Complementary and Alternative Therapies

Key Points

  • Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) refers to the many therapies, philosophies and practices that are not considered conventional or standard. These can include massage, yoga, acupuncture and more.
  • Most people with lung cancer who use CAM use it with their standard lung cancer treatment to help relieve physical and emotional symptoms.
  • You should use caution when participating in CAM therapies for lung cancer. Always discuss these therapies with your doctor so you know they are safe for you.

Take action

Do your research!

Sometimes CAM therapies can offer lung cancer symptom relief for people, but use caution and consult with your doctor.

What is complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)?

  • Complementary therapy is used with standard lung cancer treatment. The combined use of these two types of lung cancer treatment is called integrated medicine.
  • Alternative therapy is lung cancer treatment used instead of conventional treatment. Most people with lung cancer, who use CAM, take the integrative medicine approach. They combine complementary therapies with their standard treatment.
  • Integrative medicine can be used to control pain, reduce anxiety, reduce side effects and improve quality of life. It is important to discuss participating in CAM with your doctor. You need to know that the therapies will not interfere with your standard lung cancer treatment or cause side effects. You should never stop your standard treatment without consulting with your doctor. There are many different types of CAM, some of which are listed below.

Mind and Body Medicines

  • Meditation
  • Biofeedback
  • Yoga

Biology Based Practices

  • Vitamins     
  • Herbs
  • Special Diets

Touch Based Practices

  • Massage
  • Chiropractic Care
  • Reflexology

Energy Work

  • Tai Chi
  • Reiki
  • Therapeutic Touch

Whole Medical Systems

  • Ayurvedic Medicine
  • Chinese Medicine
  • Naturopathic Medicine

For more information on complementary and alternative therapies for lung cancer, visit The National Cancer Institute's Guide to Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Use Caution

Some CAM techniques can help treat symptoms and make you feel better. Unfortunately, some CAM treatments make claims that are not backed by science. Some can even be harmful to you instead of helpful. As you consider your options, here are three important steps you can take:

  • Look for "red flags." Do NOT receive any treatment that:
    • Promises to cure cancer
    • Tells you not to have regular medical treatments
    • Is a "secret" that requires you to visit certain providers or travel to another country
    • Is not approved by your doctor
  • Talk to your doctor or nurse about any method you are thinking about using.
  • Ask practitioners to work with your doctor. Avoid any who refuse.

Talk to your doctor before participating in any CAM therapies.

Click here to download a list of suggested questions.