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 other therapies you could try. Complementary therapies are used alongside conventional medical treatments, while alternative therapies are chosen by some people instead 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. Read more about 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 are not scientifically tested or proven to be effective and could be harmful. They can be very expensive and could affect management of your symptoms.

If you have questions about a particular alternative therapy, talk to your doctor, call Cancer Council 13 11 20, or visit

It is important to tell your doctor if you are using, or considering using, complementary or alternative therapies. Some herbal preparations, for example, can interfere with other medicines.

This information was last reviewed in January 2017
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