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Complementary therapists usually focus on you as a whole person, both your physical and emotional health – not just the part of your body that is affected by cancer. Complementary therapies are generally safe to use in combination with your medical treatment for cancer.

It is important to understand the difference between a complementary therapy and an alternative therapy. See the frequently asked questions on our Making decisions about cancer treatments page for more information.

Further information can be found in the Cancer Council publication Understanding Complementary Therapies.

Potential benefits of complementary therapies

  • Improve your quality of life and improve your general feeling of wellbeing.
  • Alleviate some of the symptoms associated with your cancer and the side effects of cancer treatment.

Complementary therapy programs available

We offer a range of free complementary therapies to cancer patients and their families.

Program and choice of therapies offered are guided by evidence-based best practice and research. The therapies offered have demonstrated safety for use with people affected by cancer. Protocols and Information Sheets are available to people affected by cancer who wish to access a particular therapy.

Our complementary therapy sessions are provided by qualified therapists who volunteer their time. The therapies are provided to improve your wellbeing when you are undergoing cancer treatment or recovering from cancer. Many people receiving palliative care also benefit from our complementary therapy program.

Below you will find more information about the different types of complementary therapy we offer. To find out if there is complementary therapy available near you please contact our 13 11 20 Cancer Information and Support Line.

A form of foot and hand massage, based on the belief that certain points on the feet and hands correspond to the body’s internal organs and systems, like a map. The principle of Reflexology is that through pressure on these reflex points, it stimulates the body to work toward better health.

Evidence: Clinical trials have shown that reflexology reduces pain and anxiety and helps improve quality of life, particularly for those receiving palliative care.

Massage involves moving muscles and rubbing or stroking soft tissues of the body to release both muscular and emotional tension.

Evidence: Many scientific studies have shown that massage can reduce pain, fatigue, anxiety, depression and nausea, particularly in patients with cancer who have had chemotherapy and surgery.

Reiki is a system involving the laying on of hands, developed in Japan in the early 20th century and is believed to have the capacity to bring balance to the physical, body, mind, emotional and spiritual aspects of an individual.

Evidence: Research has found that the effect of Reiki can be demonstrated through changes to a recipient’s biology after they have received Reiki for 30 minutes. Changes to biological markers suggest that Reiki can contribute to a decrease in anxiety and an increase in relaxation.

Anecdotal evidence from recipients is that Reiki provides a deep sense of calm and relaxation, often helping people to relieve perception of pain, reduce nausea, fatigue and insomnia and leading to a perception of improved quality of life.

Beauty therapy is performed by a qualified beauty therapist and involves treating and taking care of an individual’s hair, face or body to improve appearance and generally look after the face, body or hair.

Evidence: Research indicates that beauty therapy can reduce the impact of cancer on individuals through contributing to assisting with appearance related concerns and nurturing the individual.