Appendix D: Complementary therapies

Appendix D: Complementary therapies

Complementary therapies may be used together with conventional medical treatments to support and enhance quality of life and wellbeing. They do not aim to cure the patient’s cancer. Instead, they are used to help control symptoms such as pain and fatigue (Cancer Council Australia 2019).

The lead clinician or health professional involved in the patient’s care should discuss the patient’s use (or intended use) of complementary therapies not prescribed by the multidisciplinary team to assess safety and efficacy and to identify any potential toxicity or drug interactions.

The lead clinician should seek a comprehensive list of all complementary and alternative medicines being taken and explore the patient’s reason for using these therapies and the evidence base. A transparent and honest discussion that is free from judgement should be encouraged.

While some complementary therapies are supported by strong evidence, others are not. For such therapies, the lead clinician should discuss their potential benefits and use them alongside conventional therapies (NHMRC 2014).

If the patient expresses an interest in using complementary therapies, the lead clinician should consider referring patients to health providers within the multidisciplinary team who have expertise in the field of complementary and alternative therapies (e.g. a clinical pharmacist, dietitian or psychologist) to assist them to reach an informed decision. Costs of such approaches should be part of the discussion with the patient and considered in the context of evidence of benefit.

The lead clinician should assure patients who use complementary therapies that they can still access a multidisciplinary team review and encourage full disclosure about therapies being used.

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