Complementary therapies

1. What are complementary therapies?
2. What are the benefits of complementary therapies for people with breast cancer?
3. Are complementary therapies safe for people with breast cancer?
4. How to choose a complementary therapy
5. Where to find a complementary therapist
6. How much do complementary therapies cost?
7. What are the different types of complementary therapy?

1. What are complementary therapies?

Complementary therapies are used alongside conventional breast cancer treatments (treatments that have been approved for use in medical practice, such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy). Popular complementary therapies include massage, acupuncture and reiki.

Complementary therapies are different from alternative therapies, which are used instead of conventional treatments.

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2. What are the benefits of complementary therapies for people with breast cancer?

Complementary therapies are thought to have a range of benefits for people with breast cancer. They can give you comfort and help you feel more relaxed when coming to terms with the physical and emotional effects of breast cancer and its treatment. Some people believe they help with the side effects of breast cancer and treatment. For others, it’s just about taking time to do something for themselves and feeling more in control.

With the right therapy and therapist you may find, as many people do, that complementary therapies can offer much needed extra support – before, during and after your treatment for breast cancer.

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3. Are complementary therapies safe for people with breast cancer?

If you want to have a complementary therapy, speak to your specialist team first. There’s very little reliable research into complementary therapies, so it’s hard to judge how useful they are. Your specialist team may advise you to avoid certain complementary therapies if there’s a chance they may affect how well your breast cancer treatment works.

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4. How to choose a complementary therapy

There’s lots of different types of complementary therapies. Finding the right one for you will depend on your personal choice and you might try a couple before you find one you like.

You may want to look at the types of therapies that are available locally, how they work and what you feel may be helpful for you. You may also want to think about how comfortable you are with the way a therapy is given. For example, some therapies will require several appointments, and some may mean you will need to be partly undressed. However, a good complementary therapist will do their best to put you at ease.

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5. Where to find a complementary therapist

Complementary therapies are not regulated in the UK, so it’s important to find a therapist from a reliable source.

Some hospitals, cancer support centres, hospices and charities provide complementary therapies.

Your breast care nurse may be able to tell you more about this or give you a list of therapists in your area. You can also ask your GP (local doctor) or a local cancer support group for information on therapists.

Organisations such as the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council, the British Complementary Medicine Association and Therapy Directory have directories of qualified complementary therapists. Please note that Breast Cancer Care does not approve or endorse third party organisations.

You may want to ask the therapist if they’ve worked with people diagnosed with breast cancer. Whoever you choose, it’s important you trust them and feel comfortable with the therapy plan they recommend.

If you see a therapist, you should tell them about your breast cancer and its treatment.

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6. How much do complementary therapies cost?

Complementary therapies offered by hospitals, cancer support centres, hospices and charities may be free or their cost may be based on what you can afford to pay.

If there are no free or low-cost therapies available locally, you may think about paying privately. The cost will vary with each therapist and the type of therapy you choose. It may be cheaper if you book several sessions at once.

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7. What are the different types of complementary therapy?

Find out more about the different types of complementary therapy.

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Last reviewed: January 2018
Next planned review begins 2020

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