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.

Listen to our podcasts on Coping with a Cancer Diagnosis and Making Treatment Decisions

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.

Art therapy

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.

For more on this, see Complementary therapies, or listen to our meditation and relaxation audio tracks now.

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.

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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:

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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”.
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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.

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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
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
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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 January 2019
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Cancer information

Mind–body techniques
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