Alternative or Complementary Therapy for Cancer Treatment: Is It the Right Decision?

Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) refers to medical products and practices that are given or performed outside standard medical care. If you need help finding a CAM practitioner, you can ask your doctor or someone from a cancer treatment center near you.


Difference Between Alternative and Complementary Treatments

 While many people tend to use the terms of complementary therapy and alternative therapy interchangeably, they are not the same thing. In the world of cancer medicine, there’s a profound difference between the words complementary and alternative.

Alternative therapies are used instead of conventional methods of treating cancer — chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, etc. Complementary cancer therapies, on the other hand, are used alongside standard cancer treatments. Unlike alternative treatments, they are not promoted as cancer cures, but as additional regimens to help manage cancer symptoms and enhance the patient’s quality of life.

When a specific complementary therapy is recommended or approved by your oncologist, it is referred to as an integrative treatment. Integrative medicine is a holistic approach to medical care that combines conventional cancer treatments with safe and effective CAM practices.

CAM therapies may range from nutritional products to physical activities. Some of the more popular practices include:

  • Dietary supplements
  • Herbal medicine
  • Aromatherapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Massage therapy
  • Music therapy
  • Visualization
  • Yoga

It’s in your best interest to seek the advice of your health care team before undergoing complementary therapies, as some practices may interfere with your standard medical care. Your doctor can help you find CAM treatments that are right for you.

Why People Use Complementary and Alternative Therapies for Cancer

 Cancer patients have various reasons for undergoing or wanting to undergo non-mainstream cancer treatments. For some people, the support that they receive from their therapist is an added benefit that keeps them going. Moreover, many of those with terminal-stage cancer hold on to alternative treatments as their last ray of hope.

 Some of the most common reasons for using CAM therapies are as follows:

  • Reduce stress

Many complementary therapies focus on relaxation and calming your emotions. Cancer patients often use CAM therapies to help them feel better and cope with their treatments.

  • Alleviate symptoms and side effects of cancer

Certain forms of CAM treatments are said to help reduce cancer symptoms and the side effects of conventional therapies.

  • A natural alternative to mainstream therapies

 Complementary and alternative therapies are believed to be less toxic than standard treatments.

  • Help boost the immune system

Certain types of CAM practices claim to help boost the immune system and fight cancer.

  • Help with staying positive

 Patients who use and support complementary methods reveal that undergoing these treatments keep them positive and give them hope for the future.

  • Better quality of life

There’s a growing concern at how chemotherapy, among other conventional treatments, tends to decrease a patient’s quality of life, especially during the end-of-life stage.

Those with advanced cancer also hope that resorting to alternative methods might help them gain control of the disease when standard cures no longer can.


The Bottomline

 Although many CAM therapies have already undergone careful evaluation and are generally considered safe, others require further studies and medical trials to verify their claims. Like most things, you should take these potential remedies with a grain of salt.

In the end, using CAM therapies is a personal decision. It’s your right to choose whether or not to go with the mainstream treatments your doctor recommends, combine them with complementary practices, or take alternative means.

Whatever route appeals best to you, do not dismiss professional medical opinion. Your doctor or health care team may even know or help you find a reliable practitioner for your CAM treatment. Most importantly, make sure to educate yourself and learn as much as you can about a specific cure – non-conventional or otherwise – before using it.

About the Author

Lauren Cole is the Content Marketing Strategist of Dayspring Cancer Clinic, an alternative cancer treatment center located in Scottsdale, Arizona. When not working and writing content, she enjoys gardening and reading books.

Here on our Blog spot we share articles, news, scientific studies, and break down ‘hard to understand’ medical literature to help patients understand the effects of pancreatic cancer. To submit your own content, please email your request here –

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