Alternative Medicine Data Verified

Cancer and Complementary Health Approaches - Role and Prevention

Published on Aug 09, 2022 and last reviewed on Jan 17, 2023   -  5 min read


Complementary health approaches help in improving the quality of life in patients with cancer. Read this article to know more about it.


Cancer refers to the development of abnormal cells in the body. It suppresses the immune system, which causes severe damage to the health. Various treatment approaches are carried out in cancer treatment. They are extremely beneficial in curing cancer, but they do exhibit severe side effects in patients. Cancer patients often go through a melancholy as they experience a lot of struggle in dealing with cancer. The emotional health of the patients is severely affected, leading to anxiety, depression, distress, etc. The quality of life in patients with cancer is always found low. This is due to the factors like a cancer diagnosis, prolonged treatment, its side effects, etc. In addition to traditional cancer treatments, certain complementary health approaches are suggested to improve the quality of life in cancer

What Are Complementary Health Approaches?

Complementary health approaches are medical products, practices, and systems that are not a part of standard care. Complementary health approaches are used together with standard medical care. The different complementary health approaches used along with standard cancer treatment include:

  • Nutrition.

  • Physical and psychological approaches (yoga, meditation, acupuncture, etc.)

Cancer cannot be cured or prevented by adding a complementary health approach as a part of cancer treatment. But it can help in managing the cancer symptoms and side effects of treatment. Cancer patients can consult their healthcare provider before implementing any complementary health approach as a part of the cancer treatment.

What Is the Role of Complementary Health Approaches in Cancer?

The major role of complementary health approaches in cancer treatment are;

  • Improves the quality of life (physical and emotional well-being) in patients with cancer.

  • Helps in recovery from cancer.

  • Helps in reducing the side effects of cancer treatment.

What Are the Various Complementary Health Approaches Used in Cancer Treatment?

Complementary health approaches are used along with the standard cancer treatment. They are not used in preventing or curing cancer, but they help in managing cancer symptoms and its treatment side effects. Some of the complementary health approaches may interfere with standard cancer treatments. So it is always recommended to consult the doctor before adding any complementary health approach as a part of the cancer treatment regime. The different health approaches are listed below:

  • Nutrition: Nutrition is highly valuable in improving the quality of life in people. Well-balanced nutrition is advised for cancer patients to help in boosting the immune system. Eating nutritious foods can help maintain healthy body weight amidst treatment side effects like loss of appetite, weight loss, or weight gain. In order to devise a proper nutrition plan for a cancer patient, help from an oncology registered dietitian is required. A diet plan for patients with cancer mainly includes foods rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, proteins, etc. Before taking any dietary or herbal supplements, it is highly advisable to talk with the healthcare provider, as he might analyze whether those supplements show any possible drug interaction with the treatment.

  • Physical and Psychological Approaches: Certain physical and psychological health approaches are scientifically proven to help people with cancer in improving their quality of life. It includes-

1. Acupuncture :

Acupuncture is one of the ancient practices developed in China 3000 years ago. It is effective either if it is used alone or with standard medical care. In people with cancer, acupuncture helps relieve some symptoms and side effects of cancer treatment. In acupuncture treatment, initially, the skin over the acupuncture point in the body is cleaned using alcohol swabs. Then clean, sterile acupuncture needles are inserted over the acupuncture points in the body. These acupuncture points are connected to the central nervous system. This, when stimulated, releases chemicals like serotonin into muscle, brain, and spinal cord.

This helps in relieving cancer symptoms like

  • Pain relief.

  • Helps in relieving nausea and vomiting induced by chemotherapy.

  • Gives relief from headaches, fatigue, sleep problems, appetite loss, etc.

  • Help with dry mouth.

  • Anxiety and depression.

It produces minimal pain and soreness, which does not cause much discomfort to patients. It is highly safe, but an acupuncturist must use sterile needles to prevent any contamination.

2. Yoga:

Yoga is a practice that helps in bringing harmony between mind and body. It includes breathing exercises, stretching poses, meditation, and relaxation techniques. Yoga helps one by reducing stress, and anxiety, by connecting mind and body. The various benefits of yoga include:

  • Improves the quality of life.

  • Improves mental and physical well-being.

  • Stretching poses help in improving the physical functioning of an individual.

  • Maintain healthy blood circulation and improve the immune system.

  • Relieves pain and decreases inflammation.

  • Regulates stress hormones and sleep problems.

Yoga can be practiced by learning from online sources like youtube, online yoga classes, etc. It is completely safe, and it helps in keeping a calm state of mind in people with cancer.

3. Meditation:

Meditation is an ancient practice that helps in relaxing, focusing, and calming the mind and body. To do meditation, just choose a calm place free of noises in our home first. Then sit in an erect position and just concentrate on the breath flow in the nostrils. The patient will feel a sense of relaxation and calmness in the mind and body. Patients with cancer are often advised to practice meditation to get relief from mental stress and anxiety. It helps in regulating stress hormones and improves immune function. Meditation can either be done by self or under someone's guidance.

4. Tai Chi and Qi Gong :

It is an ancient Chinese practice that combines deliberate slow movements, breathing exercises, and meditation. It helps in cancer care by reducing fatigue, improving physical ability, and overall quality of life of patients.

5. Massage:

Oncology massage is a type of massage therapy carried out in people with cancer. It helps in;

  • Improving relaxation.

  • Immune system.

  • Sleep quality.

  • Relieving fatigue, pain, nausea, and vomiting.

Cancer and cancer treatment side effects make massage therapy contradictory to some patients due to the risk of complications. It is necessary to take advice from doctors before undertaking massage therapy for cancer. Doctors will suggest appropriate massage therapists for therapy who are experienced in treating patients with cancer to avoid any complications.

6. Music Therapy:

Music helps people in relieving stress, easing their moods, and increasing comfort. Scientific studies revealed that music therapy in patients with cancer helps in managing cancer symptoms and treatment side effects. Various benefits of music therapy in cancer patients include:

  • Reduce anxiety and stress.

  • Improve the quality of life of patients.

  • Reduce breathing problems.

  • Enhance relaxation.

Music therapy helps in the rehabilitation of people with cancer by promoting wellness, improving emotional and physical wellness and overall quality of life.

7. Physical Activity:

Research says that physical activity helps in improving mental and physical health in individuals. Physical exercises not only improve the quality of life but also reduce the risk of getting cancer. It helps in maintaining healthy body weight, improving the immune system, improving blood circulation, etc. People with cancer are encouraged to do some physical exercises to get rid of mental stress and to improve their quality of life.

Do Complementary Health Approaches Prevent Cancer?

No, complementary health approaches do not prevent cancer. No scientific evidence has proven that a complementary health approach could cure or prevent cancer. But complementary health approaches are used in addition to traditional cancer treatments to manage cancer symptoms and treatment side effects.


Complementary health approaches are different from standard medical care. It helps in alleviating cancer symptoms and treatment side effects rather than preventing or curing it. Before adding complementary health approaches as a part of cancer treatment, it is necessary to consult the doctor. Doctors will decide whether complementary health approaches will be beneficial for a particular patient or not. If yes, then they will add the appropriate health approach as a part of the cancer treatment.

Last reviewed at:
17 Jan 2023  -  5 min read




Related Questions & Answers

Cancer of the Esophagus - Types, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Article Overview: Esophageal cancer is the cancer of the esophagus. It is life-threatening and causes most cancer deaths. Read the article below to know more. Read Article

Y Gayathri
Y Gayathri

Introduction: Esophageal cancer is a serious and life-threatening condition whose incidence has increased in the past 40 years. It is the eighth most common cancer in the world. Though there has been much development in treatment and diagnostic techniques, the incidence of esophageal cancer is expec...  Read Article

Familial Adenomatous Polyposis

Article Overview: Familial adenomatous polyposis is a severe condition of the intestinal region. Read this article to know more Read Article

Rajesh Gulati
Rajesh Gulati
Medical Oncology

Overview: Familial adenomatous polyposis is a rare condition caused by defective genes. The majority of the patients are known to attain this adenomatous polyposis coli gene. This condition causes extra growth of a tissue called polyps. If these polyps are not treated, then they can develop into a m...  Read Article

Cancer Pain - Types, Causes, and Treatment

Article Overview: Pain is an important and distressing symptom in patients who have cancer. This article emphasizes different treatment options available for pain management. Read Article

Bhatia Jatin Vinod
Bhatia Jatin Vinod
Radiation Oncology

Introduction: Pain is a very subjective and disturbing sensation to any person. One of the prominent medicine textbooks describes the pain as an unpleasant sensation localized to any body part. Pain is one symptom that has been reported differently by various individuals. Some describe it as a sharp...  Read Article

Popular Articles Most Popular Articles

Do you have a question on Cancer or Cancer Care?

Ask an expert Online

* guaranteed answer within 4 hours.

Disclaimer: Wellness medicine is not aimed to replace the services of your treating physician or allopathy medicines. Our site's information is to those who are willing to take responsibility for their health, being fully aware that the content published herein would not qualify as a prescription or specific medical advice. If users use the information and stop prescribed medication without their physician's consent, they bear full responsibility for their actions, and iCliniq-Wellness bears no responsibility for the same. Information on Wellness medicine should not be misinterpreted as a cure for any illness, as our body is complex and everyone reacts differently.

Disclaimer: No content published on this website is intended to be a substitute for professional medical diagnosis, advice or treatment by a trained physician. Seek advice from your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with questions you may have regarding your symptoms and medical condition for a complete medical diagnosis. Do not delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice because of something you have read on this website. Read our Editorial Process to know how we create content for health articles and queries.