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Complementary and Comfort Care Therapies for Renal Cell Carcinoma

Medically reviewed by Seunggu Han, MD on September 22, 2017Written by Stephanie Watson on September 22, 2017
Renal Cell Carcinoma

Your doctor will help you decide on a treatment for renal cell carcinoma (RCC) based on your general health and how far your cancer has spread. Treatments for RCC usually include surgery, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, and chemotherapy. These treatments are meant to slow or stop the growth of your cancer.

Complementary and comfort care therapies (palliative care) don’t treat your cancer, but they do help you feel better during your treatment. These therapies are used along with — not instead of — your medical treatment. Complementary therapies can include herbal remedies, massage, acupuncture, and emotional support.

These treatments can:

  • relieve symptoms like fatigue, nausea, and pain
  • help you sleep better
  • ease the stress of your cancer treatment

Complementary Care

Here are a few of the complementary therapies people have tried for RCC. Even though many of these remedies are considered natural, some can cause side effects or interact with your cancer treatment. Check with your doctor before trying any complementary therapy.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that has been around for thousands of years. It uses hair-thin needles to stimulate various pressure points and improve energy flow around the body. In cancer, acupuncture is used to treat chemotherapy-induced nausea, pain, depression, and insomnia.

Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy uses scented essential oils from flowers and plants to reduce stress and improve quality of life. It can be particularly helpful with relieving nausea that’s associated with some chemotherapy treatments. Sometimes aromatherapy is combined with massage and other complementary techniques.

Herbal remedies

A few herbs are promoted for relieving cancer symptoms, including:

  • ginger for nausea and vomiting
  • ginseng for fatigue
  • L-carnitine for fatigue
  • St. John’s wort for depression

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate these products, and some can cause side effects. Talk to your doctor before trying any herbal remedy.

Massage therapy

Massage is a technique that rubs, strokes, kneads, or presses on the body’s soft tissues. People with cancer use massage to relieve pain, stress, and anxiety. It might also help you sleep better.

Vitamin supplements

Some cancer patients take high doses of vitamin supplements, believing that these products will boost their immune system to help fight off the cancer. Vitamins A, C, and E, beta-carotene, and lycopene are examples of antioxidants — substances that protect cells against damage.

If you’re thinking about taking any supplement, check with your doctor first. Some vitamins can cause side effects when you take them in high doses or use them together with your cancer medicines. High doses of vitamin C can damage your kidneys. This can be especially dangerous if you’ve had one kidney removed. There’s also concern that antioxidants might reduce the effectiveness of cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation.

Yoga/tai chi

Yoga and tai chi are mind-body exercise techniques that combine a series of poses or movements with deep breathing and relaxation. There are several different types of yoga, ranging from gentle to more strenuous. People with cancer use yoga and tai chi to relieve stress, anxiety, fatigue, depression, and other side effects of the disease and its treatment.

Comfort Care

Comfort care, also called palliative care, helps you live better and more comfortably during your treatment. It may relieve side effects like nausea, fatigue, and pain from your cancer and its treatment.

Nausea

Chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and other cancer treatments can cause nausea. Your doctor can give you medicine, such as an antiemetic, to combat the nausea.

You can also try these tips to relieve nausea:

  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals. Choose bland foods like crackers or dry toast. Avoid spicy, sweet, fried, or fatty foods.
  • Try ginger candy or tea.
  • Drink small amounts of clear liquids (water, tea, ginger ale) often throughout the day.
  • Practice deep breathing exercises or listen to music to distract yourself.
  • Wear an acupressure band around your wrist.

Fatigue

Fatigue is a common side effect in people with cancer. Some people become so tired that they can barely get out of bed.

Here are a few ways to manage fatigue:

  • Take short naps (30 minutes or less) during the day.
  • Get into a sleep routine. Go to bed and wake up at the same times each day.
  • Avoid caffeine close to bedtime because it can keep you awake.
  • Exercise daily, if possible. Staying active can help you sleep better.

If these lifestyle changes don’t help, ask your doctor about taking a nighttime sleep aid.

Pain

Cancer can cause pain, especially if it spreads to the bones or other organs. Treatments like surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy can also be painful. To help you manage your pain, your doctor can prescribe pain medicines by pill, patch, or injection.

Nondrug techniques used to treat pain include:

  • acupuncture
  • applying cold or heat
  • counseling
  • deep breathing and other relaxation techniques
  • hypnosis
  • massage

Stress

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, ask your oncologist to recommend a counselor who works with people who have cancer. Or, join a support group for people with RCC.

You can also try one or more of these relaxation techniques:

  • deep breathing
  • guided imagery (closing your eyes and imagining scenarios)
  • progressive muscle relaxation
  • meditation
  • yoga
  • prayer
  • listening to music
  • art therapy
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