You may find this checklist helpful when thinking about the questions you want to ask your complementary therapist.
Things to consider before using complementary therapies
What are the benefits?
What's the scientific evidence to support its use?
Will the therapy directly harm me because of:
- its side effects
- possible interaction with other medication
- being told by the therapist to stop or delay all conventional treatment?
- Can I afford the cost of the therapies or medicines?
General questions to ask any potential complementary therapist
- What are your qualifications? Are you a member of a professional association?
- What training or experience do you have in treating people with cancer?
- Have you treated anyone with my type of cancer?
- What exactly is the therapy and how does it work?
- How long will it take to work?
- How can the therapies you practise help me?
- Are there any specific precautions I would take for me?
- Has the therapy been tested in clinical trials?
- Have the findings been published and are they available to read?
- Can these therapies be combined with conventional treatment?
- Do you expect me to stop my conventional medication and treatments?
- Are you willing to liaise with my doctors or other health professionals I may need to see?
- How long should I use this therapy for? How will I know if it's working?
- Are you able to do home visits if I'm not well enough to attend your clinic?
- How long are your consultations?
- What do you charge for a consultation? Can I claim the cost on Medicare or from my health fund?
- What can I expect from a consultation?
- How many consultations do you recommend, and how often?
- Do you dispense your own medicine and supplements?
- How much can I expect to pay for medicines?
- Have the products or medicines you dispense been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration?
General questions to ask your doctor
- Are you familiar with complementary therapies or medicines?
- Do you have any qualifications in complementary therapies?
- Are there any complementary therapies you think might help me?
- Would you be happy for me to use complementary therapies? If not, what should I do if I decide to use complementary therapies?
- Do you know whether the complementary medicines I am taking, or wish to take, will interfere with any of my treatments?
- Would you be willing to guide me in my research or choice of complementary therapies?
- Would you be willing to talk to my complementary therapists?
- Can you recommend any complementary therapists?
Questions about specific therapies
- What type of therapist would you recommend for my concerns?
- Can you refer me to a psychologist or a counsellor?
- Are there any forms of massage or bodywork that would help me?
- Are there any forms of massage or bodywork I shouldn't have?
- Can I have acupuncture before and/or after surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy?
- Are there any areas on my body where a massage therapist or acupuncturist needs to take special care?
- What precautions, if any, should I take?
- Would I be able to participate in tai chi, qi gong or yoga?
- What level of exercise intensity would be suitable for me?
- Can you provide me with a letter giving your approval for me to have massage or other bodywork therapy?
- Are there any general dietary changes I should make?
- Should I eat organic foods?
- Are there any vitamin or mineral supplements that will help manage side effects caused by conventional treatment?
- Should I be taking any particular nutritional supplements?
- What can I eat to improve my digestion and bowel movements?
- Are there any foods or supplements that I should definitely have, or definitely avoid, during and after cancer treatment?
- Should I see a dietitian or a nutritionist?
- Are there any herbs you would recommend during or after cancer treatment?
- What dosage should I take? Does it have side effects?
- Are there any herbs I shouldn't take because of my medication, surgery or other conventional treatments?
- If I use herbal medicine, when should I take it in relation to my other medication or conventional treatments? Is it okay to use at the same time, or should I take it at a different time?
Flower remedies and homoeopathy
- Do you think flower remedies or homoeopathy would benefit me?
- Will I have any side effects from these remedies?
Download our Understanding Complementary Therapies booklet (PDF 1MB).
Reviewed by: Dr Haryana Dhillon, Research Fellow, Survivorship Research Group,
Deputy Director, Centre for Medical Psychology & Evidence-based Decision-making, University of Sydney,
and Chair, Clinical Oncology Society of Australia Survivorship Group, NSW; Dr Kylie Dodsworth, GP, Vice-
President, Australasian Integrative Medicine Association, SA; Lauren Muir, Accredited Practising Dietitian,
Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Shavita Patel, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; A/Prof Evelin
Tiralongo, Lecturer and Researcher in Complementary Medicine, School of Pharmacy, Griffith University, QLD;
Gabrielle Toth, Consumer; Dr Xiaoshu Zhu, Director, Academic Program for Chinese Medicine, Senior Lecturer,
School of Science and Health, and Researcher, National Institute of Complementary Medicine, University of
Western Sydney, NSW.