Complementary therapies

Some people use complementary therapies alongside other cancer treatments to help them feel better or to relieve symptoms or side effects. Complementary therapies don’t claim to cure cancer. Some have been scientifically tested to check how effective and safe they are. Talk to your hospital staff if you want to try a complementary therapy.

Young person having a massage

Being in hospital and having treatment can be scary and you may become stressed and anxious. Complementary therapies can play a part in supporting you through treatment by offering relaxation and calmness.

Complementary therapies are used alongside a patient’s standard medical treatment. They do not treat or cure cancer but can offer relief from symptoms and help promote feelings of emotional and physical wellbeing.

Complementary therapies can be used to:

  • help you cope with the side effects of cancer treatments such as feeling sick, pain and tiredness
  • help you to comfort yourself and ease the fear and stress of a cancer diagnosis
  • help you to feel you are doing something to help with your care and wellbeing
  • help you sleep better
  • trigger the release of feel-good hormones to help you feel better and more peaceful.

Finding a complementary therapist

Complementary therapy for under 18's is not as readily available as it is for adults so finding an experienced practitioner may take a little time.

Within NHS hospitals - A free complementary therapy service may be available within your main treatment centre or local shared care centre. Your nurse specialist or keyworker will be able to tell you more about what is available.

Cancer support centres, hospices and charities - Your hospital’s information centre may have local information on what might be available. You can also ask your GP, hospice, local support services and local voluntary organisations who may offer free complementary therapies.

Private sessions - You can also search locally for private therapists but a cost will be involved. It is a good idea to check the credentials of the therapist to ensure they have received the correct training and have experience of working with cancer patients.

In the UK, complementary therapists are not regulated by law, however the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC) was set up with government support to protect the public by providing a UK voluntary register of complementary therapists for selected therapies.

More information about complementary therapies

CCLG produces a booklet with more information about complementary therapies and cancer treatment. It is written for parents considering complementary therapies for their child, but the information will be useful for teenagers and young adults too.

Download or order a free copy