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Complementary and alternative therapies

There’s an important difference between complementary and alternative therapies.

Complementary therapies are intended to be used alongside medical treatment and might help you feel better or cope with side effects. Alternative therapies are intended to be used in place of medical treatment and are not recommended by medical professionals.

Complementary therapies and blood cancer

Complementary therapies are treatments that are used alongside your main medical treatment, with the aim of making you feel better. They include things like massage, reiki, reflexology, aromatherapy, meditation and acupuncture. These therapies do not treat the cancer, but they may help to ease stress and some might help relieve side effects or boost your energy too.

If you are interested in trying complementary therapies, always check with your healthcare team first, as some may not be appropriate for you. Your healthcare team can give you advice and help you find a therapy that is safe and that you’ll enjoy.

Many hospitals and cancer centres in the UK offer complementary therapies to people with cancer. These therapies will be given by qualified professionals. If your hospital doesn’t offer complementary therapies, there may be a local cancer centre or charity that you could visit instead. Speak to your healthcare team to see if they can recommend anywhere nearby.

Only your healthcare team can give you personal advice on complementary therapies, as they know about your condition and general health.

Questions to ask your healthcare team:

  • Are there any complementary therapies that could help with my symptoms or side effects?
  • Does this hospital offer complementary therapies for people with blood cancer?
  • Are there any therapies that I should avoid completely?

Alternative therapies and blood cancer

Alternative therapies are treatments that claim to treat your condition but haven’t been proven to cure cancer or slow its progression. False claims about alternative therapies have led some people to refuse medical treatment like chemotherapy that could have helped. Some examples of alternative therapies are cannabis oil (which is an illegal substance in the UK), CBD oil (which is not licensed as a medicine), and any diets and supplements that claim to treat cancer.

If you're considering any alternative therapies, always talk to your healthcare team. These therapies may be dangerous and shouldn’t be used in place of proven treatments. Your healthcare team will give you advice about the evidence behind different therapies and whether they are safe for you. It’s important to know that no alternative therapy will be able to cure or treat your cancer.

You may hear that particular foods or supplements will help you, but there’s rarely any proper scientific evidence to support these claims. Discuss it with your healthcare team before trying something new, to make sure it’s safe and won’t interfere with any treatment you’re having. You can also get advice from a dietitian or pharmacist.

Cutting out too many foods or following a strict diet could mean you’re not getting all the nourishment and energy you need. It’s best to follow a healthy, balanced diet. Ask your healthcare team if there’s anything specific you need to eat more or less of.

Blood Cancer UK does not recommend the use of alternative therapies in place of proven medical care for people with blood cancer. If you are interested in using any therapy alongside your medical treatment, only your healthcare team can give you safe and trustworthy advice, as they know about your condition and general heath.