Complementary and Alternative Medicine
(CAM)

What is complementary medicine?

Complementary medicine is a group of diagnostic and therapeutic disciplines that are used together with conventional medicine. An example of a complementary therapy is using aromatherapy to help lessen a patient's discomfort following surgery.

Complementary medicine is usually not taught or used in Western medical schools or hospitals. Complementary medicine includes a large number of practices and systems of health care that, for a variety of cultural, social, economic, or scientific reasons, have not been adopted by mainstream Western medicine.

Complementary medicine is different from alternative medicine. Whereas complementary medicine is used together with conventional medicine, alternative medicine is used in place of conventional medicine. An example of an alternative therapy is using a special diet to treat cancer instead of undergoing surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy that has been recommended by a physician.

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) can include the following:

  • acupuncture,
  • Alexander technique,
  • aromatherapy,
  • Ayurveda (Ayurvedic medicine),
  • biofeedback,
  • chiropractic medicine,
  • diet therapy,
  • herbalism,
  • holistic nursing,
  • homeopathy,
  • hypnosis,
  • massage therapy,
  • meditation,
  • naturopathy,
  • nutritional therapy,
  • osteopathic manipulative therapy (OMT),
  • Qi gong (internal and external Qiging),
  • reflexology,
  • Reiki,
  • spiritual healing,
  • Tai Chi,
  • traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and
  • yoga.

Alternative medicine

Complementary and Alternative Cancer Treatment

What is Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)?

Complementary and alternative cancer treatments are often lumped together. But to a cancer specialist, there is a big difference. Complementary therapy is used in addition to mainstream medical treatment. Alternative therapy is used instead of proven treatment. Another term you may hear is integrative medicine. This means combining CAM and standard care to try to treat cancer in a way that involves your body, mind and spirit. Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) includes:

  • herbs,
  • diet supplements,
  • mind-body exercises,
  • vitamins,
  • and therapies like massage and acupuncture.