Alternative or complementary?
Alternative care is used in place of conventional medicine, while complementary care is used along with conventional medicine.
We strongly recommend using complementary and conventional methods together, rather than using alternative treatments alone. That means that you may see your doctor and use nontraditional therapies to treat the same condition, for example:
- using guided imagery to help with recovery after surgery
- drinking ginger tea to reduce nausea during chemotherapy
- doing breathing exercises to relieve pain
Complementary approaches may help by:
- reducing stress and anxiety
- helping you feel more in control of your care and wellbeing
- easing the side effects of cancer treatments
How do you know what's safe?
Just because lots of people use a product or follow a practice for many years, it doesn't mean that it's safe or effective.
- "Natural" doesn't mean "safe." If it's strong enough to have an effect, it's strong enough to have a side effect.
- Avoid any product or therapy that claims it can cure a serious disease.
It's important to talk to your doctor about complementary approaches you're thinking of trying, because some herbs and supplements may interfere with your other treatments.
You can also use one of these reliable sources to read up on complementary therapies:
Your mind and body are intertwined, so your brain often can't distinguish whether you're imagining something or you're actually experiencing it.
That's why your mind can help relieve stress and pain.
Chinese medicine is partly based on the idea that energy, called qi ("chee"), flows along pathways in the body.
Chinese medicine doctors look at the balance of body, mind, and spirit to determine how to restore your qi's balance. Accupuncture and acupressure may help treat nausea and control pain caused by cancer treatments.
Energy therapy, also known as "biofield therapy," is based on the idea that the body contains — and is surrounded by — energy fields. Energy therapy, which is unproven, is thought to improve health by working with these energy fields.
Healing touch and spiritual healing
Magnetic field therapy