Cancer and complementary therapies
This information focuses on the most common complementary therapies used by some people with cancer. We hope it gives you a balanced view of what's available and what's involved if you decide to try one.
You might be advised not to have complementary therapies. This is because it isn't safe to have them if you have a certain type of cancer or if you're having certain treatments. Your doctor will be able to give you more information about this.
This information does not take the place of advice from your doctor, who knows your full medical history. It's very important to tell your cancer doctor if you're thinking of having, or are having, any complementary or alternative therapy.
Always let your complementary or alternative therapist know that you have cancer.
Complementary therapies and cancer
There are many reasons why people choose to use complementary therapies. Some people find they help them cope with the stresses caused by cancer and its treatments. Many therapies are relaxing, and may lift your spirits when you aren’t feeling your best.
It was very important for me to feel I was actively doing something to make myself as prepared as I could be for the treatment.
Doctors and nurses have researched some complementary therapies in trials. Some results showed that certain therapies helped to relieve particular cancer symptoms or treatment side effects. Other results showed no effect on symptoms or side effects. But the therapies researched were found to be safe and most people who tried them found them very supportive.
Complementary therapists usually work with the person as a whole. They don't just work with the part of the body where the cancer is. This is called a holistic approach. Health and social care professionals, such as doctors, nurses and physiotherapists, also aim to take a holistic approach.
Some people say the relationship they develop with their complementary therapist is an added benefit. Having someone who listens to you may help you cope with difficult feelings.
After I was diagnosed with cancer, I found it an enormous relief to be able to talk to someone about my feelings. I was also given access to complementary therapies, which really relaxed me and helped me to sleep at a time when I was feeling particularly stressed.
Finding support for yourself in this way can help you feel more in control. Some people may also see complementary therapies as a positive thing to do for their general well-being.
Some complementary therapies are done in a group. This may be a good opportunity to meet other people with similar experiences in a positive setting.
Complementary therapies may help you:
feel better and improve your quality of life
feel less stressed, tense and anxious
with some of your cancer symptoms
with some of the side effects of your cancer treatment
feel more in control.
How have we created this information?
Read our statement about how we have written and reviewed our information about complementary therapies.