Skip to main content

Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Home

What is Complementary and Alternative Medicine?

Many Americans use medical treatments that are not part of mainstream medicine. When you are using these types of care, it may be called complementary, integrative, or alternative medicine. This is often referred to as CAM.

  • Complementary medicine is used together with mainstream medical care. An example is using acupuncture to help with side effects of cancer treatment.
  • Integrative medicine is when health care providers and facilities offer both complementary and mainstream medical care.
  • Alternative medicine is used instead of mainstream medical care.

The claims that non-mainstream practitioners make can sound promising. However, researchers do not know how safe many of these treatments are or how well they work. Studies are underway to determine the safety and usefulness of many of these practices.

To minimize the health risks of a non-mainstream treatment

  • Discuss it with your doctor. It might have side effects or interact with other medicines.
  • Find out what the research says about it
  • Choose practitioners carefully
  • Tell all of your doctors and practitioners about all of the different types of treatments you use

Since complementary and alternative medicine can encompass a wide range of practices, this guide will only provide an overview along with tips on how to evaluate CAM. If you would like assistance doing research on a specific CAM practice, please visit the Cancer Resource Library and a staff member would be happy to assist you. You can also reach us at (805) 879-5648 or

Source: MedlinePlus - Complementary and Integrative Medicine 

Helpful Websites

Books at the Cancer Resource Library

Resources provided by the Cancer Resource Library are for informational purposes only. The information in these materials may or may not apply to your specific condition, and should not be construed as medical advice. We strongly encourage you to consult your healthcare provider to review anything you learn through these resources.

Ridley-Tree Cancer Center provides comprehensive cancer treatment and support programs for patients and families. We are recognized for medical excellence, a strong clinical research program, and a multidisciplinary approach to cancer prevention.

Cancer Resource Library | 540 West Pueblo Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93105 | (805) 563-5807 | |