Complementary therapies is the term given to a collection of approaches which may be used to support you during and after your cancer treatment. They may be used for self help, symptomatic relief and wellbeing. Such therapies include acupuncture, aromatherapy, art therapy, Chi Kung, hands on healing, herbal medicine, homoeopathy, massage, meditation, reflexology, relaxation, shiatsu, visualisation and yoga.
What do complementary therapies do?
They offer ways for people to help themselves and cope with cancer. There is no evidence to suggest that any of these complementary therapies alone can cure cancer. However, many people find them supportive and that they help with some of the issues facing the person as a whole. Many of the self-help approaches offer relaxation and focusing techniques while other therapies can provide symptomatic relief. These therapies may promote feelings of increased wellbeing.
Where to go for complementary therapies
National Health Service
There may be some complementary therapy services provided on the NHS like those at your cancer hospital as well as national services, such as those provided at the four homoeopathic hospitals in the UK located in London, Glasgow, Bristol and Liverpool. Some of these homeopathic hospitals run special clinics for people affected by cancer. You can ask your GP for a referral to one of these NHS hospitals.
Cancer support centres
Some cancer support centres also offer complementary therapies. Check which local and national centres may offer this kind of support. It may be that such centres offer one or more complementary therapies for patients affected by cancer.
Private complementary therapy services
Complementary therapies are often provided privately. If you choose to see a private therapist, it is important that you see someone who is not only competent at the therapy, but will understand enough about what you are going, or have been, through with your cancer treatment at the hospital.
It is wise to check that the therapist belongs to a recognised professional organisation, and that the therapist has knowledge and experience of working with people with cancer. You may find that your GP has some complementary therapists working in the practice.
The Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council provides a register allowing you to search for a suitably qualified complementary therapist in your area.
What are alternative therapies?
These are therapies which people choose instead of their regular medical cancer treatments; they are not complementary. Alternative therapies may make claims to cure cancer. If you are thinking about one of these, discuss it with your doctor first. There is no evidence to suggest any one alternative therapy cures cancer. Some of them are expensive, may be difficult to follow and should be approached with caution.