Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Some people with cancer use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM):
- An approach is generally called complementary medicine when it is used along with standard treatment.
- An approach is called alternative medicine when it is used instead of standard treatment.
Acupuncture, massage therapy, herbal products, vitamins or special diets, visualization, meditation, and spiritual healing are types of CAM.
Many people say that CAM helps them feel better. However, some types of CAM may change the way standard treatment works. These changes could be harmful. Other types of CAM could be harmful even if used alone.
Some types of CAM are expensive. Health insurance may not cover the cost.
The NCI offers a booklet called Thinking About Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
You also may find materials from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, another part of the National Institutes of Health. You can reach the NCCAM Clearinghouse toll-free at 1-888-644-6226 (voice) and 1-866-464-3615 (TTY). In addition, you can visit the Center's Website at http://www.nccam.nih.gov, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You may want to ask the doctor these questions before you decide to use CAM:
- What benefits can I expect from this therapy?
- What are its risks?
- Do the expected benefits outweigh the risks?
- What side effects should I watch for?
- Will the therapy change the way my cancer treatment works? Could this be harmful?
- Is this therapy under study in a clinical trial? If so, who sponsors the trial?
- Will my health insurance pay for this therapy?
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