What is the evidence?

Conventional cancer treatments have been through a research process to see whether they work and are safe. This is known as evidence-based medicine. New treatments are first tested in laboratories and then on large groups of people in clinical trials.

Clinical trials involving two groups of people provide the strongest evidence. One group is given the new treatment and the other group is given the existing standard treatment. The results in the two groups are compared to work out which treatment is better. If the new treatment works better than existing treatments, it may become the new standard treatment. This process provides the scientific evidence for the effectiveness and safety of the treatment.

While some complementary therapies are supported by strong evidence, others are not. As their use increases, many are now being scientifically tested to see whether they are safe for people with cancer, whether they reduce or improve specific symptoms to help people feel better during and after conventional treatment, and how they interact with conventional treatments.

Many alternative therapies and medicines have not been scientifically tested. Others have been tested and shown not to work or to be harmful to people with cancer. Some alternative practitioners promote their therapies and medicines as a cure for cancer, and encourage people to stop using conventional cancer treatment. If this is something you are considering, discuss this with your doctor first.

Alternative therapies can be expensive, and they are not covered by Medicare or the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), a government-funded scheme that subsidises some prescription medicines. It is important to consider the cost of these therapies if you are thinking about using them.

Cancer Council does not recommend the use of alternative therapies as a treatment for cancer. 

To find out more about clinical trials, call Cancer Council 13 11 20 for a free copy of Understanding Clinical Trials and Research or download a copy from this page.

Signs of unsafe therapies

Keep the following warning signs in mind if you are thinking about using an alternative therapy or medicine instead of conventional treatment or medicine:

  • The practitioner does not have a qualification from an accredited educational institution in the therapy they provide.
  • The practitioner is not registered with a governing body or a professional association.
  • The practitioner tells you that using conventional treatment or medicine will stop their therapy or remedy from working.
  • The practitioner asks you not to talk to your doctors about their treatment, or won’t tell you the ingredients that make up a herbal preparation they give you.
  • The practitioner claims that their treatment cures cancer and other illnesses.
  • The practitioner says there are clinical studies for the effectiveness of their remedy or therapy, but does not show you any articles that have appeared in reputable medical journals.
  • The treatment costs a lot of money or you need to pay in advance for several months’ supply of a remedy.
  • All potential side effects have not been explained.
  • You need to travel overseas to have the treatment.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) tracks health and medical scams in an effort to keep the public informed about which scams are in circulation. To find out more, visit scamwatch.gov.au or accc.gov.au.

Click on the icon below to download a PDF booklet on Complementary Therapies.

Printed copies are available for free - Call 13 11 20 to order

Instructions for downloading and reading EPUB files

Apple devices

The iBooks application must be installed on your Apple device before you can read the EPUB.
Different ways to download an EPUB file to your Apple device:

  • email EPUB files to yourself and transfer the attachment to iBooks.
  • copy EPUB files into DropBox (or a similar service) and use the DropBox app to send them to iBooks.
  • open EPUB files directly from Mobile Safari and open them in iBooks, where they are saved automatically by downloading the EPUB from the website.

Need more help? Visit: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4059


To download an EPUB file to your Kobo from a Windows computer:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • select “Open folder to view files” to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

To download an EPUB to your Kobo from a Mac:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • open your “Finder” application.
  • select “Kobo eReader” from the listed devices to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, probably in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
Need more information? Visit: http://www.kobo.com/help/koboaura/response/?id=3784&type=3

Sony Reader

To download an EPUB file on your Sony Reader™:

  • ensure you have already installed the Reader™ Library for PC/Mac software
  • select the eBook you want from our website and click the link to download it.
  • connect the Reader™ to your computer.
  • open the Reader™ Library software and click “Library” in the left-hand pane and select the eBook to view it.

Need more help? Visit: https://au.readerstore.sony.com/apps_and_devices/

Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
  • safely eject your Kindle™ from your computer and unplug the USB cable. Your content will appear on the Home Screen.

Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=help_search_1-1?ie=UTF8&nodeId=200767340&qid=1395967989&sr=1-1
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
Need more help? Visit https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200375630

Android and PC

You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.

This information was last reviewed in May 2018
View who reviewed this content
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