There is an important difference between a complementary therapy and an alternative therapy.
The phrases complementary therapy and alternative therapy are often used as if they mean the same thing. They may also be combined into one phrase – complementary and alternative therapies (CAMs).
It’s not always easy to decide whether something is a complementary or an alternative therapy. But there is an important difference.
A complementary therapy means you can use it alongside your conventional medical treatment. It may help you to feel better and cope better with your cancer and treatment.
An alternative therapy is generally used instead of conventional medical treatment.
All conventional cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, have to go through rigorous testing by law in order to prove that they work. Most alternative therapies have not been through such testing and there is no scientific evidence that they work. Some types of alternative therapy may not be completely safe and could cause harmful side effects.