August 24, 2016
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Alternative Medicine (cont.)

Questions to ask your doctor when considering complimentary or alternative medicine therapies

Cancer patients using or considering complementary or alternative therapy should discuss this decision with their doctor or nurse, as they would any therapeutic approach. Some complementary and alternative therapies may interfere with standard treatment or may be harmful when used with conventional treatment. It is also a good idea to become informed about the therapy, including whether the results of scientific studies support the claims that are made for it. 1

  1. What benefits can be expected from this therapy?
  2. What are the risks associated with this therapy?
  3. Do the known benefits outweigh the risks?
  4. What side effects can be expected?
  5. Will the therapy interfere with conventional treatment?
  6. Is this therapy part of a clinical trial?
  7. If so, who is sponsoring the trial?
  8. Will the therapy be covered by health insurance?

Choosing a CAM practitioner 1

  1. If you are seeking a CAM practitioner, speak with your primary health care provider(s) or someone you believe to be knowledgeable about CAM regarding the therapy in which you are interested. Ask if they have a recommendation for the type of CAM practitioner you are seeking.
  2. Make a list of CAM practitioners and gather information about each before making your first visit. Ask basic questions about their credentials and practice. Where did they receive their training? What licenses or certifications do they have? How much will the treatment cost?
  3. Check with your insurer to see if the cost of therapy will be covered.
  4. After you select a practitioner, make a list of questions to ask at your first visit. You may want to bring a friend or family member who can help you ask questions and note answers.
  5. Come to the first visit prepared to answer questions about your health history, including injuries, surgeries, and major illnesses, as well as prescription medicines, vitamins, and other supplements you may take.
  6. Assess your first visit and decide if the practitioner is right for you. Did you feel comfortable with the practitioner? Could the practitioner answer your questions? Did he respond to you in a way that satisfied you? Does the treatment plan seem reasonable and acceptable to you?

For additional information, please read "Consumer Financial Issues in CAM."

SOURCES: 1 National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, National Institutes of Health

Last Editorial Review: 7/26/2006


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