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Complementary Alternative Cancer Therapies

What Are Complementary Alternative Therapies?

Complementary alternative medical therapies (CAM) is a collective term for an array of remedies that lie outside what is traditionally considered conventional medical treatment for cancer. These include the use of herbal, vitamin, and nutritional supplements, as well as physical and psychological interventions such as exercise, relaxation, massage, prayer, hypnotherapy, and acupuncture (Deng G et al 2005; Hann D et al 2005; Molassiotis A et al 2005). The use of CAM as a component of integrated cancer treatment regimens may help patients reduce the side effects associated with conventional cancer treatments, alleviate symptoms, enhance immune function, and provide greater quality of (and control over) life (Deng G et al 2004, 2005).

The use of CAM is popular among cancer patients undergoing conventional treatment (Hann D et al 2005; Molassiotis A et al 2005). Over 72 million patients used complementary alternative therapies in the past year (Tindle HA et al 2005) to help control their disease. In the United States, 91 percent of cancer patients implemented at least one form of CAM in addition to undergoing conventional cancer treatment (Yates JS et al 2005). The most popular forms of CAM were exercise, relaxation, and prayer (Yates JS et al 2005).

Although most physicians acknowledge the benefits of physical and psychological CAM therapies, the role of nutritional and mineral supplements, particularly when used in conjunction with chemotherapy and radiation therapy, is an issue of considerable controversy.