Complementary and Alternative Methods (Therapies)

American Cancer Society
Complementary and Alternative Methods (Therapies)

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), “complementary” and “alternative” are terms used to describe a number of products, practices, and systems that are not part of mainstream medicine. They include things like herbs and dietary supplements, body movement, spiritual approaches, pills, extracts, and creams or ointments; and may be done by a person with formal education and training, such as art therapy. Others may be recommended by the person who is selling the product in a store or on the Internet, such as herbs or other dietary supplements.  Questions ACS suggests you ask about alternative or complementary treatments are:

  1. What does the treatment claim to do?  Does it claim to cure cancer?
  2. Is it supposed to help your medical treatment work better, relieve symptoms or side effects?
  3. Does the method require that you give up regular medical treatment?  If so, will it affect your chances for cure?
  4. Is the practitioner willing to communicate with the primary care physician to treat you?
  5. What is known about the safety of the treatment?  Could it be harmful or interact badly with your other medicines or supplements?
  6. Have scientific studies or clinical trials been done to find out whether this treatment works?
  7. Have the findings from the studies been published in trustworthy journals and reviewed by other scientists in the same field?  Is information promoted in scientific journals?
  8. What are the credentials of those supporting the treatment?  Are they recognized experts in cancer and complementary medicine?
  9. How much does the treatment cost?  Will your insurance cover it?

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