce back from a particularly brutal battle. It comes in liquid, pill and cream form. There are some studies that show a vast improvement when it is applied topically. When applied to the skin it acts as an anti-inflammatory. When ingested it promotes the healing of damaged tissues and helps to stop bleeding. I suggest using it topically two weeks after surgery or taking it orally for two weeks before and after surgery.
Vitamin E cream is another one of my favorites for cancer patients. It can be used two weeks after surgery to make scars fade. You can get vitamin E in capsules or liquid form in any drugstore. When you put it on your skin it will penetrate down through the layers and stop the formation of free radicals so your skin can heal better. It can also speed up the production of collagen which makes your skin strong and elastic. As with many alternative treatments, there aren't very many studies showing that this one works 100 percent of the time. All I can say is that it won't hurt you, so give it a try.
Dr. Cynara Coomer is an assistant professor of surgery specializing in breast health and breast cancer surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. She is a FOX News Health contributor providing medical expertise on a variety of topics in cancer research with a focus on women's health, breast diseases and tips for healthy breasts at any age. If you have a question email her at DrCoomer@foxnews.com