Cancer patients clamoring for complementary therapies

July 10, 2012 | by Alicia Di Rado

When you’ve got cancer, you'll do everything to fight it. A national study showed that for two of every five cancer patients, “everything” includes mind-body therapies.

Photo of Daisy Rivera Daisy Rivera (Photo by Alicia Di Rado)

Should science-based cancer centers offer these therapies despite little evidence, though? Scientific proof behind many spiritual and holistic health techniques is spotty, but research is starting to point out roles for yoga, acupuncture and meditation. Others are under study.

Patients’ demands for these therapies are pushing them into the mainstream. They’re so popular that the National Institutes of Health started a center to investigate these practices.

And leading research and medical centers are listening. City of Hope is among them.

It not only has one of the first centers focused on “whole-person” care for patients and their families, but also caring staff members like Daisy Rivera, L.C.S.W. , who practices yoga, sound therapy and Reiki.

As a clinical social worker, Rivera sees patients and families through the Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center. The center offers yoga and meditation, as well as music therapy. The center also has sponsored research projects.

She’s taken it a step further, getting training in several disciplines so she can offer a different sort of healing for those who want it. For Rivera, holistic therapies fill an important need: “These techniques provide other options when our words fail.”

Ultimately, health-care professionals who work closely with cancer patients often take a common-sense approach to mind-body-spirit therapies. If these therapies pose little risk of harm and can potentially improve quality of life, then they may meet everyone’s needs — and become a valuable part of treatment.

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