It's natural to want to help yourself feel better. Some people with cancer say that complementary medicine helps them feel better. An approach is called complementary medicine when it is used along with standard cancer treatment. Acupuncture, massage therapy, herbal products, vitamins or special diets, and meditation are examples of such approaches.
Talk with your doctor if you are thinking about trying anything new. Things that seem safe, such as certain herbal teas, may change the way your cancer treatment works. These changes could be harmful. And certain complementary approaches could be harmful even if used alone.
You may find it helpful to read the NCI booklet Thinking About Complementary & Alternative Medicine: A Guide for People with Cancer.
You also may request materials from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, which is part of the National Institutes of Health. You can reach their clearinghouse at 1-888-644-6226 (voice) and 1-866-464-3615 (TTY). Also, you can visit their Web site at http://www.nccam.nih.gov.
You may want to ask your doctor these questions before you decide to use complementary medicine:
- What benefits can I expect from this approach?
- What are its risks?
- Do the expected benefits outweigh the risks?
- What side effects should I watch for?
- Will the approach change the way my cancer treatment works? Could this be harmful?
- Is this approach under study in a clinical trial?
- How much will it cost? Will my health insurance pay for this approach?
- Can you refer me to a complementary medicine practitioner?