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What about alternative therapies?

People often use the terms complementary therapy and alternative therapy as if they mean the same thing. But complementary therapies and alternative therapies are very different.

Complementary therapies are used together with conventional cancer treatments. Alternative therapies are used instead of conventional cancer treatments. For example, if you meditate before radiation therapy to help with anxiety, you’re using meditation as a complementary therapy. But if you choose not to have radiation therapy and meditate instead because you think meditation will cure your cancer, you’re using meditation as an alternative therapy.

It may be claimed that an alternative therapy can cure cancer. But good scientific research has not yet shown that alternative therapies are effective or safe in treating cancer. Choosing to use an alternative therapy can have serious health effects, such as the cancer spreading or getting worse. Delaying conventional cancer treatment to use an alternative therapy can lower the chances of treating the cancer successfully.

You have the right to choose

You have the right to choose whether or not to take the treatment your doctor recommends. You can accept or refuse some or all of the conventional, complementary and alternative therapies offered to you.

Refusing to have conventional cancer treatment is a personal decision. If you postpone or refuse conventional cancer treatment and try an alternative therapy, keep in contact with your healthcare team. Your healthcare team may not agree with your decision, but it’s important for someone to keep track of how you’re doing. You may decide to use conventional cancer treatment later.

The Canadian Cancer Society believes that people with cancer must make treatment decisions with the best available information, including knowledge of what the treatment can, or cannot, do and what the side effects may be. Treatments that offer the best hope of success are backed up by good scientific evidence.