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Friday, May 16, 2008

Cancer and complementary therapies

This section gives information about the complementary therapies most often used by people with cancer. Many people with cancer use complementary therapies to help support themselves through cancer and its treatment.

How complementary therapies can help

People often speak of feeling that they have lost control of their life when they have cancer. It may be bewildering to spend time in hospitals, which can seem frightening and impersonal, and to meet so many different health professionals, as well as coping with the high-tech machinery and techniques used in cancer treatment. At the same time, it can be difficult to cope with the implications of the illness itself.

Complementary therapists usually work with the person as a whole, not just the part of the body with the cancer. This is called a holistic approach and is something good medical practitioners also do. A complementary therapist who listens and cares may help you cope with some of those difficult feelings, which can be an effective way of getting back some control.

Some hospitals and hospices provide complementary therapies as part of cancer care, alongside conventional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Complementary therapies can:

  • help you feel better and improve your quality of life
  • improve your general health
  • give you a sense of control over what is happening to you
  • reduce stress, tension, sleeplessness, anxiety, depression and make you feel more relaxed
  • help to reduce the symptoms of cancer, such as pain, feeling sick, breathlessness, constipation, diarrhoea, tiredness and poor appetite
  • help to reduce some of the side effects of cancer treatment.

There may be complementary therapies that are not suitable if you have a particular type of cancer or during a particular treatment. It is important to tell your hospital specialist if you are having some form of complementary therapy. It is also important to tell your complementary therapist that you have cancer.

Types of therapy

There are many different types of complementary therapy. It is not possible to describe them all in this section, but we have described the common ones - see types of therapies. We hope this section will give you a balanced view of what is available so that, if you want to try a complementary therapy, you will have a realistic idea of what it will involve and how it may help you.

Choosing a therapy and therapist

It is important to choose a therapy that feels right for you. It is also important that you trust and feel comfortable with the therapist. You may need to try more than one therapist to find someone you feel confident with. Some people find it helpful to use a combination of therapies.

It is important to choose a qualified practitioner. For each therapy mentioned in this section, we give details of an organisation that can help you to find a qualified and registered therapist. See also, tips on choosing a therapist.


It is a good idea to ask how much a therapy session will cost you before you book, and to get some idea of how often you may need to have the therapy. Some complementary therapies can be very expensive if used over a long period of time.

Some hospitals and hospices offer therapies free of charge or you may be asked to make a small financial contribution. Some cancer support groups offer complementary therapies free or make a small charge. Some private practitioners offer a sliding scale of charges.

Via: http://www.cancerbackup.org.uk

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