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Cancer is a Diagnosis That an Increasing Number of Americans are Given Each Year

Daily Herald, Monday, February 24, 2003

Although our success with a number of cancers has improved, the effects of therapy can be overwhelming. One of the most common complaints is profound fatigue. This loss of energy is unlike any fatigue I have ever seen. A patient can be so tired that they are, literally, unable to even eat. I believe that there are a number of reasons for the fatigue.

Although our success with a number of cancers has improved, the effects of therapy can be overwhelming. One of the most common complaints is profound fatigue. This loss of energy is unlike any fatigue I have ever seen. A patient can be so tired that they are, literally, unable to even eat. I believe that there are a number of reasons for the fatigue.

Traditional medical approaches include early detection, surgery, radiation and the use of toxic drugs called chemotherapy. A profound fatigue can be a result of the effects of radiation and chemotherapy. Although technology has improved tremendously-especially in radiation therapy, there can still be a lot of damage to healthy tissue. Chemotherapy and radiation generally target fast growing cells like cancer. Unfortunately, fast growing cells are also found in healthy tissue, specifically the intestines and immune system. Repairing the damage to these tissues can take a great deal of energy and contributes to the fatigue.

Another reason for fatigue is that it takes a lot of mental energy to deal with cancer. Unrelieved mental stress has a major, negative, impact on the body. It profoundly affects the hormone systems and can actually reduce the body’s ability to make energy and to heal.

How do we get more energy? Well, in many culturally-based medical systems, like Oriental medicine, bio-energy is the foundation and their therapies are directed to increasing and balancing the flow of energy. In Western medicine, our concepts of bio-energy are not as well defined. We know, however, that the human body is a very energetic organism. We make electricity, heat, have a measurable magnetic field and many of our diagnostic tests are based upon measuring some type of bio-energy.

To combat cancer therapy fatigue, physicians often recommend exercise. Too often, however, cancer patients are too tired to do any regular exercise. In addition, regular exercise can make a cancer patient even more fatigued. There is hope, however, through the combination of traditional and nontraditional approaches. Medical research has demonstrated that mild exercise, deep breathing and meditation can increase “energy”, accelerate the removal of toxins and relax the mind.

Several years ago, I was asked to develop an “exercise” program for the patients at the Cancer Institute at the Alexian Brothers Medical Center. It was a combination of qigong breathing-to increase energy and remove toxins, tai chi-like movements-to stimulate circulation and a guided meditation-to reduce the effects of stress on the mind would help with energy levels. This specific approach allowed patients undergoing chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy to safely exercise and increase their “energy levels”…and it works well.

The Alexian Brother Hospital Network has been pleased with the results and produced a very good video on tai chi and cancer and it’s free. To obtain a free Medical Tai Chi and Cancer videotape or DVD call Alexian Brothers at 1-866-253-9426, while supplies last. Maximizing the body’s ability to fight cancer may give the best overall outcomes.

Patrick B. Massey MD, PhD
Medical Director, Complementary and Alternative Medicine - Alexian Brothers Hospital Network and President, ALT-MED Medical and Physical Therapy Programs