You may find this checklist helpful when thinking about the questions you want to ask your complementary therapist.

Question Checklist

Friday 1 May, 2015

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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

Mind-body techniques
  • What type of therapist would you recommend for my concerns?
  • Can you refer me to a psychologist or a counsellor?
Body-based practices
  • 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?
Nutritional therapies
  • 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?
Herbal medicine
  • 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.

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