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All you need is deep within you waiting to unfold and reveal itself. All you have to do is be still and take time to seek for what is within, and you will surely find it.

— Eileen Caddy

“Traditional” or conventional treatment for breast cancer can include surgery (lumpectomy, mastectomy), chemotherapy, radiation and other medical treatments such as immunotherapy, hormonal and biologic therapy. These treatments have been studied and evaluated for years and, to date, provide the best chance for survival. Conventional medicine primarily addresses the “physical” aspect of the disease, which is very important.

Complementary therapies tend to the needs of a woman’s mind or spirit—a “whole person” healing approach. It is with this approach that complementary therapies may help in the healing process. Many hospitals refer to the use of conventional medicine together with certain complementary therapies—for which there is good, scientific evidence on safety and effectiveness—as “integrative medicine.”

Some researchers believe that our mind has the power to overcome physical illness or pain. In fact, as breast cancer survivors, it is easy to see how a positive attitude and a good sense of humor can make a bad experience easier and more tolerable. When you can do something to help yourself, you feel empowered. You are able to secure some sense of “control” in a situation that often seems out of control and out of your hands.

Complementary therapies serve as additions to conventional medicine and may help relieve symptoms, reduce stress and enhance well being. They allow you the opportunity to participate in something that makes you feel better, calmer, more at peace and in control during the stressful times of treatment or simply in your daily life as a survivor.

We do not suggest that use of any of these therapies will cure breast cancer, or necessarily slow its progress. However, their place in your daily life as a breast cancer patient or survivor may be very valuable.

It is very important to discuss your use of complementary therapies with your doctor or someone on your healthcare team. Some complementary therapies are not supported by all physicians, and many therapies have not been tested scientifically. Others, such as vitamins or herbal supplements, may interfere with the effectiveness of your chemotherapy treatments and could be harmful.

Also, keep in mind that some complementary therapy treatments may not be covered by your health insurance provider. It is a good idea to find out what is covered. Some hospitals and cancer centers in North Carolina offer complementary therapies, and these may be more likely to be covered by your health insurance. Check with your local hospital, cancer center, or cancer supportive care center to find out what programs they offer.

We hope that you find something within this section that will help make your journey through breast cancer treatment easier and life beyond breast cancer more vibrant, peaceful and healthy.

What is the difference between complementary and alternative therapy?
An alternative therapy is any treatment for cancer that is used to replace a traditional medicine cancer treatment. A complementary therapy is used together with or to “complement” traditional forms of treatment. Complementary therapy often focuses on treatment and healing of the whole person—mind, body, spirit—rather than just the disease itself.


Complementary and alternative medicine, when grouped together, are often called CAM therapies. The National Cancer Institute classifies CAM therapies in the following five categories.

Alternative Medical Systems
Alternative medical systems are built upon complete systems of theory and practice. Often these systems have evolved apart from or earlier than the conventional medical approach used in the United States. Examples of alternative medical systems that have developed in Western cultures include homeopathic medicine and naturopathic medicine. Examples of systems that have developed in non-western cultures include traditional Chinese or Eastern medicine and Ayurveda.

Mind-Body Interventions
Mind-body medicine uses a variety of techniques designed to enhance the mind’s capacity to affect bodily function and systems. Some techniques that were considered CAM in the past have become mainstream (for example, patient support groups and cognitive-behavioral therapy). Other mind-body techniques are still considered CAM, including meditation, prayer, mental healing, and therapies that use creative outlets such as art, music, or dance.

Biologically Based Therapies
Biologically based therapies in CAM use substances found in nature, such as herbs, foods and vitamins. Some examples include dietary supplements, herbal products, and the use of other so-called natural, but as yet scientifically unproven, therapies (for example, using shark cartilage to treat cancer).

Manipulative and Body-Based Methods
Manipulative and body-based methods in CAM are based on manipulation or movement of one or more parts of the body. Some examples include chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation, and massage therapy.

Energy Therapies
Energy therapies involve the use of energy fields. They are of two types:

Biofield therapies are intended to affect energy fields that purportedly surround and penetrate the human body. The existence of such fields has not yet been scientifically proven. Some forms of energy therapy manipulate biofields by applying pressure or manipulating the body by placing the hands in or through these field. Examples include qi gong, Reiki and Therapeutic Touch.

Bioelectromagnetic-based therapies involve the unconventional use of electromagnetic fields, such as pulsed fields, magnetic fields, or alternating-current or direct-current fields.

Note: Above descriptions of CAM adapted from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine,

How do I find out more about complementary therapies in my community?
There is a wide range of complementary therapies available in North Carolina. Some hospitals and cancer centers in North Carolina offer complementary therapies such as exercise, yoga, massage, stress management, art therapy, and others. Some you can practice in your own home (prayer, meditation, yoga), while others require you to find someone trained to provide specific therapies (massage, chiropractic).

Throughout the year there are also workshops and programs offered that provide opportunities to grow and heal (art therapy, retreats, survivorship events). We encourage you to find what you need to help you along in your healing journey.

We have listed a number of North Carolina resources that provide a variety of complementary therapies in their programs. Also, check with your local hospital, cancer center, or cancer supportive care center to see what complementary therapies are available. (See North Carolina Hospitals & Cancer Centers; the listings include whether each hospital offers complementary therapies.)

Books and More

American Cancer Society’s Guide to Complementary and Alternative Cancer Methods, foreword by David S. Rosenthal, MD (2000). Provides encyclopedic overview of specific complementary and alternative therapies. Call 888.227.2345 or order online at

Anatomy of an Illness (As Perceived by the Patient), by Norman Cousins (1991). Best-selling classic of health and healing that showed how one man proved your mind can cure your body. This medical memoir demonstrates what the mind and body, working together, can do to overcome illness.

A Cancer Patient’s Guide to Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2nd edition, Kerry Harwood, RN, MSN and Christine Picket, MS, RD, Editors (2000). Provides comprehensive information about complementary and alternative medicine to assist patients in obtaining good information, making decisions about their care and considering important issues in selecting and working effectively with their health care team. Also available at

Choices in Healing: Integrating the Best of Conventional and Complementary Approaches to Cancer, by Michael Lerner (1996). Well received by mainstream health professionals and alternative health communities, this book is useful for those interested in considering alternative therapies in conjunction with standard medical treatment. Explores what mind/body medicine can offer in patient care.

Comprehensive Cancer Care: Integrating Alternative, Complementary and Conventional Therapies, by James S. Gordon, MD, and Sharon Curtin (2000). Provides sound advice on reviewing information on alternative and complementary therapies, making treatment decisions and finding various types of providers, and includes resource section.

Conversations With My Healers: My Journey to Wellness from Breast Cancer, by Cynthia Ploski (1997). Offers upbeat personal narrative of hope to those facing breast cancer. Ploski tells the story of her active role back to wellness, using both traditional and alternative healers.

Dr. Andrew Weil’s Self Healing. A monthly newsletter that contains articles on variety of health issues, discussion of therapies and complementary/alternative medicine. Call 800.523.3296 or see

Earl Mindell’s New Herb Bible, by Earl Mindell, RPh, PhD (2000). A completely updated version of Earl Mindell’s Herb Bible, it discusses over 100 herbs that are easily available, geared to the novice who is interested in exploring the world of herbal remedies.

The Healing Power of Humor: Techniques for Getting Through Loss, Setbacks, Upsets, Disappointments, Difficulties, Trials, Tribulations and All That, by Allen Klein (1989). The author, who went through his wife’s terminal illness, presents proven techniques for overcoming the negative effects of loss and other difficulties. Elevates the spirits.

Healing Words: The Power of Prayer and the Practice of Medicine, by Larry Dossey, MD (1995). The author studies the healing power of prayer and includes reviews of research that attest to prayer’s medicinal effects.

The Journey Through Cancer: An Oncologist’s Seven-Level Program for Healing and Transforming the Whole Person, by Jeremy Geffen (2000). Provides a step-by-step guide to assist people with cancer to address all aspects of healing. Written by a medical oncologist who practices using both conventional and complementary therapies.

Love, Medicine & Miracles: Lessons Learned About Self-Healing from a Surgeon’s Experience With Exceptional Patients, by Bernie S. Siegel, MD (1986). Addresses the mind-body connection in healing the body, the will to live, listening to your intuitive voices, how to “heal your life” and fight through adversity to leave a legacy of love.

Minding the Body, Mending the Mind, by Joan Borysenko, PhD (1993). Shows how to take control of your own physical and emotional well-being and how to elicit the mind’s relaxation response to boost immune system. Brings new perspective on illness and health and shows how we can take an active role in healing.

Peace, Love & Healing (Body-Mind Communication and the Path to Self-Healing: An Exploration), by Bernie S. Siegel, MD (1990). Emphasis on self-healing, using all options, including your innate ability to heal as well as what science offers; how to give ourselves healing messages through meditation, visualization, relaxation and peace of mind.

Prayer, Faith and Healing: Cure Your Body, Heal Your Mind, and Restore Your Soul, by Kenneth Winston Caine and Brian Paul Kaufman (2000). Contains over 500 ways to use the power of belief, from America’s leading pastors, counselors, doctors and health researchers.

Prescription for Nutritional Healing: A Practical A-Z Reference to Drug-Free Remedies Using Vitamins, Minerals, Herbs & Food Supplements, 3rd ed., by James F. Balch, MD, and Phyllis A. Balch, CNC (2000). Detailed reference book is an excellent resource for information on wide variety of conditions and illnesses, written in easy-to-use language.

Remarkable Recovery (What Extraordinary Healings Tell Us About Getting Well and Staying Well), by Caryle Hirshberg and Marc Ian Barasch (1996). Offers scientific proof that remarkable recovery from terminal illness happens more often than expected. Discusses the powers of the human healing system.

Today’s Herbal Health: The Essential Reference Guide, 5th ed., by Louise Tenney, MH (2000). Comprehensive coverage of single herbs and those used in combinations; lists herbs and uses alphabetically for quick reference. Also covers standard medical treatments with their possible side effects.

The Wellness Community Guide to Fighting for Recovery From Cancer, by Harold H. Benjamin, PhD, and Susan M. Love, MD (1995). Offers strategies cancer patients can use to deal with the emotional and physical effects of cancer and treatments, including visualizations, nutrition, exercise and enhanced personal relationships.

Web Sites

About Herbs, from Memorial Sloan-Kettering

New York City’s world-renowned cancer center provides extensive reviews of herbal supplements and other substances such as cartilage, chitin, calcium and more.

Alternative Medicine Foundation

A non-profit organization formed to provide reliable information to patients and consumers and research resources for health care professionals. Has many online resource guides about alternative medicine practices (herbal medicine, acupuncture, Chinese medicine) and health issues (women’s health, cancer).

Alternative Medicine Resources, from University of Pittsburgh

The Alternative Medicine Homepage is a source of information on unconventiional, unorthodox, unproven or alternative, complementary, innovative and integrative therapies.

American Botanical Council

Dedicated to promoting the safe and effective use of medicinal plants and herbs. Site has much information about herbs (types, uses, doses, side effects), publications and resource information.

Annie Appleseed Project

Very comprehensive and specific to cancer. Focuses on spreading news, views and information about access to alternative cancer therapies. Has links to many current updates, information on lymphedema and bone metastasis.

Complementary and Alternative Medicine, from the National Cancer Institute

Information on specific complementary and alternative cancer therapies such as shark cartilage and Coenzyme Q10; also Questions and Answers About Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Cancer Treatment.

Complementary/Integrative Medicine, from M.D. Anderson

Excellent reference from world-renowned comprehensive cancer center. Offers reviews of herbal/plant therapies, biological/organic/pharmacological therapies and much more.


Provides independent testing results for a wide variety of health and nutrition products. Results include if the products actually contain what they are supposed to, as well as potential contaminants (such as lead) and whether the body can absorb the product.

Herb Research Foundation

Information, articles and reviews about the health benefits and actions of different herbs. Includes an “Ask the Experts” page, bookstore, links and bulletin board.

The Natural Pharmacist

Has consumer-friendly information about specific herbs and an encyclopedia of conditions, herbs and supplements, and drug interactions. Easy to use. Named “Best of the Web” in 2000 by magazine for alternative medicine.



Breast Cancer Resource Directory of North Carolina | Third Edition 2006 - 2007

Copyright 2006, Jamie Konarski Davidson, Women Helping Women, Elizabeth Mahanna, North Carolina Institute for Public Health, and UNC’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. Portions of the Breast Cancer Resource Directory of North Carolina may be copied without permission for educational purposes only. The Breast Cancer Resource Directory of North Carolina is designed for educational purposes only and is not engaged in rendering medical advice or professional services. The information provided through the Breast Cancer Resource Directory of North Carolina should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your healthcare provider.

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