Complementary therapies

What are they?

Complementary therapies are treatments or practices, which are used in conjunction with conventional mainstream Western medicine, to support overall care. Complementary therapies could be used at all stages of coping with a brain tumour, i.e. at diagnosis, during and after medical treatment or to assist in the control of symptoms. Supporting mainstream conventional medical treatments, complementary therapies may improve your quality of life, feelings of well-being and generally cope with the experience of having a brain tumour.

However, in general, the use of complementary therapies in those with brain tumours has not been researched or proven in any scientific way. Claims regarding effectiveness are merely via word of mouth and thus anecdotal. Therefore, whether you should use a particular complementary therapy or not is entirely up to you and should always be an individual decision.

Are they for me?

As an individual with a brain tumour, you need to assess whether or not a complementary therapy is useful or not in your overall care. It is advisable to consult with your doctor if you intend using complementary therapy so any physical changes can then be monitored. Consulting with your doctor does not mean asking his or her permission to use complementary therapies but is merely informing them of your actions, when they are monitoring your overall care and treatment.


Using a complementary therapy, which has not been scientifically tested or medically proven in treating brain tumours, could potentially be just as harmful as it could be useful. Side effects and complications need to be monitored so medical diagnosis or effective treatment are not prevented or hindered. It is not accepted that any complementary therapy will reverse the process of a brain tumour or alter the chance of recurrence.

The range of complementary therapies is varied and you are advised to make enquires to the organisations listed here. When choosing a complementary therapist or organisation, make sure they are affiliated to a recognised organisation and have recognised qualifications. Those offering complementary therapies should be assisting you in maintaining good health and be willing to work in collaboration with your conventional medical treatment.

Brain Tumour Support does not endorse, promote or recommend any particular complementary therapy for those with brain tumours.

Examples of complementary therapies

  • Aromatherapy

  • Reflexology

  • Acupuncture

  • Art therapy

  • Biofeedback

  • Massage therapy

  • Hypnotherapy

  • Counselling

  • Meditation

  • Music therapy

  • Prayer, spiritual practices

  • T’ai chi

  • Yoga

Complementary refers to supportive methods that are used to complement, or add to, mainstream treatments. Complementary methods are not given to cure disease, rather they may help control symptoms and improve well-being. But if you are thinking about using any complementary therapy, look first at the questions below.

Questions to ask

  • What claims are made for the treatment? Is it to cure your brain tumour, or to enable the evidence-based treatment to work better or to relieve your symptoms or side effects?

  • What are the credentials of those supporting the treatment? Are they registered experts in cancer treatment? Have they published their findings?

  • How is the method promoted? Is it promoted only in books, Internet, magazines or TV, rather than in scientific journals?

  • What are the costs of the therapy?

Signs of therapies to avoid

Use the checklist below to spot those approaches that might be open to question. If the answer is yes to any one question below, talk to your doctor or nurse before moving ahead.

  • Is the treatment based on an unproven theory?

  • Does the treatment promise a cure for all cancers?

  • Are you told not to use conventional medical treatment?

  • Is the therapy a “secret” that only certain providers can give?

  • Do you have to travel outside the UK to get access to this complementary therapy?

  • Does the promoter attack medical treatment for brain tumours?

Organisations for advice

Penny Brohn Cancer Care
Chapel Pill Lane
BS20 0HH

Tel : 01275 370100

British Holistic Medical Association 


5 Sea Lane Close

East Preston

West Sussex

BN16 1NQ

Tel : 01273 725951

Email :

Institute For Complementary Medicine


32-36 Loman Street



Tel: 0207 922 7980

Email :