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Common Questions on Therapies: Complementary & Alternative

Source: Cancer Resource Room

What is complementary or alternative medicine?
What Is Complementary and Alternative Medicine?- National Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)

I was just diagnosed with cancer and many people are telling me I should think about using things like acupuncture and herbs. I know they're trying to be helpful, but I'm feeling pretty overwhelmed as it is. Any advice on how to handle this?
First thoughts… - Excerpt from “Are you thinking about complementary/alternative therapy? - Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center

Sometimes it’s helpful to hear the viewpoint of someone who has experienced this firsthand. Do you have any advice from a cancer survivor on using complementary therapies?
Thoughts from someone who has been there… - Excerpt from “Are you thinking about complementary/alternative therapy? - Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center

For years, I’ve heard about alternative medicine. Now I hear about integrative medicine. I’m confused. What do these terms really mean?
Are you confused by all the terms… - Excerpt from “Are you thinking about complementary/alternative therapy? - Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center

How do people make decisions on whether to use complementary therapies along with the treatment their doctors have prescribed?
Are You Considering Using Complementary and Alternative Therapies? - NCCAM
Chapter 8: A Framework for Evaluating Unconventional Therapies - Choices in Healing by Michael Lerner

Do you have any tips on what I should think about before taking any herbs or supplements?
Questions for you to think about… - Excerpt from “Are you thinking about complementary/alternative therapy? - Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center

I want to take an herb while I’m undergoing chemotherapy. Do you have any tips on how to discuss this with my oncologist?
Questions for you and your oncologist… - Excerpt from “Are you thinking about complementary/alternative therapy? - Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center

I’m considering consultation with a Traditional Chinese Medicine provider to see what he might recommend for nausea. It’s hard to know what I should ask about training and what to expect. Do you have any suggestions?
Questions for you and your complementary/alternative therapy provider… - Excerpt from “Are you thinking about complementary/alternative therapy? - Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center
Chinese Herbal Medicine - American Cancer Society

Where can I find fact sheets with reliable information on specific complementary/alternative therapies?
NCI/PDQ® Cancer Information Summaries: Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Treatment Information - NCCAM
Choices in Healing a guide to complementary therapies – University of Virginia Health System
Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) Resources by Modality & Health Issue - Columbia University’s Rosenthal Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine
Complementary/Integrative Medicine - MD Anderson Cancer Center - Offers extensive information on CAM therapies and research
Ask NOAH About: Complementary and Alternative Medicine - New York Online Access to Health (NOAH)

How can I find out about Complementary Alternative Medicine trials?
Complementary and Alternative Medicine Clinical Trials for Cancer Treatment - Columbia University Rosenthal Center - Offers an explanation of CAM trials
ClinicalTrials.gov - National Institute of Health (NIH) - Use the search engine to search for National Institute of Health (NIH) sponsored CAM trials. You can type in the name of a therapy, herb, etc.
Office of Cancer Complementary Alternative Medicine Clinical Trials
Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Cancer Treatment - NCI/PDQ

I know that information on blending complementary therapies with mainstream medicine must keep changing. Are there resources to keep up with the latest news?
Clearinghouse National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine - NCCAM - Call, email, or fax to get CAM information. Available in Spanish too.

What complementary therapies are available at Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center?

  • Acupuncture
  • Exercise
  • Expressive arts (art and writing)
  • Gentle yoga
  • Healing harp music
  • Humor therapy
  • Massage therapy
  • Music therapy
  • Qigong
  • Reflexology
  • Ways to relax

Ask the Cancer Resource Room for more information on complementary and alternative therapies, such as “Are you thinking about complementary/alternative therapy?”

I want to look into the acupuncture services and the complementary therapy workshops at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center.  How can I find out more about them or other complementary therapies offered there?
Wellness Services/Workshops – HOPES Program
Acupuncture and Massage Clinic – HOPES Program
Acupuncture Services – Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Pain Center

Are these acupuncture services open to the public?
Acupuncture at the Acupuncture and Massage Clinic brought to you by the HOPES Program is available only to Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center patients. Acupuncture is available at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Pain Center to any person who has a doctor’s referral for acupuncture (does not have to be a Massachusetts General Hospital doctor). Please contact these providers to find out availability of appointments and current rates.

I’ve heard that there is free relaxation massage for patients in treatment at the Cancer Center.  Now I understand that there’s massage that has a fee.  Can you explain the difference to me?  And how do I make an appointment for either one?
The HOPES Program offers two ways to obtain massage therapy at the Cancer Center:

  • Therapeutic massage to Cancer Center patients on Thursdays from 5 – 8 pm in the Yawkey Center for Outpatient Care, suite 7B.  A licensed massage therapist provides one-hour sessions for a fee of $55. For more information or to make an appointment, call 617-72-HOPES (617-724-6737).
  • Brief (15-minute) relaxation massage by a licensed massage therapist to Cancer Center patients during their chemotherapy and radiation treatments. These massages are free, and are available in certain areas at specific times. Massage appointments can be arranged through a nurse or the front desk staff in that treatment area.

Do you know of any centers in Boston that offer complementary therapies to cancer patients?
Mind Body Program for Cancer - The Mind Body Medical Institute
The Wellness Community of Greater Boston, Newton Uppper Falls, MA
Zakim Center for Integrative Therapies - Dana Farber Cancer Institute
The Virginia Thurston Healing Garden for Women with Breast Cancer, Harvard, MA

Do you know of any retreat centers for cancer patients?
Smith Farm Center for the Healing Arts - Smith Farm is located near Washington, DC. It offers a week long Cancer Help Program for cancer patients & families.
Commonweal - Commonweal’s director is Michael Lerner, author of Choices in Healing. Offers week long Cancer Help Program as well as Commonweal Cancer Project to help people make informed decisions about conventional & complementary cancer therapies.
Two Roads Maine - Wilderness retreats for people who face a life-threatening illness.

I’m interested in finding someone who does energy healing, like reiki. But my hospital doesn’t offer reiki. How do I find a reliable reiki provider?

  • Check your hospital’s resource center or ask the social worker or nurse at your hospital. Although it may not be offered on-site, they may be able to recommend providers in your area.
  • There also may be centers or clinics in your area that offer an array of complementary therapies.
  • The third option is to look on the Internet for websites that list providers in your area by specialty. For example, thewebsite Reiki Council has a national listing of reiki providers.

Do you have a list of websites, books, and other resources on complementary and alternative therapies?
Information Finder on Complementary & Alternative Therapies

Revised 2008