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Topics in Complementary and Alternative Therapies (PDQ®)


Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) covers a wide variety of therapies and botanicals. The 2007 National Health Interview Survey reports about four out of ten adults use a CAM therapy, with the most commonly used treatments being natural products and deep breathing exercises.[1] One large survey of cancer survivors reported on the use of complementary therapies.[2] The therapies used most often were prayer and spiritual practice (61%), relaxation (44%), faith and spiritual healing (42%), and nutritional supplements and vitamins (40%). CAM therapies are used by 31% to 84% of children with cancer, both in and outside of clinical trials.[3,4] CAM therapies have been used in the management of side effects caused by cancer or cancer treatment.

This CAM information summary provides a brief description and a link to CAM therapies found in PDQ summaries or NCI Fact Sheets. The links will take you to the specific CAM summary, NCI Fact Sheet, or other PDQ summary section, providing more information and references on the topic. Refer to NCI's Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine Web site for links to other resources.


  1. Barnes PM, Bloom B, Nahin RL: Complementary and alternative medicine use among adults and children: United States, 2007. Natl Health Stat Report (12): 1-23, 2009. [PUBMED Abstract]
  2. Gansler T, Kaw C, Crammer C, et al.: A population-based study of prevalence of complementary methods use by cancer survivors: a report from the American Cancer Society's studies of cancer survivors. Cancer 113 (5): 1048-57, 2008. [PUBMED Abstract]
  3. Kelly KM: Complementary and alternative medical therapies for children with cancer. Eur J Cancer 40 (14): 2041-6, 2004. [PUBMED Abstract]
  4. Ndao DH, Ladas EJ, Bao Y, et al.: Use of complementary and alternative medicine among children, adolescent, and young adult cancer survivors: a survey study. J Pediatr Hematol Oncol 35 (4): 281-8, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  • Updated: April 13, 2015