Choosing a complementary therapy
When choosing a therapy, it can be helpful to think about how it may benefit you, what you would like to do, if there are any safety issues and how much the treatment costs.
We have more information about the specific types of complementary therapies.
If you would like to know what other people have found helpful, you can contact a local cancer support group. Alternatively, if you have internet access, you can join an online cancer community. Communities make it possible for people affected by cancer to give and get support, and to share their experiences of all aspects of their treatment, including complementary therapies. You can join our online community.
The website healthtalkonline has interviewed people about their experiences of complementary therapies and cancer.
To help you decide what feels right for you, it may help to think about what you want from the therapy.
This may include:
managing a specific symptom
help coping with your feelings
a general boost
making a positive lifestyle change.
Are there some types of therapy that particularly appeal to you or fit with your beliefs or outlook on life?
What’s available in your area?
Are treatments free or, if you have to pay, how much can you afford?
Do you want a one-off treatment or something to do regularly?
Some complementary therapies may not be suitable if you have a particular type of cancer or may not be suitable to use with some treatments.
Before using a complementary therapy, check if it could have any effects that could be harmful to you. It’s also important to check whether it could interact with your cancer treatment, make it less effective or increase side effects. Look out for safety issues to consider highlighted in green boxes throughout this section. Remember, this can’t take the place of advice from your doctor.
Most doctors are happy for their patients to use complementary therapies. It’s important to tell your hospital specialist if you’re having any form of complementary therapy, especially if you’re going to have one that involves taking herbs, pills or medicines.
If you’re having treatment from a complementary therapist, it’s important to let them know that you have cancer.
Therapies can be expensive, particularly if used over a long period of time. Check the cost of treatment beforehand. If you’re paying for the treatment yourself, make sure you’re being fairly charged. Some private practitioners offer a sliding scale of charges.
Some complementary therapies are provided free by the NHS. Ask your doctor or nurse if there are complementary therapies available at your hospital, hospice or through your GP’s practice. Some cancer support groups offer therapies free of charge or at a reduced cost.
Getting information about therapies
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Everyone’s situation is unique. Before making any decisions about complementary therapies, make sure you have all the information you need and speak to your doctor.
Ask to have an initial consultation with a complementary therapist to find out what they feel their therapy can do for you. There are more things you should also consider when you're chosing a complementary therapist.
You may find it helpful to take a relative or friend with you for support. It can help to write down the questions that matter most to you beforehand. You can then take time to decide whether you want to go ahead with treatment and think about the best option for you.
The Macmillan Support Line can give you information on complementary and alternative therapies, and on how to find a suitable therapist. They can also help you find a support group offering complementary therapy services in your area.
How have we created this information?
Read our statement about how we have written and reviewed our information about complementary therapies.