Alternative medicine

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Some people with cancer find that complementary and alternative treatments can help them cope with side effects of cancer treatment.

Complementary and alternative medicine can't cure your hairy cell leukemia, but it may offer helpful ways to cope during and after treatment. Talk to your doctor if you're interested in trying:

  • Acupuncture. A practitioner inserts tiny needles into your skin at precise points during an acupuncture session. Acupuncture may help relieve nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy.

    Acupuncture can be safe when done by a certified practitioner. Your doctor may be able to recommend a practitioner in your community.

    Acupuncture isn't safe if you have low blood counts or if you're taking blood thinners.

  • Aromatherapy. Aromatherapy uses fragrant oils that give off pleasant scents, such as lavender. Oils can be massaged into your skin, added to bath water or heated to release their scents.

    Aromatherapy may help improve your mood and relieve stress. Aromatherapy is safe, but oils applied to your skin can cause allergic reactions, so check the ingredients first.

  • Massage. A massage therapist uses his or her hands to knead your muscles and soft tissues. Massage may help relieve anxiety and fatigue. Many cancer centers have massage therapists who work with people who have cancer.

    People with cancer shouldn't have a massage if their blood counts are low. Ask the massage therapist to avoid using deep pressure. A massage shouldn't hurt, so speak up if you feel pain during a massage.

  • Mind-body therapies. Mind-body therapies may help you relax, and they may help reduce pain. Mind-body therapies include meditation and relaxation techniques, such as guided imagery.

    Mind-body therapies are generally safe. A therapist can help you with these therapies or you can do them on your own.

March 17, 2015