- Cancer Information
- Advanced cancer
- Facing end of life
- Common questions about dying
- Is now the time to try complementary or alternative therapies?
Is now the time to try complementary or alternative therapies?
If your doctor has told you that the cancer cannot be cured, you may wonder whether there are any other therapies you could try. Complementary therapies tend to focus on the whole person, not just the cancer. They are used alongside conventional medical treatments, while alternative therapies are used in place of conventional treatments.
Many people use complementary therapies to help them feel better and cope with cancer and its treatment. This is also true for people who are dying with cancer.
Complementary therapies may help you relax and reduce anxiety. They can also be useful in managing symptoms such as pain and nausea.
Some people find gentle therapies, such as massage and aromatherapy, helpful. People who find it uncomfortable or painful to be touched may prefer meditation or visualisation.
For more on this, see Complementary therapies.
Alternative therapies are often promoted as cancer cures, and family members, friends or even strangers may suggest you try them when you explain your prognosis. Unlike conventional medical treatments, alternative therapies have not been scientifically tested, so there is no proof they stop cancer growing or spreading. They can be very expensive and could interfere with other medicines.
If you are considering trying an alternative therapy, discuss this with your doctor first. Cancer Council does not recommend the use of alternative therapies as a treatment for cancer.
Dr Megan Ritchie, Staff Specialist Palliative Medicine, Palliative Care Service, Concord Repatriation General Hospital, NSW; Gabrielle Asprey, Cancer Support Consultant, Cancer Council NSW; Rosemary Cavanough, Consumer; Louise Durham, Nurse Practitioner, Metro South Palliative Care Service, QLD; Tracey Gardner, Senior Psychologist, Cancer Counselling Service, Cancer Council Queensland; Karen Hall, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Linda Nolte, Program Director, Advance Care Planning Australia, VIC; Rowena Robinson, Clinical Advisor, Palliative Care Australia, ACT; Helena Rodi, Program Manager, Advance Care Planning Australia, VIC.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
Click below to download a PDF booklet on this topic.