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8 Things To Know About Cancer Symptoms and Psychological and Physical Complementary Health Approaches

Some psychological and physical complementary health approaches may play a role in cancer care, but using them inappropriately can be harmful. Here are 8 things you should know.

  1. If you have cancer, talk to your health care provider before using any complementary health approach. Although psychological and physical approaches have good safety records, it’s important to make sure that the specific approach you want to try is safe for you and won’t interfere with your cancer treatment.

  2. No complementary approach has been shown to cure cancer or cause it to go into remission. Unproven products or practices should not be used to replace or delay medical treatment for cancer. Delaying treatment can decrease the chances of remission or cure.

  3. Acupuncture may reduce cancer pain and fatigue and help manage treatment-related nausea and vomiting. Research on the effects of acupuncture on cancer-related hot flashes is limited.

  4. Hypnosis may be helpful for pain, nausea and vomiting, and anxiety and distress associated with medical procedures. It may also be helpful for hot flashes in women with breast cancer.

  5. Relaxation techniques may be helpful for anxiety symptoms in people who are being treated for cancer. Weaker evidence suggests that these techniques might also help with pain from cancer treatment.

  6. Mindfulness-based interventions may help cancer patients cope with stress, anxiety, and depression. They may also reduce fatigue and improve quality of life.

  7. Practicing yoga may lead to modest improvements in fatigue and sleep disturbances, depression and anxiety, and quality of life in women with breast cancer. However, much less is known about yoga for people with other types of cancer.

  8. Limited evidence suggests that massage therapy, reflexology, tai chi or qigong, and music-based interventions might also help people manage cancer symptoms or treatment side effects. However, the evidence on these approaches isn’t as strong as that for the other psychological or physical approaches discussed above.