Complementary and Alternative Cancer Treatments

Medical Reviewer:

If you have cancer, you may have considered using a complementary or alternative cancer treatment. According to surveys, 65 percent of people with cancer have tried one of these treatments. And even mainstream medical organizations are taking notice of which treatments can be effective. Both the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute have websites devoted to complementary and alternative management for cancer. Before trying these treatments, you should visit these websites and then discuss the treatments with your doctor.

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.

"Few cancer specialists would argue with the use of complementary cancer therapies like meditation, acupuncture, or yoga. They can be used along with accepted treatments to help reduce stress, reduce nausea or improve well-being," says Eric Bernicker, MD, an oncologist at the Houston Methodist Cancer Center.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/27/2013