What is Complementary Therapy?

Last Modified: July 15, 2011

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OncoLink Cancer FAQ

What does complementary therapy mean exactly? I hear it so much, but am not sure what it entails.

OncoLink Cancer FAQ

Tony Meadows PhD MT-BC FAMI LPC is Director of Music Therapy at Immaculata University and Music Therapist at the Joan Karnell Cancer Center at Pennsylvania Hospital, responds:

This is a very good question and evokes quite a lot of different answers. In some schools of thought, complementary means "in support of", so that therapies such as music therapy support the patient during medical care. In another way of thinking, complementary may mean "in place of", so that some cancer centers, particularly outside of the USA, offer supplements and special diets to directly treat care instead of standard chemotherapy and/or radiation. A third way of thinking is more oriented toward an integrative understanding of cancer and therefore cancer care. In thsi way of thinking, the patient is more than their diagnosis, and cancer effects more than the body. Therefore, in order to treat the person, you need to consider their body-mind-spirit and provide a range of services, from nutrition to shiatsu, to reiki, that address the complex interrelationships between the disease and the person's experience of their disease.

Learn more on OncoLink's Complementary Therapy Section!

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series. See full archive of IntegrativeTherapies in Cancer Care.


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