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Thinking About Complementary and Alternative Medicine: A Guide for People With Cancer

  • Updated: 03/07/2013

What is Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)

CAM is any medical system, practice, or product that is not thought of as standard care. Standard medical care is care that is based on scientific evidence. For cancer, it includes chemotherapy, radiation, biological therapy, and surgery.

Complementary Medicine

  • Complementary medicine is used along with standard medical treatments.
  • One example is using acupuncture to help with side effects of cancer treatment.

Alternative Medicine

  • Alternative medicine is used in place of standard medical treatments.
  • One example is using a special diet to treat cancer instead of a method that a cancer specialist (an oncologist) suggests.

Integrative Medicine

  • Integrative medicine is a total approach to care that involves the patient's mind, body, and spirit. It combines standard medicine with the CAM practices that have shown the most promise.
  • For example, some people learn to use relaxation as a way to reduce stress during chemotherapy.