What are complementary therapies?
Complementary therapies are practices that are used in addition to conventional medical treatments such as chemotherapy and hormone therapies. Some examples of complementary therapies often used by women with breast cancer include:
- Relaxation therapy
- Tai chi
- Bowen Therapy
- Art therapy
- Music therapy
Complementary therapies are different from complementary medicines, which are products that are taken or used, e.g. vitamin supplements.
Should I use a complementary therapy?
Many women with breast cancer use complementary therapies to help improve their physical and emotional wellbeing. Complementary therapies can help you to manage some of the side-effects of breast cancer and breast cancer treatments, including anxiety, pain and fatigue.
"I'm a firm believer in reflexology. My first round of chemo I suffered with some pain, mouth ulcers, rash and constipation. Before the second, third and fourth rounds I had a reflexology treatment and it has taken away these side effects."
While many complementary therapies can be very helpful, it is a good idea to talk to a member of your medical team before starting anything new to discuss any possible effects the therapy may have on your breast cancer treatments or health.
Questions to ask about complementary therapies
If you are considering beginning a complementary therapy, you may like to ask your doctor and/or complementary therapist the following questions:
- How do you think this complementary therapy will help me?
- Will I have any unwanted side-effects from this complementary therapy?
- What should I do if I experience any side effects?
- How long should I use this complementary therapy and how will I know if it is working?
- Who will deliver the complementary therapy?
- What qualification, training and experience does the complementary therapist have?
- What is the cost of the complementary therapy?
- Is the complementary therapy covered by private health insurance?
What should I do if I experience any side-effects?
If you experience any adverse side-effects, it is a good idea to talk to your doctor as soon as possible.
- The My Journey Kit Information Guide has a section on complementary and alternative therapies.
- BCNA's position statement on Complementary and Alternative Therapies.
- The Beacon Issue 58 contains an article on the difference between complementary and alternative medicines and therapies.
- The Cancer Council Australia's website section on complementary and alternative therapies includes a fact sheet.
- The Victorian Government Better Health Channel website includes pages on Complementary Therapies and Complementary Medicines - Tell Your Doctor.