Australian Study on Complementary and Alternative Treatments for Cancer


An Australian study in 2008 showed that 65% of cancer patients use some form of complementary - alternative therapy.

There are many reasons why cancer patients use alternative therapies. Some of them are:

  • to shape a healthier lifestyle
  • reduce the toxicity of conventional therapies
  • to feel stronger by doing something positive
  • to deal more effectively with the side effects of cancer treatment
  • to strengthen their immune system
  • to strengthen their body to cope with conventional methods of treatment
  • reduce the need for surgical, painful or expensive conventional treatments
  • to manage the organic and emotional difficulties that often affect self-esteem
  • to adapt to changes in sexual desire, sexual function and interpersonal relationships
  • to improve their quality of life
  • to feel more comfortable and calmer
  • find relief during palliative care

The Cancer Council encourages treatments that have been shown to be safe and effective through scientific (clinical) studies. Not all complementary - alternative therapies are effective, although personal testimonials claim that they are beneficial.

In clinical trials, the following treatments have been shown to be useful:

  • counseling, meditation, relaxation, support groups - help reduce stress and improve self-esteem
  • art and music therapy - help to relax, reduce pain and externalize emotions
  • Spirituality - reduces stress and improves the patient's ability to cope with difficulties
  • Massage - reduces pain, fatigue, insomnia, stress, depression and nausea
  • Aromatherapy - improves sleep and helps with relaxation
  • Reflexology - reduces stress
  • Acupuncture - reduces nausea, vomiting, fatigue and pain
  • Yoga and Exercise - Reduces Stress, Depression, Fatigue, Insomnia and Loss of Muscle
  • Tai Chi - relieves pain, improves flexibility and endurance and reduces stress
  • Ki-gong - improves mood and quality of life, reduces fatigue, pain and side effects of treatment
  • Nutrition - helps heal wounds and damaged tissues and strengthens the body's immune system
  • Phytotherapy - relieves disorders of the digestive system, improves appetite and increases resistance to infections.

If you are considering using complementary - alternative therapies, it is very important to discuss it with the doctors, specialists and nurses who provide you with primary care, so that they can monitor the overall therapeutic progress of your disease. Inform your doctors and nurses by providing them with an information note from your alternative therapist with information about your treatment.

For more information, click here to download the Cancer Management Board Fact Sheet (PDF)