Cancer & Complementary Therapies:

This section gives information about the complementary therapies most often used by people with cancer. Many people 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 health care 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 alongside conventional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

Complementary therapists may claim that their therapies: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 and 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.

Types of therapy:

There are many different types of complementary therapy. Some people find it helpful to use a combination 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 potentially help you. It is not possible to describe them all here, but we have described the common ones - see types of therapies.

Choosing a therapy and therapist:

When choosing a therapy, it is important to go for one that feels right for you. It is important to choose a registered 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.

Many complementary therapists have private practices. But therapies are sometimes available in hospitals, hospices, through cancer support groups or at your GP’s surgery.