Breast Cancer Complementary Therapies Help Boost Treatment

Breast Cancer Complementary Therapies Help Boost Treatment

Breast Cancer Complementary Therapies Help Boost Treatment

Women with breast cancer often have several choices for medical treatment. If you are fighting breast cancer, your doctor will create a treatment plan. Your plan might include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or immunotherapy. Along with questions about traditional treatments, ask your doctor about complementary therapies that can help you keep strong.

While they don’t replace standard medical care, they can help boost your mental, emotional and physical well-being.

Here are a few ideas you may want to explore.

Therapy Groups Offer Social Support

When it comes to breast cancer, the sisterhood is large. Connecting with women who are also battling the disease lets you know you’re not alone. It can help to talk with others in treatment and recovery. For some women, the groups offer a place to bond over treatment plans. Others join to share a new interest or hobby or find a workout buddy.

Exercise Helps Treatment and Recovery

Studies show exercise during and after breast cancer treatment reduces fatigue, stress and depression. It may also help fend off cancer’s return. The National Foundation for Cancer Research leaving site icon reveals exercise lowers estrogen and insulin levels. Increases in these hormones are linked to breast cancer and its growth.

Exercise helps reduce inflammation and strengthens the immune system so the body can ward off disease. It can also help you sleep better and slow weight gain – a common side effect of treatment. 

New Challenges Inspire Strength

Recovery on Water (ROWleaving site icon   is something unique. The Chicago-based club offers a rowing team for breast cancer patients and survivors.  As Devlin Murdock, ROWs operations programs coordinator, explains “Rowing is the ultimate team sport. The only way the boat moves is when the team moves together.”

Crew members are united in a common activity rather than sitting around talking about their treatment. Being part of the rowing team helps members feel better and improves their physical strength.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve never rowed before. Only a small percentage of crew members have experience. Many weren’t even athletic before joining. During Chicago’s cold winters, the teams move indoors and use rowing machines.

Community Inspires and Empowers

Gilda’s Club Chicago was inspired by one of Saturday Night Live’s most famous alums – Gilda Radner.  In honor of Radner’s battle with breast cancer, the club offers women and men with cancer free activities to nurture the mind, body and spirit.

The club promotes “member empowerment” through workshops, support groups and more than 180 programs each month. leaving site icon Want to give tai-chi or yoga a try? Think meditation might help tame your stress? You’ll find many ways to complement your medical treatment.

Complementary therapies can play a big role in mastering mind over matter. Taking part in proactive activities helps boost a positive outlook. Positive thinking nurtures resilience to help carry you through your breast cancer treatment. Just as important, they provide a much-needed break and may not seem like therapy at all. In fact, they often add a welcome dose of “normal” to your day.

Have you tried any complementary therapies? We'd like to hear about your journey. What are you doing?

Sources: Cancer Prevention: Which Type of Exercise Lowers Your Risk, leaving site icon  National Foundation for Cancer Research, 2019; Physical Activity and the Person with Cancer, leaving site icon  American Cancer Society, 2022.

Originally published 10/19/2015; Revised 2019, 2022