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Complementary therapies can be used in addition to conventional cancer treatment to reinforce the immune system, relieve symptoms, and enhance the effectiveness of conventional therapies.

Talk to your medical team about the complementary therapies you are considering so they can advise you about how this may interact with your conventional treatment. 

Complementary (alternative) therapies can include some of the following:

  1. Rongoā Māori: Rongoa Māori is a body of knowledge that takes a holistic view to wellbeing and treatment. In particular, it focuses on hinengaro (mind), wairua (soul), mauri (life essence), ngā atua (Gods) and te taiao (the environment). There are many providers who are able to provide rongoā services. Your Māori health team at the hospital will be able to connect you with one nearest to where you live. 

  2. Natural therapies: Most medical professionals will support use of natural therapies as complementary to mainstream treatment. That means, it may be possible to take both at the same time. It is very important that you tell your medical team of any herbal, naturopathy, Chinese medicines or homeopathy you are using, as these could interact with your treatment. There is no evidence to say that complementary therapies on their own cure cancer.

  3. Mind-body techniques: meditation, relaxation, music therapy, hypnotherapy, aromatherapy, spirituality, visualisation or guided imagery can all assist with your mood and resilience. Mindfulness meditation and guided relaxation can assist with sleep and pain management.

  4. Physical therapies: yoga, tai chi, and pilates can be a great way to keep your body active. Use of acupuncture, reflexology or massage should be cleared with your doctor before you begin.

  5. Counselling and group support: Individual therapy can assist you with the many practical and emotional difficulties that naturally arise when you face a major illness. Group therapy where you connect with others going through similar experiences can be very therapeutic and empowering. These sessions are often facilitated by psychologists or counsellors who help people process what is happening, and encourage practical ways of coping.

Most people will adopt some of the above techniques. These can improve quality of life by addressing emotional, physical and spiritual needs. It is important that you understand how the therapy works and to discuss them with your medical team to make sure that they don’t have a negative impact on your treatment.