Alternative & Integrative Medicine

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Alternative medicine is a term used to define therapies other than conventional* treatments. Integrative medicine is using a combination of both alternative medicine and conventional treatments.


*Conventional medicine generally refers to the mainstream medical care practiced at most hospitals in the US. Standards of care are set by government and regulatory agencies. In conventional medicine, effective cancer treatment is defined as one that causes a tumor to reduce in size or remain stable.



Many alternative therapies seek to treat illness by helping the body to heal itself or to treat the source of disease.



Alternative medicine offers healthcare professionals and patients another way to approach the treatment of illness.



In the US, recent studies show that 50 to 60 percent of cancer patients use some form of alternative medicine (ideally under the supervision of their doctors/treatment teams).



Many alternative medicine techniques are part of complete “systems” of healthcare that began many years before, and/or separate from, the development of conventional medicine. Examples include:

  • Traditional Medicine: These alternative medicine systems often are the healthcare rituals practiced by a given culture (eg, Asian, Indian, African).
  • Homeopathic Medicine: This alternative medicine system is based on the principle that “like cures like.” In other words, the same substance that in very large doses causes the symptom of an illness, in smaller doses may cure it.
  • Naturopathic Medicine: This alternative medicine system views disease as a sign of change in the way the body naturally heals itself. Naturopathic medicine emphasizes health restoration rather than disease treatment.

Learning More

Given how much information about alternative medicine is available, patients are encouraged to learn as much as they can from as many sources as possible. Information about alternative medicine can be found everywhere—in books, on the Internet, from organizations promoting its use, and from friends and family.  


The credentials of the person presenting the information can tell you a lot about whether or not it is valid:

  • Is he/she licensed? (Not all states require licensing or certification of alternative medicine practitioners.)
  • What kind of organization does he/she represent? (A business? A college or university? A nonprofit organization?)
  • What is his/her educational background?
  • What are his/her professional society affiliations?

Your research will help you make educated decisions about your care, should you choose to pursue alternative treatments.


Important Considerations

Be sure to share the information you find with your doctor. Together, you can decide whether a specific alternative medicine therapy is right for you. Also:

  • Avoid alternative medicine practitioners who tell you to forego standard treatment in favor of the therapies they recommend.
  • Be wary of any treatment claiming to have no side effects.
  • Be aware that herbs, vitamins, and minerals have the potential to cause adverse reactions when combined with other medications.
  • Check with your doctor or pharmacist to be sure that any alternative therapies you use (even vitamins) are compatible with your treatment regimen.


It is important to note that the information provided here is basic and does not take the place of professional advice. If you have any questions about how brain tumors are treated, please contact your doctor.