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Integrative Medicine

Sometimes called holistic medicine, complementary medicine typically addresses how disease affects the whole person: physically, emotionally, spiritually, and socially. Complementary medicine tries to promote health or wellness with a number of aids, including:

  • herbs
  • acupuncture
  • massage
  • visualization
  • hypnosis
  • meditation/relaxation therapy
  • yoga
  • vitamins
  • homeopathy

No scientific evidence has shown that any of these therapies effectively treat breast cancer. But researchers are testing some now to see if they might help with healing from cancer and the effects of anti-cancer treatment. Studies have shown that relaxation therapy or acupuncture can ease pain. And even if complementary medicine does not lengthen your life, it may improve your quality of life while you have recurrent or metastatic breast cancer.

Some doctors like to combine both complementary and standard treatments, drawing on the strengths of each. This is often called “integrative medicine.”

The goal of complementary medicine is to balance the whole person — physically, mentally, and emotionally — while conventional medicine does its work. For many people diagnosed with breast cancer, complementary medicine has helped to:

  • relieve symptoms
  • ease treatment side effects
  • improve quality of life

In your search for new treatments, you might be looking for something that’s intended to help your whole being heal, rather than only treating the cancer. It might help you to add yoga, tai chi, or massage to your regular treatment plan. But you should NEVER replace any part of your regular treatment (surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, hormonal treatment) with something else.