Complementary and alternative medicine includes practices such as massage, acupuncture, tai chi and drinking green tea. Complementary and alternative medicine are medicines and health practices that doctors don't usually use to treat cancer. Alternative health care services are health treatments that are not normally provided in a traditional Western medicine practice. There is a wide range of practices, but usually these services focus on creating health through balance between mind, body, spirit and the environment.
Research Can Help You Understand the Pros and Cons of Alternative Care Options. Alternative medicine refers to unproven or refuted methods that are used instead of standard medical treatments to prevent, diagnose, or treat cancer. They haven't been extensively tested in clinical trials or have been tested and proven not to work against cancer. Examples of alternative methods include special diets, certain supplements and herbs, high-dose vitamins, homeopathy, laetrile, and Rife machines.
Many alternative medicine providers suggest a combination of these types of treatments. There is evidence to support the use of some complementary therapies, but alternative therapies are usually not proven or have been shown to be ineffective. The mission of NCCIH is to determine, through rigorous scientific research, the fundamental science, usefulness and safety of complementary and integrative health approaches and their roles in improving health and health care. This is one of the reasons why it's sometimes impossible to say much about whether an alternative method is likely to help you or even how safe it could be.
If you have cancer, you should discuss your ideas about using MCA with your healthcare provider before using the therapies listed below. This term sometimes refers to a concept similar to integrative health (described below), but it can also refer to an approach that more closely resembles naturopathy (a medical system that has evolved from a combination of traditional practices and healthcare approaches popular in Europe during the 19th century). Because many of these therapies have not been studied with the same scientific rigor as traditional medicine, it is advisable to ask your traditional healthcare provider about complementary therapies. For details on specific MCA therapies, NCI provides evidence-based medical data query (PDQ) information for many MCA therapies in both patient and healthcare professional versions.
Even when there is little harm with a particular alternative treatment, research has shown that people who use alternative methods instead of conventional cancer treatment for the most common curable cancers have a higher risk of dying from cancer. Integrative health also emphasizes multimodal interventions, which are two or more interventions, such as conventional health care approaches (such as medication, physical rehabilitation, psychotherapy) and complementary health approaches (such as acupuncture, yoga, and probiotics) in various combinations, with a emphasis on treating the whole person rather than, for example, an organ system. Check with your insurance plan to see if alternative therapy is covered and if the provider you want to see is in-network, so you don't be surprised by unexpected costs. This approach often emphasizes patient preferences and attempts to address the mental, physical, and spiritual aspects of health.
The NCCIH Information Center provides information on NCCIH and complementary and integrative approaches to health, including publications and searches of federal databases of scientific and medical literature. .