Complete Guide to Complementary and Alternative Cancer Therapies

Book Review

Physiotherapist doing acupuncture on the back of a female patient
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The following is a review of Complete Guide to Complementary and Alternative Cancer Therapies (2nd Edition), by The American Cancer Society. The book addresses health care approaches outside of mainstream medicine and focuses on these therapies particularly as they relate to cancer treatment.

Complementary medicine is used along with or "to complement" conventional medical care. Alternative medicine is used in place of or as an alternative to conventional medicine.

The What and Who of Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) includes a wide range of therapies and treatments such as acupuncture, massage therapy, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), aromatherapy, dietary supplements, prayer, and meditation.

Many people decide to use complementary medicine during cancer care. For example, some people may undergo surgery, radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy, but also take herbs or supplements to manage side effects. Acupuncture may be used to lessen treatment-related nausea. A special diet or exercise program may be used with the hope of improving the odds of long-term survival.

If the idea of using complementary therapies during cancer care appeals to you, The American Cancer Society's Complete Guide to Complementary and Alternative Cancer Therapies is a great place to start investigating your options.

It is important that your medical care team know if you plan to use complementary therapies. Some complementary therapies, such as herbs and dietary supplements, can interfere with cancer treatment. Other complementary therapies may not be safe if you are experiencing certain side effects, such as low blood counts or bruising easily.


The Complete Guide to Complementary and Alternative Cancer Therapies is well organized and easy to use. The book contains hundreds of entries on different CAM therapies. The claims for each complementary therapy is evaluated based on scientific evidence and explained in everyday language.

Another plus is that the American Cancer Society is a premier cancer information organization. They are highly skilled. They gather and present complex information in a way that makes sense to people without medical training.

The book has a complete table of contents and a well-referenced index. This means you have two ways of finding exactly what you are looking for, without a lot of extra reading.


One downside of this book is something that may be a problem with any resource book. It can become out-of-date over time. As new research emerges, new recommendations on cancer complementary therapies may be published. A book cannot keep you up-to-date on this brand new information.

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