Complementary therapies – our position

Complementary therapy covers a wide range of practices used alongside conventional treatments for illnesses including cancer. They can help some people cope with the symptoms of disease and its treatment, aid relaxation, and reduce tension and anxiety.

We know that they are used by more than one in three cancer patients[1] and many report finding them helpful.

However, we also know that too often patients do not report their use of complementary therapies to health care professionals. We consider it a priority that patients report the use of any complementary therapies to the health team responsible for their care in order to enable them to discuss any harmful effects.

We know that the scientific evidence base is growing for the use of some therapies in cancer care. However, we would like to see more high-quality research into complementary therapies in order to support patients, health professionals and commissioners to make informed decisions on the application of these therapies.

We make a clear distinction between supportive therapies used in conjunction with anti-cancer treatment and so-called alternative treatments, which are promoted as having an effect on the illness to be used instead of conventional treatment.

We do not advocate the use of alternative therapies.

As part of our ongoing review process of all our content, we regularly review our content about the use of complementary therapies in cancer care.

You can find out more about how we write and produce our information.

[1] Molassiotis et al. Use of complementary and alternative medicine in cancer patients: a European survey. Annals of Oncology 2005: 16(5) p655-663