Cancer is a complex journey; individuals often seek various approaches to address their physical and emotional well-being. In addition to conventional medical treatments, complementary therapies have gained popularity for their potential to enhance overall quality of life and provide additional support during cancer care. In this blog post, we’ll explore the different terms associated with cancer treatments, the advantages of complementary therapies, and the various types available to individuals seeking a holistic approach to their well-being. 

Understanding different terms

Conventional medical treatments, such as surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy, form the backbone of cancer care. These approaches are grounded in extensive evidence-based research, ensuring their safety, efficacy, and potential side effects are well understood. Conventional treatments have proven successful in curing many types of cancer, extending lives, and alleviating symptoms when a cure is not possible. This evidence-based approach comprehensively explains their impact on patients’ well-being. 

Complementary therapies

Complementary therapies, on the other hand, are employed alongside conventional medical treatments, with a focus on enhancing physical and emotional well-being. These therapies do not claim to treat or cure cancer but are valued for their potential to alleviate symptoms and mitigate side effects. When integrated with conventional treatments, this approach is known as integrative medicine, acknowledging the benefits of combining both strategies to cater to the diverse needs of individuals undergoing cancer care. 

Alternative therapies

Alternative therapies differ from complementary ones because they are selected as substitutes for conventional medical treatments. Unlike complementary therapies, which work alongside established medical approaches, alternative therapies are pursued to be the primary mode of treatment.  


The advantages of complementary therapies: A holistic approach to well-being

People turn to complementary therapies for various reasons, finding support in managing stress, enhancing overall quality of life, and coping with cancer symptoms. These therapies, which include mind-body practices, body-based practices, energy therapies, and herbal approaches, offer a holistic approach to well-being. Establishing connections with therapists, participating in group sessions, and proactively caring for oneself are some of the many benefits individuals may experience. 


Mind-Body Practices: Nurturing the Connection Between Thoughts and Health

Mind-body practices operate on the premise that thoughts and emotions impact physical and mental health. Examples include art therapy, counselling, hypnotherapy, laughter yoga, meditation, mindfulness, music therapy, relaxation, and spiritual practices. Hypnotherapy, for instance, offers a means to relax and manage symptoms, contributing to a sense of comfort and control during cancer care. Laughter yoga harnesses the power of laughter to promote overall health and well-being, triggering the release of endorphins. 

Body-Based Practices: Directly Impacting Physical Well-being

Body-based practices, such as acupuncture, aromatherapy, massage, Qi gong, reflexology, and yoga, work directly on the body. Qi gong, a mind-body movement practice, has shown promise in reducing cancer-related fatigue, providing a valuable alternative to more intensive exercise programs. On the other hand, reflexology enhances overall well-being through its relaxing effects, helping patients cope with stress, anxiety, and sleep difficulties. 

Energy Therapies: Balancing the Body's Invisible Forces

Energy therapies, including touch therapy and Reiki, operate on the premise that the body possesses an invisible energy field, and disruptions can lead to illness. Reiki, as a complementary therapy, aims to facilitate deep relaxation, cope with challenging situations, alleviate emotional stress, and contribute to overall well-being during cancer treatment. 

Herbs and Plants: Nature's Remedies in Cancer Care

Herbs and plants, collectively known as botanical medicine, offer diverse approaches like bush remedies, Chinese herbal medicine, flower remedies, medicinal cannabis, and Western herbal medicine. These therapies leverage various parts of plants to support the body’s natural healing processes. 

Guiding factors in choosing a complementary therapy

Your preferences:

Begin by identifying your desires and expectations from the therapy. Whether seeking relaxation, emotional support, or symptom relief, aligning your preferences with the goals of the therapy enhances the overall experience. 

Potential benefits:

Consider how the complementary therapy might positively impact your physical and emotional well-being. Different therapies offer unique advantages, and understanding their potential benefits aids in making an informed decision. 


Check the accessibility of the therapy in your location. Consider whether the chosen therapy is readily available and convenient for regular sessions, ensuring a seamless integration into your overall cancer care plan. 


Assess any potential safety concerns associated with the therapy. Discussing your plans for complementary therapies with your healthcare team to ensure they align with your overall treatment and health goals is essential. 


Evaluate the financial aspects of the therapy. Complementary therapies vary in price, and understanding the financial implications helps you plan and incorporate them into your budget. 

The power of choice plays a pivotal role in the quest for holistic well-being. By thoughtfully considering your preferences, understanding potential benefits, checking availability, ensuring safety, and evaluating costs, you can embark on a complementary therapy that aligns with your unique needs and enhances your overall cancer care experience. Remember, the journey is personal, and choosing the right complementary therapy is a positive step toward nurturing both body and spirit on the path to healing. 

This blog post is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Please consult with a healthcare professional for personalized guidance. 


About complementary therapies 2019, Macmillan Cancer Support, viewed 11 January 2024: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/Strong-relationships-strong-health

Beneficial Effects of Reflexology for Cancer Patients n.d., Melbourne Integrative Oncology Group, viewed 11 January 2024:

Complementary therapies n.d., Cancer Council Victoria, viewed 11 January 2024:

Hypnotherapy and cancer n.d., Cancer Research UK, viewed 11 January 2024: https://www.shapeyourhappiness.com/the-importance-of-social-connection-and-why-you-need-it-in-your-life/

Laughter yoga n.d., Cancer Council NSW, viewed 11 January 2024: https://www.shapeyourhappiness.com/the-importance-of-social-connection-and-why-you-need-it-in-your-life/

Mind-body practice of qigong can improve cancer-related fatigue 2023, Brown, viewed 11 January 2024:

Reiki and cancer 2022, Cancer Research UK, viewed 11 January 2024:

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