Managing Treatments

Can Alternative Cancer Treatments Alleviate Side Effects?

Cancer treatment can cause a variety of side effects, and some alternative treatments can help ease those discomforts and improve your quality of life.

Complementary and alternative cancer treatments are used outside of conventional medical practices to help alleviate side effects of cancer. According to Mayo Clinic, these treatments can include aromatherapy, meditation and yoga, among others. These treatments are meant to be used alongside cancer treatments from your doctor, not instead of the standard treatments.

Why Consider Complementary and Alternative Medicine?

Many forms of complementary and alternative medicine can be effective in treating the side effects of cancer treatment. Fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, pain, insomnia and other side effects of chemotherapy can be eased with some alternative cancer treatments, such as acupuncture, yoga, essential oils and some herbs and plants.

Coordinate All Treatments With Your Oncologist

If you’re considering complementary and alternative medicine, it’s important to coordinate this supplemental treatment with your doctor. Many of these options can improve quality of life, particularly those involving movement such as yoga, tai chi and qi gong, but you should also bear in mind that some alternatives can be harmful. They can interact poorly with your chemotherapy drugs, or even reduce the effectiveness of your conventional cancer treatments. For instance, the National Cancer Institute reported that while antioxidants can be effective in preventing cancer, they might actually reduce the effectiveness of your chemotherapy or radiation treatments.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

  • Will insurance cover this alternative cancer treatment?
  • If you’re participating in a clinical trial, is this treatment allowed?
  • What kind of side effects can you expect from this alternative treatment?
  • What are the risks of this treatment?
  • What are the benefits of this treatment?
  • How effective is this treatment?
  • Does your doctor recommend this treatment for your condition?

Your quality of life is a priority, and complementary and alternative cancer treatments may help. There are many alternative treatment options available, but for best results, be sure to keep your doctor involved in this process.


If you’re considering alternative cancer treatments, talk to your doctor about which ones might work best for you.

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Judy Schwartz Haley
Judy Schwartz Haley