Survivorship: Complementary & Integrative Medicine

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Many people use complementary therapies (such as acupuncture and prayer) during or after their breast cancer care to improve quality of life and relieve some side effects of treatment or breast cancer itself. When combined with standard medical care, complementary therapies are often called integrative therapies.

Types of Integrative Therapies

  • Natural Products (Herbs, Vitamins, Minerals, etc.)
  • Mind & Body Medicines (Meditation, Prayer, Art Therapy, etc.)
  • Manipulative & Body-Based Practices (Massage, Chiropractic Medicine, Acupuncture, Reflexology, etc.)
  • Movement & Energy Medicine (Reiki, Therapeutic Touch, etc.)
  • Whole Medical Systems (Homeopathic Medicine and Naturopathy, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda)

Is Complementary Therapy Right for You?

STEP 1: Talk With Your Health Care Provider

You should never hesitate to bring up to your health care provider issues that can impact your health. Working together, you and your provider can make informed decisions about your health.

STEP 2: Use a Complementary Therapy Only as an Addition to Standard Treatment

Complementary therapies should never be used instead of or apart from standard medical care. Standard cancer treatments have proven benefits. It is not safe to replace standard treatment with less-studied complementary therapies.

STEP 3: Take the Initiative

Learn all you can about complementary therapies. Research safety and effectiveness and note any harmful interactions with standard cancer treatments or other complementary therapies.

STEP 4: Be Wary of Wild Claims

No complementary therapy has been proven to cure cancer. If this claim is made, it is a sign that the product could be unsafe and not effective.

STEP 5: Don’t Equate “Natural” with “Safe”

Natural does not necessarily mean safe.

STEP 6: Choose Reputable Brands

With dietary supplements, there is little guarantee that what is on the label is what is actually inside the bottle. Choose supplements from well-known makers. These will include a “USP verified” stamp on the label.

STEP 7: Choose Licensed Complementary Therapy Practitioners

Visiting a licensed practitioner isn’t a guarantee you will receive good, safe care. Still, a license to practice does show that a provider has passed the requirements in their field.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor about Complementary Therapies

  • How do you feel about complementary therapies?
  • Have you ever referred someone to a complementary therapy practitioner?
  • What’s the best way to find a licensed complementary therapy practitioner?
  • I am using these complementary therapies (name therapies). Should I stop using them during and/or after my breast cancer treatment?
  • Should I let you know before I start a new complementary therapy? Which therapies should I not use?
  • Is this complementary therapy (name therapy) safe? Is there research showing it is safe?
  • Are there any side effects with this complementary therapy (name therapy)? If yes, what are they and what should I report to you?
  • Are there clinical trials studying this complementary therapy (name therapy)? 

Learn more: http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/ComplementaryTherapies.html

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