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Complementary medicine

  • The Children's Cancer Centre uses standard medical treatment (conventional treatment) that has scientific evidence to show that it works. The Centre also uses some complementary treatments and knows about the use of alternative medicine in the treatment of children who have cancer.

    Complementary medicine and alternative medicine use treatments and therapies that are different from standard medical treatment or conventional treatment. Complementary medicine means that it is used along with standard medical treatment. Alternative medicine means it is used instead of standard medical treatment. There are not clear-cut differences between complementary and alternative medicine.

    Choosing a therapy involves different belief systems. A medical belief system uses scientific evidence like that gained from Clinical Trials with many children. Psychological and Life Style belief systems use evidence from people's experience, beliefs and attitudes. Sometimes the different belief systems agree, sometimes they don't. Some families and patients integrate what they find useful from complementary medicine with conventional medicine. Some don't tell their child's doctor about other therapies because they fear the doctor will not support what they are doing. Other people find it hard to watch their child have the side effects of conventional treatment, and look for something else.

    It is not a good practice to use complementary medicine and alternative medicine without first talking with the child's oncology doctor. This is because some chemotherapy and herbal medicines can interact. The doctor needs to know if the child is having complementary or alternative medicine.

    Examples of complementary and alternative medicine

    In no special order:

    • Treatments that are well established in other countries, such as Traditional Chinese Medicine in China and Ayurvedic medicine in India.
    • Treatments, such as magnet therapy, crystals.
    • Mind-body medicine - therapies and techniques that use the mind to help heal the body - hypnosis, meditation, guided imagery and biofeedback.
    • Lifestyle changes such as nutrition, social support, relaxation, stretching and exercise, to balance the body and calm the mind.
    • Older therapies such as massage, osteopathy, naturopathy, herbal medicine and homeopathy.

    Useful links

    National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (US)

    NCCAM is dedicated to exploring complementary and alternative healing practices in the context of rigorous science therapies and disseminating authoritative information to professionals and the public. The National Institute of Health conducts research into complimentary and alternative therapies and available research findings are on their website.