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Complementary and alternative medicines and therapies

Have you considered using complementary therapies and medicines?

 

Many women are interested in using complementary therapies and medicines as part of their breast cancer journey. There are many different types of complementary therapies and medicines, and the information that is available can sometimes be confusing. We hope the following information will help you to understand what is available.

Complementary therapies

Complementary therapies are used in addition to conventional medical treatments like chemotherapy and hormone therapies. Some examples of complementary therapies include massage, yoga, acupuncture and reflexology.

For more information see our Complementary therapies page.

Complementary medicines

Complementary medicines are products that are used in addition to conventional medical treatments like chemotherapy and hormone therapies. Complementary medicines include vitamin and mineral supplements, such as fish oil capsules, vitamin D tablets, and herbal medicines.

For more information see our Complementary medicines page.

Alternative therapies

Alternative therapies are products or therapies that are used instead of conventional medical treatments like chemotherapy and hormone therapies. Some examples of alternative therapies are ozone therapy, special diets, coffee enemas, large doses of vitamins and herbal treatments.

It’s important to understand that alternative therapies have not been scientifically tested or proven. There is no evidence that they are effective in treating breast cancer, although they are often marketed as being a 'cure' for cancer. 

For more information see our Alternative therapies page.

Should I use complementary or alternative therapies?

It is best to carefully consider the use of any complementary medicines and seek advice from your medical team about any medicine or supplements you are using or considering. 

Some complimentary therapies can cause unwanted side effects. They can also interfere with prescription medicines, including breast cancer medicines, and can make your breast cancer treatment less effective. For example, vitamin C supplements can interfere with some chemotherapy treatments, and St John’s Wort can reduce the effectiveness of tamoxifen and some chemotherapies.

Sometimes your doctor may suggest you use a complementary medicine. For example, vitamin D may be recommended if you are taking an aromatase inhibitor (Arimidex, Femara, Aromasin).

Before starting any complementary medicine, talk to a member of your medical team to discuss any possible effects it may have on your breast cancer treatment and health.