Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) for Cancer
What is CAM?
There are many types of treatment for cancer. Standard medicine refers to treatments
that have been tested in science studies and found to work. These have been approved
by the FDA. Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) are different from standard
medicine. They include these 2 types of therapy:
Complementary medicine. This is any form of therapy used with standard medicine. These types of therapy may
be used to ease symptoms. They may improve quality of life. They may ease side effects
caused by standard treatment. For example, using guided imagery may help pain relief
during cancer treatment.
Alternative medicine. This is another approach to healing. It’s also called alternative therapy. This is
treatment used instead of standard medicine. These are often not tested in science
studies or proven to work. Talk with your healthcare provider before using alternative
medicine. It can delay the use of proven methods. Or it may cause you harm.
What are the different types of CAM?
There are many types of complementary and alternative medicine. Some of them overlap
in how they work. Examples of CAM include:
Traditional alternative medicine
Traditional alternative medicine has been practiced for centuries worldwide. They
include the more accepted forms of therapy. Some examples are:
Chinese medicine. This treats health issues using mind and body practices. These can include acupuncture,
tai chi, and herbs.
Acupuncture. Thin needles are put into the skin on specific points of the body. This is done to
affect energy in the body in different ways.
Ayurveda. This is a medical practice from India. It uses herbs, exercise, and special diets.
Homeopathy. This is a medical practice from Germany. It uses remedies made from plants, minerals,
Naturopathy. This is a practice that combines alternative and standard medicine.
Touch has been used in medicine since the early days of medical care. Healing by touch
is based on the idea that illness or injury in 1 part of the body can affect all parts
of the body. These methods use hands-on therapy:
Diet and herbs
A healthy diet can include lean meats, fruits, vegetables, and grains. But our diets
often have lots of unhealthy fats, oils, processed foods, and simple carbohydrates.
Both nutritional excess and deficiency are problems. Both can lead to long-term (chronic)
diseases. Many dietary and herbal treatments try to balance the body's nutritional
well-being. These treatments include:
This therapy uses external forces (energies) from objects or other sources to affect
a person's health. One type of external energy therapy is electromagnetic therapy.
Studies have found that people heal better if they have good emotional and mental
health. Therapies using the mind include:
Some people believe the senses can affect overall health. This means touch, sight,
hearing, smell, and taste. Therapies using senses include:
Art, dance, and music
Before considering CAM
Some types of CAM aren't controlled by any U.S. medical guidelines. Always talk with
your healthcare provider before starting any type of CAM therapy. Some may interfere
with standard treatment.
Be informed before trying CAM. Get more information by:
Talking with your healthcare provider
Researching trusted sources online or in books, articles, and science journals
Speaking with people who have tried the therapy
Looking for science studies about the therapy
Warning signs to watch for
The American Cancer Society says if a treatment has these warning signs, it's best
to stay away from it:
It's based on unproven theories
It promises a cure
It offers benefits but claims to have no side effects
It's a secret and can only be given by certain providers
It needs travel to another country
The treatment providers tell you not to use standard medicine