Modern treatments for cancer tend to be hard on a patient’s body. And some cancers, particularly breast cancer, can be very aggressive and difficult to fight. For these reasons, more and more patients are seeking complementary alternative medical (CAM) treatments. Some of these treatments can be effective for some patients, but they come with considerations and should not be used as cure-alls.

Keep in mind that “natural” cancer remedies are often unproven or only come with anecdotal evidence of effectiveness. Complementary and alternative treatments should not replace advice, examination and treatment from your doctor or oncologist, but if you’re interested in what else you can do to aid in your fight against cancer, some more homeopathic tactics could help.

What is CAM?

Complementary alternative medicine encompasses complementary, alternative and integrative medicine. Complementary medicine is treatment used with standard medical care. Alternative medicine is used instead of standard medical treatment. Integrative medicine involves a combined approach of all types of treatment.

Generally, CAM treatments are not considered mainstream medicine. It's important to always keep your oncologist informed of any CAM treatments you may use.

What Can CAM Help With?

Patients working with medical professionals to fight cancer turn to CAM treatments for a number of reasons. These treatments can sometimes help the body heal from the standard cancer treatments. CAM can also aid in relieving symptoms of cancer or cancer treatments. Using complementary or alternative treatments can help ease anxiety that can make treating cancer more difficult.

Finally, CAM can be a huge boost to your body’s ability to use its own resources to fight cancer.

Examples of CAM Treatments

Some CAM treatments include activities that can improve physical health and assist the body in healing and recovering from standard treatments. They can also help relieve physical pain, stress and anxiety. These treatments include yoga, massage, meditation, acupuncture and aromatherapy.

Other CAM treatments help your body fight cancer from the inside. These involve dietary changes like adding vegetables and raw foods and other techniques that focus on what you’re putting into your body like vitamin supplements, the Budwig Protocol or the Gerson Diet. These treatments could boost fighting power, but they aren’t a replacement for standard treatment. Even more cutting edge CAM treatments like heat therapy, ozone therapy and immune therapy are being used by medical professionals to help standard treatments fight cancer.

What to Consider

There are many things to keep in mind when using treatments beyond standard medicine. You should always follow the advice of your physician. CAM is not a recommended replacement for standard cancer treatments. You should also continue to follow up after cancer treatments, rather than blindly believing that your alternative treatments are keeping you cancer free. Many CAM treatments are not fully tested or proven, so trusting them completely can be dangerous. You have to remember that natural does not always mean safe.

Finally, always talk with your doctor about any CAM treatments you are using so your physician can help you integrate your treatments. An oncologist is an important partner in knowing which treatments are safe, effective and complementary to your treatment.