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Topics in Complementary and Alternative Therapies (PDQ®)

Patient Version
Last Modified: 04/14/2014


Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) includes a wide variety of therapies, botanicals, nutritional products, and practices. These forms of treatment are used in addition to (complementary) or instead of (alternative) standard treatments. The 2007 National Health Interview Survey reported that about 4 out of 10 adults use a CAM therapy, naming natural products and deep breathing exercises as the most commonly used treatments.

One large survey reported on the use of complementary therapies in cancer survivors. The therapies used most often were prayer and spiritual practice, relaxation, faith and spiritual healing, and nutritional supplements and vitamins. CAM therapies are used often by children with cancer, both in and outside clinical trials. CAM therapies have been used to manage side effects caused by cancer or cancer treatment.

This complementary and alternative medicine summary gives a brief description of CAM therapies found in PDQ Cancer Information Summaries or Fact Sheets from the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Links are included to take you to the specific PDQ summary or NCI Fact Sheet for more information about each topic. See NCI's Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine for links to other resources.