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Hospital  >  Care Programs  >  Odette Cancer Program  >  Patient & family education  >  Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)

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Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is the term used for products and practices that are not part of the standard care for cancer (chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery). Many CAM therapies can affect your cancer treatment. Please talk to your health care team if you use or want to use CAM therapies.

Complementary therapies are used together with cancer treatments. Alternative therapies are used instead of cancer treatments.

There are many types of CAM therapies. Listed are some of the more common ones.

  • Acupuncture
  • Guided imagery
  • Aromatherapy
  • Hypnosis
  • Art therapy
  • Massage therapy
  • Ayurveda
  • Meditation
  • Biofeedback
  • Music therapy
  • Chiropractic therapy
  • Tai chi
  • Energy therapies
  • Yoga
  • Aboriginal traditional healing
  • Mind-body medicine
  • Medical marijuana and cannabinoids
  • Traditional Chinese herbal remedies
  • Naturopathic medicine


websitesWhat you should know before you use a CAM during treatment for cancer

Please talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before you use complementary or alternative therapies or medicines.

  • Your health care team can help you make the decision.
  • Look for CAM information that is reliable and comes from trusted sources (please see pages 4-7). The PEARL, your patient education learning centre (located on T-wing, 1st floor, next to the main reception desk) can help you find more information and the pharmacy team (located on T-wing, 1st floor) can help you understand it.
  • Ask yourself what health benefits you want from taking CAM therapies.
  • Ask the CAM provider about their skill level.
  • Find out about possible side effects. The pharmacy team (located on T-wing, 1st floor) can help you with this.
  • Find out how much the therapy or medicine will cost.
  • Many CAM therapies can affect your cancer treatment. Please be open and honest with everyone in your health care team if you use or you are thinking about using any CAM therapies.

To read more, please go to (click on Cancer information → Diagnosis and treatment → Complementary therapies).

websitesNatural and herbal products

Some people choose to take natural and herbal products with their cancer treatment. This section will answer common questions about taking natural and herbal products when you have cancer.

What are natural and herbal products?

  • Herbal and plant remedies
  • Homeopathic medicines
  • Vitamins and minerals

What are the possible risks in taking them?

  • The exact amount of the natural or herbal medicine in the product may not be known.  
  • They may stop your cancer treatment (chemotherapy or radiation) from working properly.
  • They may have other unsafe substances in them because natural and herbal products do not go through the same testing as other medicines.  
  • They may make the symptoms and side effects of chemotherapy or radiation worse.

Helpful Reminders:

  • Make a list of all the medicines you take including prescription medicines, vitamins, herbal and natural products (including herbal teas), and supplements.
  • Keep this list with you at all times in case of emergency. 


videosVideos and podcasts

classes Online classes

Complementary Medicine Education & Outcomes Program


Complementary Therapies (Canadian Cancer Society)

  • Please go to or drop by the PEARL (T-wing, 1st floor, by main reception) at Odette Cancer Centre to pick one up.

Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) & Cancer Resources in Ontario

CAM and Cancer in Canada Booklet

Please go to



Odette Cancer Centre Pharmacy

Telephone: 416.480.4671
Location: T-wing, first floor
Visit with one of our pharmacists who will go over all of your medications with you and help figure out if natural health products are safe to take with your chemotherapy and other medicines.

Odette Patient & Family Support

Telephone: 416.480.4623
Location: TG-230
(T-wing, ground floor)
Free services to help you manage stress, worry, financial concerns, changes in health, and daily activities.

Odette Nutrition Resource Centre

Telephone: 416.480.3438
Location: Odette Cancer Centre, T-wing, ground floor, TG-261 (across from Druxy's)
A free drop-in service for you to meet with Clinical Nutrition staff that can review your diet and answer any questions or concerns about nutrition.

Sunnybrook Palliative Care Clinic

Ask your doctor for a referral
A team of health care professionals that work together to help you manage your symptoms, look for community supports, help with decision-making, and navigate advanced care planning.

Canadian Cancer Society
Toll-free: 1.888.939.3333
Free services that includes
peer support, support groups, online communities, a cancer information telephone line, and the Wheels of Hope Transportation Service.

Cancer Chat Canada
Professionally-led online support groups for people affected by Cancer.


While this information may be useful, it is intended for educational purposes only. Please continue to ask your health care team if you have questions or concerns. For any other inquiries, please contact us at



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