Complementary therapies

Edited by Mike Tadman, Dave Roberts and Mark Foulkes

in Oxford Handbook of Cancer Nursing

Second edition

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print June 2019 | ISBN: 9780198701101
Published online May 2019 | e-ISBN: 9780191770555 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Nursing

Complementary therapies

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  • Nursing Studies
  • Radiation Oncology


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Complementary therapies are popular with people who have cancer. They are used in addition to, and to complement, conventional therapies for cancer. They can be grouped together with alternative therapies, under the umbrella term complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). However, alternative therapies aim to work as a distinct alternative, rather than as a complement, to conventional therapies. Integrated or integrative health or medicine describes an approach that combines elements of both complementary and conventional therapies. Many patients find complementary therapies attractive because they are a more natural, gentle, and holistic balance to conventional cancer treatments, they improve psychological and emotional well-being, they give a greater sense of personal control, and therapists spend more time with them. Although complementary therapies do not fit easily into conventional evaluations of treatments, there is a growing evidence base for the effectiveness of some therapies. Given the concerns about possible interactions with conventional treatments, attitudes towards complementary therapies vary between individual professionals and across professions. Some doctors are reluctant to discuss the use of complementary therapies with patients or are hostile to their use, and this can lead to patients not disclosing when they are using them. Nurses, on the other hand, have been more supportive of their use and are well placed to act as ‘gatekeepers’. Some, though not all, therapies have a system of self-regulation in the United Kingdom. Nurses and other health professionals have a responsibility to discuss complementary therapies, to direct patients to reliable sources of information, and to help them make sense of their options.

Chapter.  2228 words. 

Subjects: Nursing Studies ; Radiation Oncology

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