Alternative and complementary therapies may be used in addition to standard, conventional medical treatments, but they do not treat the cancer itself. They can reduce symptoms and improve your overall health and well-being. Your health care team can discuss with you the possible benefits and/or any potential risks of complementary therapies. Although they may reduce symptoms and improve your overall well-being there may be concerns about certain medications interfering with chemotherapy or radiation.


Here are some examples of alternative and complementary therapies:


Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese method of targeting energy channels, or meridians, which run through your body. The acupuncturist positions fine needles into these channels to help control nausea and pain.


Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils to help you cope with some of the psychological and emotional effects of living with cancer.


Biofeedback is a technique where you are trained to gain some voluntary control over certain physical conditions, such as blood pressure and muscle tension, to promote relaxation.


Energy therapies are an approach to healing that uses the flow of energy through the palms of the hands to comfort and heal. Therapeutic touch is given with the hands a few inches away from your body or with hands lightly touching your body to assess your body’s energy field and correct imbalances.


Herbal medicine has been used for centuries without clear scientific proof about their benefits. Herbs produce and contain a variety of chemical substances, so it’s important to ask your health care team if there are reasons for you not to use a specific herb.


Hypnosis can allow you to enter a state of deep relaxation by concentrating on specific feelings, thoughts or sensations.


Massage therapy manipulates the body’s soft tissue structures of the body. A massage therapist can stimulate circulation to help alleviate pain, discomfort, muscle spasms and stress. Some massage therapists are also skilled in massaging scar tissue after a mastectomy, which can aid in the healing process.


Meditation can lead to deep relaxation and a calm mental state. During meditation, your body releases natural painkillers that can help reduce stress, anxiety and tension.


Visualization/Imagery is using your mind to concentrate on specific visual images, which is a technique that can promote a tranquil state of mind and may help alleviate pain.


Yoga involves a series of stretches or postures that are performed mindfully while breathing in a relaxed way. Yoga may help energize and strengthen your body and calm your mind. There is a wide range of yoga styles. Hatha yoga is the foundation for many yoga styles and is ideal for beginners.


Tai chi can be described as a combination of a moving form of yoga and meditation. It involves a series of movements, each flowing into the next, with the entire body in constant motion. All movements are performed slowly and gracefully. Tai chi may help reduce stress and anxiety and increase flexibility and balance.