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People who have cancer often look for options or additions to traditional medicine in their search for the best cancer treatments. Many people explore options in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).
CAM is the name used for medical treatments and products that are not considered to be part of standard medical care by medical doctors, registered nurses, physical therapists, and other traditional health care providers.
Complementary medicine refers to non-standard procedures and products that are used along with standard medical care. Alternative medicine refers to non-standard practices that replace or are used instead of standard treatments.
It is important to note that CAM does not work equally well for everyone. Some people find relief from the side effects of standard treatments using CAM. The National Institutes of Health National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine offers several warnings to people considering CAM to treat cancer:
• CAM should not be used instead of standard cancer treatments. Patients should not delay seeing their doctor or beginning standard treatments while they consider CAM.
• There is no current scientific evidence that CAM can prevent or cure cancer.
• Scientific studies show some CAM practices may help reduce the symptoms of cancer and standard cancer treatments.
• CAM may interfere with the effectiveness of some standard cancer treatments. Before you begin any CAM treatment, talk to your doctors to make sure all aspects of treatment will work effectively together.
Some people find CAM to be effective at reducing nausea, pain, and tiredness caused by cancer treatments. CAM may also help reduce stress and help ease the worries of cancer treatments.
In general, CAM treatments for cancer fall into one of five categories:
• Mind-Body – Belief that the mind can affect the body. Examples include meditation, biofeedback such as using machines to learn how to slow heart rate, hypnosis, and yoga.
• Biological – Treatment using things from nature including natural supplements, vitamins, herbs, and special diets.