Complementary therapies

What is a complementary therapy?

Complementary therapies are supportive therapies that can be used alongside conventional treatment. They aim to improve general wellbeing, quality of life and can help people to cope with the side effects of cancer. Complementary therapies are used in conjunction with conventional medical treatments and are increasingly considered an important part of supportive care, that helps people address a wide range of challenges beyond medical treatment or cancer.

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 you can refer to the Cancer Council publication Understanding Complementary Therapies

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How might complementary therapies assist me?

  • 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.

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What types of therapies may be complementary to my medical treatment?

  • Mind body techniques – relaxation and meditation, counselling, hypnotherapy, aromatherapy, art therapy, music therapy, support groups, spirituality
  • Body based practices – massages, reflexology, reiki, accupuncture, yoga, tai chi, qi gong
  • Biological based therapies – Naturopathic nutrition, Western herbal medicine, Chinese herbal medicine, Ayurvedic herbal medicine.

Inform your doctor if you are considering taking herbal remedies or supplements as some herbs can interact with chemotherapy of have other side effects.

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Does the Cancer Council WA offer any complementary therapies?

The Cancer Council WA offers a range of free complementary therapies to cancer patients and their families.

Program and choice of therapies offered in the CCWA Complementary Touch Based Therapy Program are guided by evidence-based best practice and research. The therapies offered under the CTBT Program 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.

For information on meditation, yoga and exercise groups on offer please go to the Life Now Page.

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What touch–based complementary therapy programs are available?

Touch based therapies are provided by qualified therapists who volunteer their time to Cancer Council WA. 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 touch based therapy program.

  • Reflexology: 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: 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: 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: 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.


Contact details:

South West - Bunbury Reiki - to book an appointment, please call the Cancer Support Coordinator on (08) 9382 9368
South West - Busselton Reiki and Reflexology - to book an appointment, please call the Cancer Support Coordinator on (08) 9382 8361
CCWA Lodges - (Perth) Massage - for Country Guests staying at our Lodges only. For more information, please call the Cancer Support Coordinator on 9382 9346 or 9382 9347 


Reiki - to book an appointment, please call the Cancer Support Coordinator on (08) 9382 9358 

Peel / Rockingham Reiki, Reflexology & Massage - to book an appointment, please call the Cancer Support Coordinator on (08) 6389 7830

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What websites have information about complementary therapies?

The views expressed on these websites are not necessarily endorsed by Cancer Council WA.

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