Complementary and Alternative Therapies

What is complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)?

Silhouette of a woman in a yoga stanceCAM refers to the many therapies, philosophies and practices that are not considered conventional or standard.

Complementary therapyNon-standard treatment used in addition to standard treatment. is used with standard treatment. The combined use of these two types of treatment is called integrated medicineThe combined use of standard and complementary therapy..

Alternative therapy is treatment used instead of conventional treatment. Most people with lung cancer, who use CAM, take the integrative medicine approach. They combine complementary therapies with their standard treatment.

Integrative medicine can be used to control pain, reduce anxiety, reduce side effects and improve quality of life. It is important to discuss participating in CAM with your doctor. You need to know that the therapies will not interfere with your standard treatment or cause side effects. You should never stop your standard treatment without consulting with your doctor. There are many different types of CAM, some of which are listed below.

Image of elderly women in yoga stances
Mind and Body Medicines
Woman laying on table with person laying hands over the patient's forehead.
Energy Work
•  Tai Chi
•  Reiki
•  Therapeutic Touch
Image of a pea pod against white background
Biology Based Practices
Special Diets
Image of the black and white intercurved ying and yang symbol
Whole Medical Systems
•  Ayurvedic Medicine
•  Chinese Medicine
•  Naturopathic Medicine
Woman laying on massage table receiving treatment from therapist
Touch Based Practices
•  Massage
•  Chiropractic Care
•  Reflexology

For more information, visit The National Cancer Institute’s Guide to Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Use Caution

Some CAM techniques can help treat symptoms and make you feel better. Unfortunately, some treatments make claims that are not backed by science. Some can even be harmful to you instead of helpful. As you consider your options, here are three important steps you can take:

  • Look for “red flags.” Do NOT receive any treatment that:
    • Promises to cure cancer
    • Tells you not to have regular medical treatments
    • Is a “secret” that requires you to visit certain providers or travel to another country
    • Is not approved by your doctor
  • Talk to your doctor or nurse about any method you are thinking about using.
  • Ask practitioners to work with your doctor. Avoid any who refuse.

Talk to your doctor before participating in any complementary and alternative therapies. To get started, use this list of suggested questions.

Early detection of lung cancer can increase survival rates. Call the Lung Helpline at 1-800-LUNGUSA or talk to your doctor about lung cancer screening.