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

  • Updated: 03/07/2013

Choose Practitioners with Care

CAM practitioners are people who have training in the therapies listed previously. Choosing one should be done with the same care as choosing a doctor. Here are some things to remember when choosing a practitioner:

  • Ask your doctor or nurse to suggest someone or speak with someone who knows about CAM.
  • Ask whether someone at your cancer center or doctor's office can help you find a CAM practitioner. There may be a social worker or physical therapist who can help you.
  • Ask whether your hospital keeps lists of centers or has staff who can suggest people.
  • Contact CAM professional organizations to get names of practitioners who are certified. This means that they have proper training in their field. (See Resources.)
  • Contact local health and wellness organizations.
  • Ask about each practitioner's training and experience.
  • Ask whether the practitioner has a license to practice in your state. If you want to confirm the answer, ask what organization gives out the licenses. Then, you may choose to follow up with a phone call.
  • Call your health care plan to see if it covers this therapy.

What general questions should I ask the CAM practitioner?

  • What types of CAM do you practice?
  • What are your training and qualifications?
  • Do you see other patients with my type of cancer?
  • Will you work with my doctor?

What questions about the therapy should I ask the CAM practitioner?

  • How can this help me?
  • Do you know of studies that prove it helps?
  • What are the risks and side effects?
  • Will this interfere with my cancer treatment?
  • How long will I be on the therapy?
  • What will it cost?
  • Do you have information that I can read about it?
  • Are there any reasons why I should not use it?

Other Questions To Ask Yourself

  • Do I feel comfortable with this person?
  • Do I like how the office looks and feels?
  • Do I like the staff?
  • Does this person support standard cancer treatments?
  • How far am I willing to travel for treatment?
  • Is it easy to get an appointment?
  • Are the hours good for me?
  • Will insurance cover the cost of CAM?

Call your health plan or insurer to see whether they cover CAM therapies. Many are not covered.