Useful questions on complementary therapies

You may find this checklist helpful when thinking about the questions you want to ask your complementary therapist.

Categories in this section:

Things to consider before using complementary therapies

  • What are the benefits?
  • What is the scientific evidence to support its use?
  • Will the therapy potentially harm me because of:
    • its side effects?
    • possible interaction with other medication?
    • the therapist’s advice to stop or delay conventional treatment?
  • Can I afford the cost of the therapies or medicines?

General questions to ask any potential complementary therapist

  • What are your qualifications? Are you a member of a professional association?
  • What training or experience do you have in treating people with cancer? Have you treated anyone with my type of cancer?
  • What exactly is the therapy? How does it work?
  • How long will it take to work?
  • How can the therapies you practise help me?
  • Are there any specific precautions I should take?
  • Has the therapy been tested in clinical trials? Have the findings been published, and are they available to read?
  • Can this therapy be combined with conventional cancer treatment and medicines?
  • Do you expect me to stop my conventional medication and treatments?
  • Are you willing to liaise with my doctors or other health professionals I may need to see?
  • How long should I use this therapy for? How will I know if it’s working?
  • Are you able to do home visits if I am not well enough to attend your clinic?
  • How long are your consultations?
  • What do you charge for a consultation? Can I claim the cost on Medicare or from my health fund?
  • What can I expect during a consultation?
  • How many consultations do you recommend, and how often?
  • Do you dispense your own medicines and supplements?
  • How much can I expect to pay for medicines?
  • Have the products or medicines you dispense been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration?
  • What side effects may occur?

General questions to ask your doctor

  • Are you familiar with complementary therapies or medicines?
  • Do you have any qualifications in complementary therapies?
  • Are there any complementary therapies you think might help me?
  • Would you be happy for me to use complementary therapies? If not, what should I do if I decide to use complementary therapies?
  • Do you know whether the complementary medicines I am taking or wish to take will interfere with any of my treatments?
  • Would you be willing to guide me in my research or choice of complementary therapies?
  • Would you be willing to talk to my complementary therapists?
  • Can you recommend any complementary therapists?

Questions to ask your doctor about specific therapies

Mind–body techniques

  • What type of therapist would you recommend for my concerns?
  • Can you refer me to a psychologist or counsellor?

Body-based practices

  • Are there any forms of massage or bodywork that would help me?
  • Are there any forms of massage or bodywork I shouldn’t have?
  • Can I have acupuncture before and/or after surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy?
  • Are there any areas on my body where a massage therapist or acupuncturist needs to take special care?
  • What precautions, if any, should I take?
  • Would I be able to participate in tai chi, qi gong or yoga?
  • What level of exercise intensity would be suitable for me?
  • Can you provide me with a letter giving your approval for me to have massage or other bodywork therapy?
  • Should I see an exercise physiologist or physiotherapist?

Energy therapies

  • Do you think using reiki or healing touch would benefit me?
  • Will I have any side effects from any types of energy therapies?

Therapies based on diet

  • Are there any general dietary changes I should make?
  • Should I eat organic foods?
  • Are there any vitamin or mineral supplements that will help manage specific side effects caused by conventional treatment?
  • Should I be taking any particular nutritional supplements?
  • What can I eat to improve my digestion and bowel movements?
  • Are there any foods or supplements that I should definitely have, or definitely avoid, during and after cancer treatment?
  • Should I see a dietitian or a nutritionist?

Therapies using herbs and plants

  • Are there any herbs you would recommend during or after cancer treatment?
  • What dosage should I take? Does it have side effects?
  • Are there any herbs I shouldn’t take because of my medication, surgery or other conventional treatments?
  • If I use herbal medicine, when should I take it in relation to my other medication or conventional treatments? Is it okay to use at the same time, or should I take it at a different time?
  • Do you think using flower remedies or homeopathy would benefit me?
  • Will I have any side effects from homeopathy remedies?

This information was last reviewed in May 2018
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