The beneficial effects of chiropractic care on the whole body have been reported and previously discussed in prior articles. However, we have not looked at whether chiropractic care can benefit the cancer patient and if so, how?
It has been estimated that by 2030, 12 million deaths will result from cancer with 30% having been preventable. One question that chiropractors are sometimes asked is, “…can you cure cancer?” The answer to this simple question is a simple answer: NO! This answer is supported by many organizations including the American Cancer Association, as well as most, if not all, chiropractic colleges and associations. However, it is important to differentiate between the concepts of “curing cancer” vs. helping patients with cancer.
The evidence and literature based on this subject is thin and it is NOT a common practice for chiropractors to treat patients with cancer. However, there are unique places that integrate standard medical cancer care and other approaches (including chiropractic) as a part of that service or “team.” These typically offer a combination of traditional cancer care by the oncologist and other care options as adjunctive care for the cancer patient. An example of such a place is the Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. There, a “whole-person” approach to cancer care is emphasized, “…in which body, mind and spirit each play an important role.” Chiropractic is described as a complementary therapy where oncologists collaborate with chiropractors and offer the cancer patient conventional cancer treatments along with chiropractic care. The goal of chiropractic integration into the treatment plan at the CTCA is described as, “…not as an alternative but as an adjunct to help people who are fighting cancer, to reduce pain and other symptoms and to maximize and optimize function… improve quality of life, extend life and put people into remission, to get people back to the productive, quality lives they enjoyed before their cancer diagnosis.”
Specific benefits of this integrative approach include the management of chemo-related neuropathy. Here, “…we’ve seen tremendous results among our patients.” Neuropathy is a common side-effect of chemotherapy which reportedly forces many cancer patients to stop their chemotherapy before maximum benefit due to painful side effects from the drugs. They report the patient has an enhanced ability to follow through with their treatment without interruption. A study is reportedly ongoing to determine how this approach extends life and quality of life. The entire team includes not only chiropractic but also a nutritionist, nurse, naturopathic doctor, a care manager, and an oncologist. Other common conditions of cancer patients treated by chiropractic include chemotherapy-induced headaches, neck pain, mid-back pain, low back pain, as well as different extremity complaints. Chiropractic adjustments are often “ordered” by the oncologist the day prior to a surgery at CTCA, as the oncologists feel there are better post-surgical results when this occurs.
In 2011, an article entitled, “The Chiropractic Care of Patients With Cancer: A Systematic Review of The Literature” (Alcantara, et al.), researchers searched the databases for scientific studies and found that the literature, “…did not reflect or describe the totality of the chiropractic clinical encounter.” With this, they encouraged further research in this area. This study supports the need for further investigation about the pros and cons of including chiropractic care in the management of cancer patients. This is the recurrent “theme” with this subject: more research is needed to reach firm conclusions. Including chiropractic management, not as “the cure,” but as a means to improve quality of life and possibly help prolong it, only seems logical.