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Cancer patients have many choices to make before, during, and after cancer treatment. One choice may be thinking about is complementary and alternative medicine, which is also called CAM, for short.

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In This Article:

Complementary Medicine
Alternative Medicine
Integrative Medicine

People with cancer may use CAM to:

  • Help cope with the side effects of cancer treatments, such as nausea, pain, and fatigue;
  • Comfort themselves and ease the worries of cancer treatment and related stress;
  • Feel that they are doing something more to help with their own care;
  • Try to treat or cure their cancer.

Complementary and Alternative Medicine, also known as CAM is any medical system, practice, or product that is not thought of as standard care. Standard medical care is care that is based on scientific evidence. For cancer, it includes chemotherapy, radiation, biological therapy, and surgery.

Complementary Medicine

  • Complementary medicine is used along with standard medical treatments.
  • One example is using acupuncture to help with side effects of cancer treatment.

Alternative Medicine

  • Alternative medicine is used in place of standard medical treatments.
  • One example is using a special diet to treat cancer instead of a method that a cancer specialist (an oncologist) suggests.

Integrative Medicine

  • Integrative medicine is a total approach to care that involves the patient’s mind, body, and spirit. It combines standard medicine with the CAM practices that have shown the most promise.
  • For example, some people learn to use relaxation as a way to reduce stress during chemotherapy.

Talk with Your Doctor Before You Use CAM

Some people with cancer are afraid that their doctor won’t understand or approve of the use of CAM. But doctors know that people with cancer want to take an active part in their care. They want the best for their patients and often are willing to work with them.

Talk to your doctor to make sure that all aspects of your cancer care work together. This is important because things that seem safe, such as certain foods or pills, may interfere with your cancer treatment.

To learn more about the different CAM options read Types of Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

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