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Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Therapies using Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) involve philosophies and approaches used in addition to, or instead of, traditional treatments. Their use is on the rise among cancer patients and the general public. The National Cancer Institute defines them as follows:

"Though grouped together, complementary and alternative medicines are different from each other. Complementary medicine is used together with conventional medicine. An example of complementary therapy is the use of aromatherapy to help lessen a patient’s discomfort following surgery. Alternative medicine is used in place of conventional medicine. An example of alternative medicine is using a special diet to treat cancer instead of undergoing surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy that has been recommended by a conventional health care practitioner.

"The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) has classified CAM therapies into five groups or domains:

  • alternative medical systems (for example, homeopathic medicine and traditional Chinese medicine)
  • mind-body interventions (for example, visualizations and relaxation)
  • manipulative and body-based methods (for example, chiropractic and massage)
  • biologically based therapies (for example, vitamins and herbal products); and
  • energy therapies (for example, qi gong and therapeutic touch)."

At the IMF, we believe that an informed patient is an empowered patient. However, as is true for all therapies, there are some sites on the Internet that offer information that may be questionable at best. So we have done some research and offer you a list (in no particular order) of sites that we believe provide responsible discussions of and options for CAM therapies.

  • NCI Cancer Facts
    A collection of fact sheets that address a variety of cancer topics. Fact sheets are frequently updated and revised based on the latest cancer research.
    Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine (OCCAM)
    was established in October 1998 to coordinate and enhance the activities of the National Cancer Institute in the arena of complementary and alternative medicine.
    National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)
    at the National Institutes of Health is dedicated to exploring complementary and alternative healing practices in the context of rigorous science; training CAM researchers; and disseminating authoritative information.
  • ACS
    American Cancer Society: Many cancer patients find that complementary and alternative therapies relieve symptoms or side effects, ease pain, and enhance their lives during treatment. How can you know if these approaches are safe and if they can help you?
  • The Wellness Community (TWC)
    The Wellness Community's traditional services offered in a home-like setting in our 23 facilities worldwide are now accessible online.
  • CancerSource
    offers current information on complementary therapies with a non-biased, evidence-based approach. They provide evidence regarding the effectiveness and safety of many therapies that may be integrated with traditional cancer treatments.

For more information or if you have questions, call the IMF Hotline at (800) 452-CURE (800-452-2873) in the US and Canada between 9 am and 4 pm PST; elsewhere call (818) 487-7455.

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