Complementary and alternative therapies

Most of the common cancer treatments described on this website are ‘conventional’ cancer treatments, which are supported by strong evidence and widely used by medical teams.

There are also many complementary or alternative therapies that may be promoted as cancer treatments. Some may be helpful, but some can interfere with your treatment or cause you harm.

 

Complementary therapies

Complementary therapies promote wellbeing and are often used alongside traditional therapies. There is no evidence that they cure cancer, but they can help you cope with treatment side effects, and improve your overall quality of life.

Complementary therapies include:

  • acupuncture
  • aromatherapy
  • hypnotherapy/hypnosis
  • massage
  • meditation
  • music therapy
  • relaxation
  • tai chi
  • yoga

Alternative therapies

Alternative therapies usually involve exclusive use of other therapies instead of conventional treatments. There is no clinical evidence that these therapies work.

By choosing alternative therapies only, patients with early cancer may miss out on conventional treatments that could offer them a cure, and people with advanced cancer may miss out on medicines that could control or reduce their symptoms.

If you are thinking of trying an alternative therapy, ask someone in your treatment team about it. Many alternative therapies have not been tested, so there is no proof they work and side effects are not always known.