There are many trustworthy, competent complementary medicine practitioners. But the lack of licensing and certification for all the therapies means that sometimes people with very little training decide to become practitioners. This means that you have to be an active participant in your complementary therapy and make sure you are getting the quality care you deserve. Also, not every complementary medicine practitioner knows how to work with a person who has been diagnosed with breast cancer.
There are some tip-offs that a practitioner may lack training. He or she might:
- promise that the therapy can cure cancer
- have credentials from a school that you can't find online
- ask for a lot of money before beginning to treat you
- sell many products that you must buy from the practitioner as part of your therapy
- tell you to stop your conventional medical care
Complementary therapies may benefit people who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, but only when they are used with conventional medicine. They are not a substitute for your doctor's care. There is no complementary therapy that can cure cancer.
Before selecting a complementary medicine practitioner, you might want to take other important steps:
- Learn about the procedure or treatment. When you know something about a therapy, you'll have an idea of what to expect and what questions to ask. You can use our Resource Guide of recommended websites and books as a starting point. Some online information can be unreliable, so it's important to go to the trusted sources listed here. You can also ask your cancer doctor to recommend information sources.
- Ask for recommendations and referrals. Your doctor may be your best source for finding reputable complementary medicine practitioners. You can also visit our Resource Guide.
- Interview potential practitioners. Don't be afraid to ask lots of questions. Prepare your questions ahead of time and ask the most important questions first. If you don't feel comfortable with the first practitioner you meet, talk to others. Questions to Ask a Complementary Therapy Practitioner is a printable list of important questions you should ask before beginning treatment.
- Choose a practitioner experienced in caring for people affected by breast cancer. It's important that your practitioner knows the best way to use a complementary therapy with people who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Make sure the practitioner has the experience and the knowledge to care for you effectively and safely.
- Check the practitioner's credentials. Many countries have certain standards for complementary care, while others do not license or certify practitioners. If a practitioner has no license, check to see if he or she has a diploma from an accredited school. In the United States, acupuncturists and chiropractors are licensed by the state in which they practice. There are also national groups that offer certification. Still, credentials are not a guarantee of quality care. But they do suggest that the therapist maintains certain treatment standards.
- Ask for a trial session so you can be sure this is the right practitioner for you. Try the practitioner out for a session or two before you make a commitment to more treatments.
There IS a lot of quackery out there. You've got to do your homework and learn the practitioner's credentials and experience and then pass that information onto your doctor. This way, the doctor will trust that the acupuncturist or massage therapist has been properly trained and is grounded in good experience.