You may find these questions helpful when thinking about what to ask your complementary therapist and doctor.
Things to consider before using a complementary therapy
- What are the benefits?
- What is the scientific evidence to support its use?
- Will the therapy potentially harm me because of:
- its side effects?
- possible interaction with other medicines?
- the therapist's advice to stop or delay conventional treatment?
- Can I afford the cost of the therapy 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? How does it work?
- How long will it take to work?
- How can the therapy you practise help me?
- Are there any specific precautions I should take?
- Has the therapy been tested in clinical trials? Have the findings been published, and are they available to read?
- Can this therapy be combined with conventional cancer treatment and medicines?
- Do you expect me to stop my conventional medicines and treatments?
- Are you willing to liaise with my doctors or any 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 am 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 during a consultation?
- How many consultations do you recommend, and how often?
- Do you dispense your own medicines 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?
- What side effects may occur?
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 to ask about specific therapies
- What type of therapist would you recommend for my concerns?
- Can you refer me to a psychologist or 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 radiation therapy?
- 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?
- Should I see an exercise physiologist or physiotherapist?
- Do you think using reiki or healing touch would benefit me?
- Will I have any side effects from any types of energy therapies?
Therapies based on diet
- 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 specific 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?
- Therapies using herbs and plants 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 medicines, surgery or other conventional treatments?
- If I use herbal medicine, when should I take it in relation to my other medicines or conventional treatments? Is it okay to use at the same time or should I take it at a different time?
- Do you think using flower remedies or homeopathy would benefit me?
- Will I have any side effects from homeopathy remedies?
Expert content reviewers:
Suzanne Grant, Senior Acupuncturist, Chris O'Brien Lifehouse, NSW; A/Prof Craig Hassed, Senior Lecturer, Department of General Practice, Monash University, VIC; Mara Lidums, Consumer; Tanya McMillan, Consumer; Simone Noelker, Physiotherapist and Wellness Centre Manager, Ballarat Regional Integrated Cancer Centre, VIC; A/Prof Byeongsang Oh, Acupuncturist, University of Sydney and Northern Sydney Cancer Centre, NSW; Sue Suchy, Consumer; Marie Veale, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland, QLD; Prof Anne Williams, Nursing Research Consultant, Centre for Nursing Research, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, and Chair, Health Research, School of Health Professions, Murdoch University, WA.