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6 Things You Need To Know About Cancer and Complementary Health Approaches

Complementary health approaches may play a role in cancer care, but using them inappropriately can be harmful. Here are 6 things you should know about cancer and complementary health approaches.

  1. If you have cancer, talk to your health care provider before using any complementary health approach. Some products or practices may interfere with conventional cancer treatment or have other risks. For example, some herbal supplements may interact in harmful ways with drugs used in 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. Some psychological or physical complementary health approaches (also called mind and body practices) may help people manage cancer symptoms or side effects of treatment, such as nausea, pain, fatigue, and depression. Practices that have shown promise include acupuncture, hypnosis, mindfulness-based interventions, tai chi/qigong, and yoga.

  4. It’s uncertain whether dietary supplements containing ginger are helpful for nausea associated with cancer chemotherapy. Studies have had mixed results.

  5. Using black salves for self-treatment of skin cancer is a bad idea. These products may not remove the whole cancer, which may allow it to spread and become more serious. They also can cause scarring and tissue damage, which is sometimes severe and disfiguring.

  6. No dietary supplements have been shown to prevent cancer. However, there are several other ways to reduce your cancer risk. They include making healthy choices, such as avoiding tobacco and maintaining a healthy weight, getting recommended vaccines against hepatitis B and human papillomavirus (HPV), and getting appropriate cancer screening tests.