Alternative Therapy for Cancer
What is alternative therapy?
Alternative therapy (or alternative medicine) is a nonconventional approach to healing.
Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) are usually discussed together, but are
actually two different therapy approaches:
Complementary medicine. Complementary medicine is any form of therapy used in combination with other alternative
treatments or used along with standard or conventional medicine. Complementary therapy
usually serves to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life.
Alternative medicine. Alternative medicine is used alone, without recommended, proven standard treatment.
Some people use complementary treatments to relieve symptoms or side effects while
undergoing standard or conventional treatment (such as pain relief during cancer treatment).
Standard or conventional medicine refers to medical treatments that have been scientifically
tested and found to be safe and effective. The standard or conventional treatments
have been approved by the FDA.
Other people may decide to pursue alternative therapy. It's highly recommended that
you talk with your healthcare provider before beginning any treatment regimen, as
these treatments are not scientifically tested or proven.
They can delay the use of proven methods or actually be harmful.
What are the different types of CAM?
Many different fields make up the practice of complementary and alternative medicine.
In addition, many components of one field may overlap with the components of another
field. Examples of CAM include:
Traditional alternative medicine
This field includes the more mainstream and widely accepted forms of therapy. Traditional
alternative medicine has been practiced for centuries worldwide. Some examples are:
Ayurveda. A medical practice from India consisting of herbal compounds and special
Homeopathy. A medical practice from Germany consisting of individualized remedies
derived from plants, minerals, and animals.
Naturopathy. A practice that takes a combination of traditional practices.
Chinese or Oriental 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 located in one area of the body can affect
all parts of the body. If, with manual manipulation, the other parts can be brought
back to optimum health, the body can concentrate on healing at the site of injury
or illness without distraction. Examples of body therapies include:
Diet and herbs
Over the centuries, man has gone from a simple diet consisting of meats, fruits, vegetables,
and grains, to a diet that often consists of foods rich in fats, oils, and complex
carbohydrates. Nutritional excess and nutritional deficiency have become problems
in today's society, both leading to certain chronic diseases. Many dietary and herbal
approaches attempt to balance the body's nutritional well-being. Dietary and herbal
Some people believe external forces (energies) from objects or other sources directly
affect a person's health. An example of external energy therapy is electromagnetic
Even standard or conventional medicine recognizes the power of the connection between
mind and body. 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 (touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste) can affect
overall health. Therapies using senses include:
Art, dance, and music
Before considering CAM
Most complementary and alternative medicine fields aren't standardized or controlled
by any Western medical guidelines. Always talk with your healthcare provider before
beginning any complementary or alternative medicine therapy. Some therapies may interfere
with standard treatment.
Being an informed healthcare consumer when considering complementary or alternative
medicine is important. Ways to gather information before starting any therapy include:
Talking with your healthcare provider
Researching on the Internet
Researching in the library (books, articles, and scientific journals)
Speaking with others who have tried the therapy
Looking for controlled, scientific studies about the therapy, whenever possible
What warning signs may indicate a fraudulent therapy?
According to the American Cancer Society, if a treatment has the following warning
signs, it's better to avoid:
Treatment based on unproven theories
Treatment that promises a cure
Treatment that offers benefits but claims to have no side effects
Patient is told not to use standard or conventional medicine
Treatment is a secret and can only be given by certain providers
Treatment requires travel to another country
Treatment providers discourage the use of standard or conventional medicine