Complementary and alternative therapies

The phrases complementary therapy and alternative therapy are often used as if they mean the same thing. They are sometimes combined into one phrase – complementary and alternative therapies (CAMs). There is an important difference between a complementary therapy and an alternative therapy.

Complementary therapies are used alongside conventional medical treatments prescribed by your doctor. They can help people with cancer to feel better and may improve your quality of life. They may also help you to cope better with symptoms caused by the cancer. Or side effects caused by cancer treatment.

Alternative therapies are used instead of conventional medical treatment. People with cancer have various reasons for wanting to try alternative therapies.

About complementary and alternative therapies

A complementary therapy means you can use it alongside your conventional medical treatment. It may help you to feel better and cope better with your cancer and treatment. An alternative therapy is generally used instead of conventional medical treatment.

Finding a therapist

For your safety, it is very important to make sure that any complementary therapist you see has the necessary training and qualifications.

The cost of complementary and alternative therapies

Depending on the centre and the type of therapy you have, they may be available free of charge or you might need to pay.

Information on the web for complementary and alternative therapy

Many people use the internet to get medical information. This can affect their treatment choices. It is important to use reliable and professional organisation websites for this.

Alternative cancer diets

People with cancer sometimes try complementary or alternative therapies to help with diet problems or to treat cancer.

Research and clinical trials for complementary and alternative therapies

Research into complementary and alternative therapies is important so that we know if they are safe to use, whether they work, and to find out if they interact with conventional cancer treatments.

Individual therapies

Find detailed information and research into some of the many different complementary and alternative therapies used by people with cancer.

Resources and organisations

Find organisations, support groups, books, websites and other resources about complementary and alternative therapies.

Last reviewed: 
04 Apr 2022
Next review due: 
04 Apr 2025