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Explore Complementary, Integrative Therapies

CancerWise - March 2007

By Dawn Dorsey

Interested in integrating complementary, alternative or integrative therapies into your cancer treatment or prevention plan?

M. D. Anderson’s Integrative Medicine Program offers the Complementary/Integrative Medicine Education Resources (CIMER) website to provide tools and information to navigate the often-confusing myriad possibilities of these therapies.

Alternative medicine has been defined as medicine or therapies used in place of conventional medicine.

Complementary medicine is used in addition to conventional medicine.

Integrative medicine is complementary medicine used with the knowledge and guidance of the conventional physician and health care team.

The website helps patients, physicians and other health care professionals decide which therapies might be worth trying to integrate into treatment.

It examines the evidence of effectiveness for many complementary therapies, as well as their safety, interactions and side effects.

Facts are essential

Complementary and integrative medicine (CIM) are therapies of proven or unproven effectiveness that have been used to:

  • Promote wellness
  • Manage symptoms of cancer and treatment
  • Treat cancer

“When properly combined with standard cancer treatments, some complementary therapies can enhance wellness and quality of life, but others may be harmful during or after treatment for cancer,” according to the website.

“The CIMER website seeks to provide access to the latest and most accurate assessments of published research about these therapies and to provide information about carefully screened programs, educational events and other resources,” says Nancy Russell, Dr.P.H., senior health education specialist.

Site demystifies methods

Some of the therapies are ancient; others are brand new. Most, but not all, are natural products.

Therapies reviewed on the website include:

  • Alternative systems, like traditional Chinese medicine
  • Herbal/plant therapies
  • Biologic/organic/pharmacologic substances
  • Nutrition and special diets, such as macrobiotic diet
  • Manipulative and body-based therapies, like massage
  • Energy approaches, including tai chi and yoga
  • Mind-body approaches, such as support groups

Make this the first stop

When exploring available therapies, evidence-based information that draws on scientific research can be hard to come by.

The CIMER site helps by providing:

  • Reviews of therapies:
    • English and Spanish version
    • Chinese translation in progress
    • Evidence-based reviews of published research studies
  • Drug interactions
  • United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisories
  • Definitions of commonly used terms
  • Educational programs and events
  • Therapies at M. D. Anderson
  • Recommended books, e-books and videos
  • Frequently asked questions about therapies
  • News about research on therapies

Remember that the information on the site is a starting place for investigation. Be sure to discuss any treatment you are considering with your health care practitioner.

M. D. Anderson resources:

Other resources:

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center