Complementary Health describes non-conventional approaches to health care that can be used alongside conventional treatment. They may include dietary supplements, yoga, meditation and acupuncture. It also includes treatments like massage and biofeedback that focus on the whole body rather than just one organ or system. Other names for complementary medicines are alternative or holistic medicine. Some types of complementary therapies have been around for hundreds or even thousands of years while others are relatively new.
The National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) of 2012 showed that 17.7 percent of American adults use complémentaire santé approaches. The most popular were nonvitamin, nonmineral dietary supplements followed by acupuncture, chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation, massage therapy and yoga.
There is more scientific research of complementary products and practices than is often realised but, compared with conventional medicine, there are still far fewer studies on these disciplines. This is partly because the disciplines themselves do not have the same tradition and infrastructure of testing to ensure that treatments work and are safe. Having said that, more and more complementary practitioners now have a strong emphasis on research skills and many training courses incorporate research methods.
It is important to remember that there are risks associated with all medicines and any complementary therapies are no different. As with all treatments, it is important to discuss your choice with your cancer doctor or GP before you begin. This is especially true if you have other health conditions or are pregnant or breastfeeding.