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What complementary therapies are helpful in breast cancer?

There’s evidence that some complementary therapies can improve the wellbeing of people with cancer.

For example:

  • relaxation techniques and guided imagery can reduce feelings of anxiety, stress or depression
  • exercise can improve feelings of fatigue and distress
  • relaxation techniques, guided imagery, massage and reflexology can relieve pain and some side effects caused by cancer and its treatments.

These therapies are encouraged by health professionals and are part of clinical practice guidelines.

Healthy living, including a good diet, exercise within limits, enough sleep and relaxation and effective management of stress is important for everybody.

Can complementary therapies be harmful?

A number of complementary therapies have not been tested in clinical trials so we do not know how effective they are or what their long-term side effects might be. Some complementary therapies can interact with conventional treatments and make them less effective. Others may actually be harmful if taken with conventional treatments.

It’s important for women to talk to their doctor before starting any complementary therapies to check that they won’t interact with conventional treatments.

There’s no evidence that complementary therapies can remove breast cancer, prevent it from coming back, or prevent it from spreading to other parts of the body.