- Cancer Information
- When you are first diagnosed
- Emotions and cancer
- Your coping toolbox
- Using complementary therapies
Using complementary therapies
Complementary therapies, such as relaxation, meditation, counselling and art therapy, are widely used alongside conventional cancer treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Many complementary therapies focus on a mind–body connection. They may offer physical, emotional and spiritual support, help reduce side effects from medical treatment, and improve quality of life.
Relaxation and meditation
These therapies can help reduce stress, anxiety and fatigue, and improve quality of life.
- Relaxation usually includes slow breathing and muscle-loosening exercises to physically and mentally calm the body.
- Meditation involves focusing on a single thing, such as breathing, to clear the mind and calm the emotions.
- Mindfulness meditation helps you to take things one day at a time. It allows you to focus more easily on the present, rather than worrying about the past or fearing the future.
- Body-based practices such as yoga, tai chi and qi gong combine a series of movements with breathing and meditation exercises to improve strength and flexibility while reducing stress and anxiety.
Through discussions with a counsellor, social worker or psychologist, you can identify problems and explore ways of resolving unhelpful thoughts and feelings that affect your health and day-to-day life. Counselling allows you to express your emotions in a safe and supportive environment, and to learn new coping skills. It can provide an opportunity to talk about thoughts and feelings that you might not feel comfortable sharing with family and friends.
This technique uses visual art (drawing, painting, collage, sculpture or digital work) to express feelings. It can be done individually or in groups, and some hospitals run programs. You do not need artistic talent to participate or benefit – the focus is on the process of producing artwork, not the end result. An art therapist helps you explore the images you have created to encourage understanding of your emotions and concerns.
Let your doctor know about any complementary or alternative therapies you are using or thinking about trying. Some may not be appropriate and could be harmful with some medical treatments.
|Alternative therapies are therapies used instead of conventional medical treatments. These are unlikely to be scientifically tested and may prevent successful treatment of the cancer. Cancer Council does not recommend the use of alternative therapies as a cancer treatment.|
Dr Anna Hughes, Liaison Psychiatrist and Psycho-oncologist, Canberra Region Cancer Centre, Canberra Hospital, ACT; Mary Bairstow, Senior Social Worker, Cancer Centre, Fiona Stanley Hospital, WA; Anita Bamert, Psychologist, Cancer Council Queensland, QLD; Kate Barber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Victoria, VIC; Sally Carveth, Assistant Coordinator, Cancer Support Leader Program, Cancer Council NSW; Matt Featherstone, Consumer; Dr Charlotte Tottman, Clinical Psychologist, Allied Consultant Psychologists and Flinders University, SA; Shirley Witko, Senior Social Worker, Comprehensive Cancer Centre, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, WA.
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Coping with cancer?
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Practical advice and support during and after treatment
Learn how mind–body techniques can help us think and feel better, and improve our physical and mental wellbeing
Exercise during cancer
Exercise helps most people during cancer treatment. Find out which exercises are best for you, and watch our series of exercise videos