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Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Lung Cancer Alliance takes no position on the use of CAM as treatment options. We urge you to consult your doctor before beginning any CAM treatments.

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) or integrative medicine describes approaches to illness that are not seen as part of traditional, science-based medicine. While the terms “complementary” and “alternative” are often used interchangeably, they are different.

Complementary therapies are used with traditional medicine such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Alternative therapies are used instead of traditional treatments. Most people with lung cancer who use complementary medicine do so in combination with traditional treatments. Some choose to use alternative methods alone or after traditional treatments have failed.

Alternative methods of cancer treatment have not been researched in the same way traditional treatments have and as a result do not have scientific proof that they are safe and effective.  

Complementary therapies are generally used in cancer care to help manage symptoms of the cancer or side effects from treatment. After discussing with your doctor, you may find that complementary therapies can help manage pain, nausea, anxiety, sleep issues, and other symptoms or side effects. It is important that you discuss complementary therapies with your doctor because they may interact with your conventional treatments, making them not work as well.

Questions to ask before starting a complementary therapy

  • Will it interfere with my cancer treatment?
  • Have studies proven that it helps?
  • What are the risks and side effects?
  • Do I feel comfortable with this treatment?
  • Will my healthcare team and CAM provider work together?
  • Will insurance cover the cost of the treatment?

Examples of Complementary Treatments

  • Massage
  • Reiki
  • Acupuncture
  • Guided Imagery
  • Yoga
  • Nutritional supplementation

If you are considering a CAM approach, please be aware that sometimes claims are made about their effectiveness that cannot be proven. If you are considering a product or approach, the information from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Cancer Treatment Scams may help.  

 

For more information on CAM, National Institutes of Health (NIH) offers

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicines
1-888-644-6226

National Cancer Institute’s Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine
1-800-4-CANCER

Or visit
Society for Integrative Oncology