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Med J Aust. 2001 Jan 15;174(2):88-92.

A primer of complementary and alternative medicine commonly used by cancer patients.

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  • 1School of Postgraduate Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Exeter, UK.


Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is frequently used by cancer patients, and many oncologists have limited knowledge of CAM. This article provides a brief, evidence-based introduction to several CAM treatments relevant in the context of cancer. "Alternative" diets, chiropractic, coffee enemas, ozone therapy, and shark cartilage seem to have little to offer cancer patients. The evidence for or against homoeopathy and spiritual healing is at present inconclusive. Acupuncture, aromatherapy, and meditation may be useful for nausea/vomiting, for mild relaxation, and for pain/anxiety, respectively. Herbal treatments offer no reasonable prospect of a cure (mistletoe), but could be useful as palliative treatments (eg, for depression [St John's wort] or anxiety [kava]). Our knowledge regarding the potential benefit and harm of CAM is insufficient.

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