Complementary therapies include a variety of practices and treatments usually outside of evidence-based, conventional medicine. Sometimes they may be described as ‘alternative’, ‘traditional’, or ‘holistic’ therapies.
Complementary therapies are used alongside conventional medical treatments from your doctor or healthcare provider. This may be helpful for some conditions, especially when there is evidence to support the use of complementary therapies. Your doctor is best placed to advise you on where complementary therapies may help.
Alternative therapies are used as replacements for treatment from your doctor or healthcare provider. This can be harmful where there is no evidence for these therapies, or if they have side effects. Delaying conventional medical care can also cause harm.
Complementary therapies have become increasingly popular in Australia over recent decades not only to improve wellbeing but to deal with illness. Around two out of three people with cancer use some sort of complementary therapy during or after their treatment.
Last reviewed: September 2017