Can alternative or complementary medicine help metastatic breast cancer?

No alternative medicine approaches — those used in place of traditional medical care — have been proved to cure metastatic breast cancer or any other type of cancer.

But many complementary approaches — those used along with standard medical treatment — may be used to complement your doctor's care and help you cope with the physical and mental toll of the disease.

Together these approaches are often called complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), which describes many different products, approaches and treatments that are considered outside standard medical care.

Many people with advanced cancers such as metastatic breast cancer use complementary treatments to:

  • Cope with side effects of cancer treatments, such as nausea, pain and fatigue
  • Reduce stress or anxiety
  • Improve quality of life

Examples of complementary medicine approaches commonly used in metastatic breast cancer care include:

  • Acupuncture to help with mild pain and nausea
  • Meditation can aid in relaxation
  • Music, art or dance therapy to promote healing or enhance quality of life
  • Yoga, massage and other relaxation exercises to decrease stress
  • Tai chi can improve strength and balance in some people

When used under a doctor's supervision, complementary approaches can be safe and effective during cancer treatment. Using alternative medicine instead of standard therapy or without telling your doctor may put you at risk.

A "natural" product does not necessarily mean it's "safe." Herbs and some plant-based medicines may reduce the effectiveness of common cancer medicines. It's important to discuss with your doctor any method you're considering to make sure it doesn't interfere with your medical treatments.

March 22, 2017 See more Expert Answers