Complementary & Integrative Medicine
The terms complementary and alternative are often used interchangeably, however they are, two different approaches to the treatment of disease. Complementary medicine is used in addition to, or to complement, conventional medicine; alternative medicine replaces conventional treatment. Conventional medicine, also known as mainstream, western, allopathic, or regular, is practiced by medical doctors or doctors of osteopathy. While it is unlikely that a physician who practices conventional medicine would recommend a truly alternative treatment, some conventional doctors do practice complementary or alternative medicine, or may recommend a complementary treatment.
Combining conventional treatments options with complementary therapies may also be referred to as integrative medicine, as the two types of practices are both evaluated and may be utilized in a comprehensive treatment plan.
Treatments such as acupuncture, yoga, herbal medicines and nutritional supplements and homeopathy may not have been proven to work, but some have evidence supporting their use. The list of practices that are considered as complementary and integrative medicine (CIM) changes continually, as practices and therapies that are proven safe and effective become accepted as mainstream healthcare practices.
Patients may use complementary medicine for:
- Prevention of disease
- Managing symptoms
- Increasing wellness (quality of life, reported sense of well-being)
- Improving treatment effectiveness
Many patients report that complementary therapies are helpful, but others have found no effects or have reported problems. It is important that your doctor knows what therapies you are using, and that treatments you receive are from a qualified practitioner. Many cancer patients use complementary therapies, but they should not be the only source of treatment.
Before trying any CIM therapy, it is important to consider:
- Safety (appropriateness for your condition, quality control of herbal medicines and supplements, etc.)
- Cost in time and money
- Credentials of the practitioner