Topics in Integrative, Alternative, and Complementary Therapies (PDQ®)–Patient Version
- Botanicals/Herbal Products
- Mind-Body Therapies
- Nutritional Therapies
- Pharmacologic Treatments
- About This PDQ Summary
- General CAM Information
- Evaluation of CAM Therapies
- Questions to Ask Your Health Care Provider About CAM
- To Learn More About CAM
- View All Sections
Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) includes many different kinds of therapies, botanicals, and dietary supplements. Complementary medicine is treatment that is used along with standard treatments but is not considered standard. Alternative medicine is treatment that is used instead of standard treatments. In general, less research has been done for CAM than for standard treatments. Integrative therapy is medical care that combines standard care with CAM practices.
The 2007 National Health Interview Survey reported that about 4 out of 10 adults use a CAM therapy. Natural products and deep breathing exercises were the most common. One large survey reported on the use of complementary therapies in cancer survivors. The therapies used most often were prayer and spiritual practice, relaxation, faith and spiritual healing, and nutritional supplements and vitamins.
CAM therapies are used often to treat children with cancer, both in and outside clinical trials. CAM therapies have been used to treat side effectscaused by cancer or cancer treatment. Cancer patients sometimes choose alternative medicine over standard treatment; however, alternative medicine does not work as well as standard medicine to treat cancer. In Asian countries, traditional Chinese medical therapies are often used along with standard therapy.
This cancer information summary gives a brief description of integrative, alternative, and complementary therapies found in PDQ Cancer Information Summaries or Fact Sheets from the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Links are included to take you to the specific PDQ summary or NCI Fact Sheet for more information about each topic. See NCI's Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine for links to other resources.
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