About Complementary and Alternative Therapies

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 05/2017

Some patients with cancer take complementary therapies along with standard treatment. These therapies help them cope with the side effects of:

  • Surgery

  • Radiation therapy

  • Chemotherapy

  • Other standard cancer treatments

Some people promote using alternative therapies instead of standard medical treatment. For example, they may eat or avoid specific foods instead of having chemotherapy. Generally, alternative therapies are disproved or unstudied methods that have no role in cancer care.

Patients who choose other methods instead of standard cancer treatment face several risks:

  • The alternative method may cause side effects. Or it may work poorly with other drugs or supplements.

  • An alternative therapy may keep you from starting standard treatment. Doctors choose treatment options based on the size of the tumor and where it has grown or spread. If a person takes an alternative therapy instead of standard treatment, the cancer may keep growing. Over time, the standard treatment options once available may no longer work.

There are no replacements for standard cancer treatment that work. And alternative therapies do nothing to treat cancer. Learn more about cancer treatment fraud.

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