Where you can go to have complementary 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. There are a range of places you can go to have complementary therapies.

Talk to your cancer doctor, GP, or specialist nurse if you're considering using any complementary therapies. Some treatments may interact. Also let your complementary therapist know about your conventional cancer treatment.

Complementary therapies in hospitals

Many cancer wards, units and hospitals offer a range of complementary therapies free of charge as part of their care. Those most commonly offered are:

  • acupuncture
  • reflexology
  • massage (including aromatherapy massage and shiatsu)

It's always worth asking what is available in your own clinic or hospital. Some therapies might also be available for carers.

Other types of complementary therapy that might be available include art therapy, music therapy and visualisation.

Qualified therapists

Therapists who work in a hospital setting must have the necessary qualifications. They are usually registered with organisations that regulate complementary therapy practitioners.

The organisations include the:

  • Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC)
  • Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)

The CNHC and HCPC make sure that practitioners registered with them are properly trained, qualified and insured. The therapist will be familiar with working with people with cancer. They might be working as volunteers or might be paid employees of the hospital.

Check with your nurse or doctor if your hospital doesn’t offer complementary therapies. They might be able to recommend somewhere else in your area.

Complementary therapies in hospices

Many hospices offer a range of complementary therapies free of charge to people with cancer, and sometimes their carers too. They might be able to offer a wider range of therapies than those provided in hospitals.

Practitioners in hospices are usually registered with the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC).

Your GP practice

Some GP practices around the UK offer complementary therapies as part of their care. They will have therapists on site with the necessary qualifications and may offer:

  • massage
  • hypnotherapy
  • mindfulness based stress reduction

Or your GP may have training in specific therapies, such as acupuncture or osteopathy

You might have to pay for these extra services from your GP practice. But they might not be as expensive as going to a private therapist.

Voluntary and charitable cancer organisations

Some cancer charities or organisations offer people complementary therapies.

NHS integrated hospitals

There are 3 NHS integrated hospitals in the UK. They are in Bristol, Glasgow and London. They see people with a variety of conditions, including cancer. They offer a number of complementary therapies.

Some of the hospitals run a support programme for people with cancer.

Therapies in independent cancer support groups or centres

There are several centres across the UK that offer:

  • support
  • information
  • complementary therapies

Some charge for these services and some don’t. Some will charge people who can afford to pay. But won’t turn anyone away because they can’t afford the costs. Some centres offer services to carers, as well as people with cancer.

These groups or centres can provide:

  • physical support
  • emotional support
  • spiritual support
  • practical advice on nutrition

Complementary therapies in private practices

There are thousands of private complementary therapists around the country. Some might have their own private rooms. Or use a room that is part of a health or fitness centre.

  • Oxford Textbook of Palliative Medicine (3rd edition)
    D Doyle, G Hanks, N Cherny and K Calman
    Oxford University Press, 2005

  • Complementary therapy support in cancer survivorship: a survey of complementary and alternative medicine practitioners' provision and perception of skills
    CA Samuel and S Faithfull
    European Journal of Cancer Care, 2014. Volume 23, Issue 2

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

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