Browser does not support script.
Skip to main content
Find out how we produce our information|
Complementary methods of symptom control can be used on their own or in combination with medicines|. They include:
Complementary therapies may be available at your hospital, hospice or through your GP practice. Some cancer support groups| offer therapies.
We have more information in our section on complementary therapies|.
Acupuncture uses fine needles inserted just under the skin to stimulate energy flow in particular parts of the body. It can be helpful as a treatment for symptoms including pain|, nausea|, anxiety| and the hot flushes caused by hormonal therapy|. Your doctor can refer you to an NHS pain clinic that offers acupuncture. You can also contact the British Acupuncture Council| for details of registered acupuncturists in your area.
Homeopathy is used for a number of illnesses and may be taken in addition to conventional treatment to try to improve the quality of life of people with cancer. There’s no reliable scientific evidence for the effectiveness of homeopathy, however many people who use it say it has helped them.
It involves taking tiny amounts of a substance that can cause similar symptoms to the ones you’re experiencing. It’s based on the theory that this can help to treat these symptoms. Homeopathic remedies can be tablets, liquids or creams, and they contain very diluted forms of the active ingredients. Some GPs are trained in homeopathy. The Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine has a special programme for people with cancer, and the British Homeopathic Association| can put you in touch with a local homeopath. Homeopathy is also available in some NHS hospitals.
Simple breathing and relaxation exercises may be very useful for symptoms like anxiety and breathlessness|. Relaxation can sometimes be used together with meditation and visualisation. Almost everyone can learn relaxation techniques. You can learn them at home using a CD, tape or DVD, or you may be able to join a local group. Relaxation resources may be available from your local library.
You can order ourrelaxation CD Relax and breathe from our be.Macmillan website|.
Meditation uses concentration or reflection to deeply relax and calm the mind, helping to reduce feelings of fear, pain, anxiety and depression. It can help to practise in a group until you’re familiar with the meditation technique. It’s also good to talk regularly about your meditation to an experienced meditation practitioner.
People who have particular psychiatric conditions, such as psychosis, may find that some types of meditation make their psychiatric illness worse. It’s best to talk to a meditation instructor from an established meditation organisation (and your psychological support team, if necessary) before trying meditation.
Visualisation (creating mental images) is a technique that helps you bring happy, relaxed pictures into your mind and use them to overcome some of the discomfort caused by your symptoms. By ‘seeing’ and ‘hearing’ images and sounds that bring you pleasure, you may, to some extent, shut out symptoms of pain and discomfort.
Hypnotherapy can help some people deal with symptoms such as pain|. It can also be useful in reducing some of the side effects associated with chemotherapy| and radiotherapy|, such as nausea and vomiting|. A hypnotherapist leads you into a deeply relaxed state (hypnosis), during which you’re still conscious of your surroundings. The hypnotherapist can then use suggestion to benefit you in different ways, such as feeling better or gaining some control over your symptoms.
If you’re considering a complementary therapy, always use a qualified therapist. The British Complementary Medicine Association| can give you the names of registered therapists and advice on what to look for. Talk it over with your doctor or nurse and ask for their advice, especially if you’re going to have a therapy that involves taking pills or medicines. Don’t be misled by promises of cures. No reputable therapist would claim to be able to cure cancer.
Our section on cancer and complementary therapies| gives more detail about all these therapies.
Content last reviewed: 1 October 2011
For answers, support or just a chat, call the Macmillan Support Line free (Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm)
If you have any questions about cancer, need support or just want someone to talk to, ask Macmillan.
If you have any questions about Macmillan we would love to hear from you| .
You can also follow us| on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr or YouTube.
© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
what are these?|