Breast Cancer and Complementary Therapies

To mark this October as Breast Cancer Awareness month I would like to focus on the use of Complementary Therapies (as opposed to alternative therapies) for anyone dealing with Breast Cancer.


So what are Complementary Therapies?


There are literally hundreds of different complementary therapies available, but below is a list of some of the most common treatments and relaxation techniques that people may have access to:


Some of these treatments are mainly bodywork treatments designed to alleviate physical discomforts and work to deeply relax the mind and body.  Others involve taking internal remedies.




Why use Complementary Therapies for Breast Cancer?

Being given the diagnosis of breast cancer, and then dealing with the endless hospital visits and treatments leaves not only the body but more so the mind in a very weakened and stressed state.  Even with all the support from family and friends the battle is a very personal one.

The medical treatments could involve constant bloods tests and scans, and possibly surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy.  With breast cancer, depending on the diagnosis, this may additionally include hormone therapy like tamoxifen or more targeted treatment such as Herceptin.  Each of these brings it's own emotional and physical issues.

Where Complementary Therapies comes in is to support and work alongside the medical treatments to help relax the person's mind and body.  Many people report that they can deal with the side effects of their medical treatments much better and feel mentally stronger and have a general feeling of well-being.



Which treatment and practitioner is right for you?

The right treatment very much depends on you.  If you have tried a particular treatment before and you have enjoyed it then I would go with that first.  Then later you can try another one to see if that helps.  It also depends on if you are looking to receive the treatment for a particular issue. Eg, the Vodder Manual Lymph Drainage has been proven to help reduce lymphoedema (though usually not done during the time you are on treatment from the medical teams).

As to which is the right practitioner, this depends on if you are receiving the treatment privately or if you are doing this at the cancer support clinic.  If you are doing this privately then ensure that your practitioner is qualified not only in the particular therapy but also in cancer care.  The practitioner should have done a specialised cancer care course in their field for each therapy they offer.  Also, make sure that they are fully insured and registered to work on anyone who currently has cancer, or has had cancer in the past.

The reasons for this is to ensure that the treatments they offer are the best for you and your personal circumstances.  Most treatments need to be adapted for use during cancer treatment or if there's been surgery particularly for lymph node removal.

For example, Manual Lymph drainage treatments have been researched and proven to work well for lymphoedema post cancer treatments.  However, the training for this is highly specialised and is not generally taught on initial Manual Lymph Drainage courses.  The practitioner needs to take an advanced level to be qualified and insured to treat anyone with active cancer or lymph node removal. The UK site MLD UK (see link below) has a good list of qualified practitioners.

Many of the NHS and private hospitals offer complementary therapies as part of their clinic.  This is often run by Macmillan Cancer Care or Breast Cancer Care.  The practitioners here will have been vetted thoroughly before being allowed to work at the clinic.  There treatments are often free or at a highly subsidised rate.

Some people build a strong relationship with their practitioner who they feel comfortable discussing all aspects of their journey, often things they have not discussed with anyone else.  In this way the relationship between both is an individual one too.



How effective are the treatments?

There is very little in the way of research to show how effective the treatments are, and it can be a very personalised thing.

However, many people have said that they feel the treatments offer them some or all of the following:

  • Feel more in control, both with the disease and in general
  • Assist in reducing side effects of medical treatments
  • Overall wellbeing
  • Keep anxiety and stress at lower levels
  • Help reduce some body aches and pains





Read about one lady's experience here: .

Other feedback from The Haven here:



There is some more research being undertaken to show the effects of Complementary Therapies and cancer care, but the results may be some way off from being published.

The National Institute for Health Research have set up a Complementary Therapies Development group to work on further research into this area (

Cancer Research UK also have a database that can be used to search for current or past trials


I would always suggest informing your oncologist/consultant about any complementary therapies that you decide to receive alongside your medical treatments so that they can keep your medical records updated.


Advice and information:


Breast Cancer Blogs

There are also a number of people on Twitter tweeting about their experiences.


All content within Calm and Clear Complementary Therapies® is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. Calm and Clear Complementary Therapies® and Rima Shah are not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a user based on the content of the Calm and Clear Complementary Therapies® website or blog. Calm and Clear Complementary Therapies® is not liable for the contents of any external internet sites listed, nor does it endorse any commercial product or service mentioned or advised on any of the sites. for more information. Always consult your own GP if you’re in any way concerned about your health.

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