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Survivorship Guide for Bone Marrow/Stem Cell Transplant
Coping with Late Effects

Complementary and Alternative Medicine
(CAM)/Integrative Medicine

Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) refers to healing practices that fall outside of the conventional model of medicine that is practiced in most U.S. hospitals. CAM includes practices such as Traditional Chinese Medicine, yoga, and meditation that have been used for thousands of years, as well as newer practices such as homeopathy, guided imagery, and nutritional supplements.

There are so many different types of complementary and alternative medicines that it is hard to generalize about their effectiveness. Many types of CAM have never been studied scientifically, and there is no data on their effectiveness, or, in some cases, there is evidence that certain alternative medicines can be harmful. However, there is a growing body of research showing that many forms of CAM are effective at treating certain conditions. Integrative medicine combines conventional treatment with CAM. A growing number of doctors and hospitals are adding CAM practices, such as meditation, acupuncture, guided imagery, and biofeedback into their practice. The settings where treatment includes both conventional and CAM are often referred to as Integrative Care Centers. If you are interested in learning more about CAM, talk to your doctor, or visit the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) website, www.nccam.nih.gov.

Some types of CAM are not intended as a form of medicine but are primarily used to affect mood, bring about relaxation, and/or change body alignment and energy. Since our minds and bodies are connected, changes in our state of mind can affect our physical well-being and vice versa. An easy way to understand the mind-body connection is to think of the powerful physiological effect that a simple mental image can have on our body. Just as imagining or remembering a scary situation can raise blood pressure, imagining a peaceful, relaxed setting can activate a strong relaxation response that brings blood to the fingertips and reduces heart rate, blood pressure, and anxiety.

Many survivors use CAM modalities to improve their sense of well-being, reduce anxiety, or improve physical fitness.

Nothing relaxes me as completely as going to my acupuncturist. Whenever I feel I am under the weather and getting a cold, I make an appointment to see him. I feel like I gain a whole night’s sleep in the short hour that I see him and have avoided many full-blown colds.

I practice a yogic breath called Pranayama, which has been very helpful. I also do acupuncture and meditate. I am not on any special diet, but I eat well and take vitamin supplements.

I have tried many different alternative forms of care to treat my GVHD – acupuncture, biofeedback, meditation, and guided imagery, and none has been very effective. However, they have been useful in improving my general health and sense of well-being.

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