Anxiety

This is an overview of CAM treatments that have been evaluated by CAM Cancer for cancer-related anxiety. Please click on a CAM treatment below to view an assessment of its safety and efficacy based on the current research status. Please note that this is not a list of recommended treatments and does not suggest that the treatments are safe and effective. 

Safety 

Generally safe when administered by a professional qualified practitioner. Mild adverse effects, such as pain or bleeding at the site of acupuncture can be expected in about 10% of all cases; serious complications seem to be very rare. 

Efficacy 

Beneficial effects of acupuncture in reducing anxiety related to breathlessness have been identified.  The latter were assessed by a RCT (n=173) conducted among patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) or mesothelioma. These preliminary findings require further confirmation. 

Read the full version of the Acupuncture for cancer pain summary.

Safety 

Generally safe and only associated with minimal adverse effect when used in appropriate dilutions.  Allergic reactions can occur with all oils. Should not be used undiluted.  

Efficacy 

There is evidence of possibly beneficial but small effects of aromatherapy massage but currently insufficient evidence of consistent effects of inhalation aromatherapy on reducing anxiety (2 SRs and 3 RCTs). 

Read the full version of the Aromatherapy summary.

Safety 

The safety of autogenic therapy has not been systematically assessed. No adverse events were reported in the studies analysed for this summary. Concerns exist for children under the age of five, individuals with schizophrenia or who are actively psychotic. 

Efficacy 

Among women with breast cancer significant improvements in anxiety with autogenic therapy have been reported. The reported results are based on 2 RCTs, both studies have significant methodological limitations. 

Read the full version of the Autogenic therapy summary.

Safety  

Biofeedback is generally considered safe, and no adverse events have been reported in the included studies. Some concerns for individuals with a history of psychiatric illness. 

Efficacy 

There is currently not enough evidence for conclusions to be made about the effects of biofeedback on anxiety. An RCT reported that patients that took relaxation training, but not biofeedback, experienced a reduction in anxiety. 

Read the full version of the Biofeedback summary.

Safety 

Generally considered safe with only minor adverse drug reactions reported. Mainly gastrointestinal intolerances, headaches and sleep disorders have been reported. These are dose-dependent, infrequent and transient. 

Efficacy  

Lower anxiety scores were reported among those who took ginseng in one RCT. 

Read full version of Ginseng summary. 

Safety 

Generally safe and there are no serious direct risks associated with homeopathy. There are indirect risks if homeopathic preparations are used in place of conventional cancer treatment. 

Efficacy  

No differences were seen between homeopathy and placebo in a small trial in breast cancer patients and patients with various cancers. The results are derived from a RCT and a non-randomized CT. 

Read the full version of the Homeopathy summary. 

Safety 

Generally considered safe when administered by qualified professionals.  Contraindications include acute psychoses, severe personality disorders and an inability to be hypnotized.  

Efficacy  

Positive effects of hypnotherapy on anxiety in cancer patients have been reported. Results were reported in seven RCT and one CCT, six out of the eight trials were conducted among paediatric populations.  

Read full version of Hypnotherapy summary. 

Safety 

Generally considered safe when administered by a qualified professional. Contraindications include strong forceful massage in patients suffering from haemorrhagic disorders, low platelet counts, and blood thinning medication. 

Efficacy 

The net benefit is anticipated to be small, according to different systematic reviews. Individual trials have reported positive results, these are in small samples and either low quality or at high risk of bias.  

Read full version of  Massage (Classical/ Swedish) summary. 

Safety 

Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) are generally considered safe in supportive cancer care. However, no rigorous assessment of the safety of mindfulness-based approaches in cancer patients is available.  

Efficacy 

Breast cancer: MBCT might improve anxiety in women with breast cancer. 

Mixed cancer types: Positive short- and medium-term effects were also found but cannot be applied to specific types of cancer other than breast cancer.  

Children and adolescents: positive effects have been reported in mixed types of cancer by a SR, but the findings are limited by methodological flaws of the studies included.  

Read full version of  Mindfulness summary

Safety 

Generally considered safe with no safety issues on record. Caution is advised for acutely distressed and/or emotionally fragile patients, particularly in patients with serious and life-threatening cancers. 

Efficacy  

Music therapy and music medicine both have a moderate to large effect on anxiety including during active cancer treatment, although not during surgery according to different SRs.  

Read full version of Music therapy summary. 

Safety

Generally considered safe when administered by a qualified practitioner.  Some concern has been raised about the use of relaxation therapy interventions among individuals who have a history of psychiatric disorders.  

Efficacy  

PMR may reduce anxiety or improve anxiety according to 2 SR and 5 RCT. All trials had methodological limitations.  

Read full version of Progressive Muscle Relaxation summary. 

Safety 

Generally considered safe when administered by a qualified practitioner. As it is a moderate form of aerobic exercise, it may be beneficial for people to check with their health practitioner if they have a known heart condition, severe osteoporosis or musculoskeletal difficulties. 

Efficacy 

Findings are inconclusive, a recent SR found that qigong reduces anxiety, but the review had several methodological limitations. In another SR, one out of three studies found on effect on anxiety.  

Read full version of Qigong summary. 

Safety  

Generally considered safe when administered by a qualified practitioner. 

Efficacy 

Reflexology has been shown to reduce anxiety. Different RCT support the latter results, but they should be carefully interpreted as they have considerable methodological limitations. 

Read full version of Reflexology summary. 

Safety  

Generally considered safe when administered by a qualified practitioner. 

Efficacy 

There is some evidence that Reiki may reduce anxiety, this is not specific to cancer. Studies in cancer are too poor quality for any conclusions to be made. 

Read full version of Reiki summary. 

Safety 

Generally considered safe when administered by a qualified practitioner.  As it is a moderate form of aerobic exercise, it may be beneficial for people to check with their health practitioner if they have a known heart condition, severe osteoporosis, or musculoskeletal difficulties. 

Efficacy 

Tai chi may slightly reduce anxiety levels (based on one SR of six trials). 

Read full version of Tai chi summary. 

Safety 

Generally considered safe when administered by a qualified practitioner. Few adverse events are reported in clinical trials and serious adverse effects appear to be rare. Overall injury rates are comparable to other exercise types. 

Efficacy 

For breast cancer, the effect of yoga appears better for anxiety (5 SRs) than psychosocial/educational interventions but no better than no treatment. More recent trials suggest a difference between yoga and no treatment. Among other cancers, effects appear positive in the short term based on several small RCTs (n=5). 

Read full version of Yoga summary. 

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