Traditional cancer treatments can have aggressive side-effects on patients such as nausea, hair loss and anaemia. Therefore, many people with cancer now use one or more kinds of alternative or complementary therapies, according to the American Cancer Society.
Dr David Eedes previously told Health24 that one of the ways to deal with cancer treatment is by asking questions about your treatment and its side-effects. With that in mind, we explored the alternative method of ozone therapy that is becoming more and more popular among South African cancer patients.
What is ozone therapy?
Ozone therapy is a form of alternative medicine that aims to increase the amount of oxygen in the body through the introduction of ozone (O3) into body cells, according to the Ozone Association of Southern Africa.
According to Eileen Jacobs, an integrative health practitioner, there are various forms of ozone therapy, but only some are used to treat cancer, for example hyperthermia ozone treatment. Hyperthermia is an ancient technique which results in a "false fever reaction" that simulates the body's own defence mechanism.
During hyperthermia, ozone treatment a person sits in an ozone-resistant steam cabinet with their body completely surrounded by warm steam. The water that develops on the skin reacts to the ozone, creating a hydrogen peroxide reaction. Since the skin is the largest organ of elimination, the majority of the toxins are sweated out, sparing the liver and the kidneys most of the work.
Ozone therapy and cancer
In 1931, Dr Otto Warburg, a German Biochemist, won the Nobel Prize for Medicine for linking the lack of oxygen at cellular level to the development of cancer. Warburg’s research concluded that healthy cells in the body need oxygen to flourish, but cancer cells cannot thrive in an oxygenated environment.
With this principle in mind, ozone therapy aims to enhance the efficacy and decreases the side-effects of modern-day cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy. However, Eileen Jacobs says that it is crucial for patients not only to rely on ozone therapy for cancer treatment. “Patients can benefit from ozone therapy if they use it as part of a holistic approach to treat cancer alongside chemotherapy and radiation,” she explains.
Alternative vs. complementary
Prof Michael Herbst, a health specialist from the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA), says that CANSA does not support alternative cancer therapies, although they do agree with the use of complementary cancer therapies such as ozone therapy. "It is sometimes difficult to decide whether a particular treatment is alternative or complementary but my personal view is that a treatment is alternative when it is used with the exclusion of traditional cancer treatment. When used together with conventional cancer treatment, I see it as complimentary," Prof Herbst explains.
Benefits of ozone therapy for cancer patients
Although ozone therapy hasn’t been scientifically proven to cure cancer, it has numerous health benefits for cancer patients who want to consider it as an additional form of treatment. Some of these benefits are:
- Improved oxygen levels in cells, tissues and organs
- Relaxation and an enhanced overall sense of wellbeing
- Stimulation and strengthening of the deficient immune system
- Enhancement of the body’s natural antioxidant system which protects cells against radical damage
- Minimised side effects of toxic medication such as chemotherapy
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