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Questions to ask about complementary and alternative therapies

When considering complementary and alternative therapies, try to find answers to the following questions from a member of your healthcare team or from the person who is providing the complementary or alternative therapy. Choose the questions that fit your situation and add questions of your own. You may find it helpful to take whatever information you have about the therapy and a list of questions to your next appointment.

  • Is the therapy or treatment safe for me?
  • Is it suitable for my cancer or symptoms?
  • What are the benefits that can be expected from this therapy?
  • What are the risks?
  • What are the possible side effects?
  • Do the benefits outweigh the possible harms?
  • Can I use the therapy along with other treatments?
  • Will it interact with food, alcohol or other prescription drugs?
  • Will this therapy interact with my cancer drugs or other cancer treatments?
  • Will this therapy interfere with laboratory tests my cancer doctor has ordered?
  • How is the therapy given?
  • How long do I take the therapy?
  • How will I know if it is working?
  • How much does the therapy cost? Is it covered under my healthcare plan? If not, why not?
  • What are the qualifications of the person offering the therapy? Is the person a member of a recognized association that outlines certain standards of practice will be followed?
  • Will the therapy affect my ability to have conventional treatment in the future?
  • Is the therapy part of a clinical trial?
  • Where can I find reliable information about the therapy or other complementary and alternative therapies?

Keep the healthcare team involved

If you decide to use a complementary or alternative therapy, talk to your healthcare team before you start. They will usually be able to give you some general advice and can help supervise your progress. You’ll both want to watch for side effects and interactions with other medicines.


Dr Maru Barrera Fostering friendship for childhood cancer survivors

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