Complementary medicine is used to describe therapeutic techniques that are not part of conventional medicine (also called "regular," "standard," or "mainstream" medicine). Complementary therapies are used as a "complement" or addition to conventional medicine. Because complementary medicine can be combined or integrated with conventional medical treatment, it is also called "integrative medicine."
Complementary medicine is not alternative medicine. Complementary medicine is USED WITH conventional medicine. Alternative medicine is USED INSTEAD OF conventional medicine. It might help you to add yoga, tai chi, or massage to your regular treatment plan. But you should NEVER replace any part of your regular treatment (surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, hormonal treatment) with something else. Therefore, Breastcancer.org does not recommend alternative medicine.
Conventional medicine has been proven to be safe and effective by numerous scientific studies. While some studies show that people diagnosed with breast cancer can get benefits from complementary medicine, it's important to know that complementary therapies usually don't undergo the same kinds of rigorous testing as conventional medicine.
Complementary medicine includes techniques such as acupuncture, herbal medicine, massage, support groups, and yoga. Sometimes called holistic medicine, complementary medicine typically addresses how disease affects the whole person: physically, emotionally, spiritually, and socially.
A number of studies have found that up to 80% of breast cancer survivors have used at least one complementary technique.
To help doctors and patients understand which complementary therapies are safe and effective for people diagnosed with breast cancer, the Society for Integrative Oncology released guidelines that make recommendations about more than 80 complementary therapies in November 2014.
The Society for Integrative Oncology is a non-profit organization of professionals from many different areas of medicine who are dedicated to studying and aiding the cancer treatment and recovery process through the use of integrative medicine.
In this section, you can learn more about the following aspects of complementary medicine:
- How Does Complementary Medicine Work?
- Points to Consider If You Want to Add Complementary Medicine to Your Treatment Plan
- Cost of Complementary Treatments