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Healing Tool Series: CAM-Cancer Summaries

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“Healing Tools” are a collection of evidence-based resources to help providers and patients use integrative health approaches to improve health and wellbeing.

CAM-Cancer Summaries:

Evidence-based information about the effectiveness and safety of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in preventing and treating cancer

This tool is primarily for:

  • Providers
  • Patients and their family members may also find the summaries useful.

 This tool was created by:

  • Collaboration of 14 cancer organizations from around the world (see more below)


What is this tool for?

Many patients with cancer are using complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), sometimes without the knowledge of their providers or good information about the evidence for their safety and effectiveness.

Providers need the best available evidence to:

  • Discuss CAM approaches with their patients and
  • Help patients make informed decisions about the use of CAM along with their conventional cancer care.

Research on CAM

The CAM-Cancer summaries cover nearly 70 CAM approaches to preventing and treating cancer, including palliative care.  They:

  • Describe each approach
  • Synthesize the research
  • Summarize the key findings

The summaries are listed in alphabetical order and by type of approach (intervention). The types of approaches are:

  • Diet
  • Herbs
  • Manipulative/body-based treatment
  • Mind-body interventions
  • Other types of CAM

Each summary is also available as a PDF.

How can providers use this tool?

Many CAM approaches are not covered in medical school. Providers can:

  • Review CAM-Cancer summaries when patients ask about CAM approaches
  • Refer patients to CAM-Cancer summaries on the approaches they ask about
  • Discuss the safety, effectiveness and appropriateness of these approaches with patients, and whether they can be integrated into their treatment plan or should be avoided

How does this contribute to an integrative approach?

Providers who combine conventional medicine, self-care, and complementary and alternative medicine can help patients with cancer achieve optimal healing and health, reduce side effects from treatment and increase wellbeing. CAM is becoming increasingly important to patients with cancer and accepted in cancer care, but it must be properly integrated with conventional treatment.

Providers can use CAM-Cancer summaries to safely integrate appropriate CAM approaches into cancer care and to quickly identify the evidence-base for CAM for cancer..

Patients and their family members can also use CAM-Cancer summaries to learn about the evidence for using CAM as part of cancer treatment.

This resource complements other evidence-based information sources for CAM for cancer, such as the National Cancer Institute’s PDQ for CAM.

But CAM-Cancer covers more topics and provides shorter summaries than the PDQ.

What does the evidence say about this tool?

Each summary has unbiased, critically-appraised evidence about the effectiveness and safety of the CAM approach, based on:

  • Literature searches in Medline and the Cochrane Library
  • Searches for general background and safety information

The evidence summaries draw from:

  • Systematic reviews and meta-analyses
  • Narrative reviews
  • Controlled clinical trials
  • Uncontrolled clinical trials, if no or few controlled clinical trials are available
  • Case series/studies, if no reviews or controlled clinical trials are available

Two independent reviewers and two editors at the CAM-Cancer Collaboration review each summary. The collaboration’s executive committee approves each summary.

The site takes no commercial funding in order to keep the information free from conflict of interest.

Example: Acupuncture in cancer pain

Specific evidence for each summary varies. For example, the “Acupuncture in cancer pain” summary draws from a systematic review including 15 randomized controlled trials, a Cochrane review, and the NCI PDQ summary on acupuncture in cancer. For many CAM treatments, less evidence is available.

What are the drawbacks to using this tool?

This resource does not cover biological mechanisms and provides little information about how these practices are regulated or the products are produced. Each summary is updated every two years so some of the information may be out-of-date.

A few CAM practices popular in the United States, but not elsewhere in the world, are not covered. For these see the NCI PDQ CAM site.


Some of the CAM approaches covered in the summaries may not be available or widely available.


Some types of CAM can interfere with conventional cancer treatment. Talk to your doctor before using CAM.

Who created this tool?

CAM-Cancer is a non-profit web resource for providers for evidence-based information about CAM for cancer. An international team of experts in CAM and/or cancer, called the CAM-Cancer Collaboration, produces the summaries.

The CAM-Cancer Collaboration was started and is supported by the National Research Center in Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NAFKAM), UiT The Arctic, University of Norway, and other organizations. The collaboration includes 14 cancer organizations from around the world.

We recommend that providers and patients also consult the National Cancer Institute’s PDQ CAM summaries.



At Healing Works Foundation, we believe that achieving optimal health and wellbeing requires an integrative health approach—one that combines and coordinates conventional medicine, self-care, and complementary and alternative medicine.

Translating Evidence into Action

The goal of these summaries is to help providers and patients learn about and access evidence-based integrative health tools.


Healing Works Foundation is a nonprofit organization and does not profit from any of the tools featured in these summaries.

Patients: Contact your provider before starting any new health program.  Show him/her these resources.

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