Overview of CAM

Alternative Therapy: Overview of Complementary and Alternative Medicine

What is alternative therapy?

In some cases, doctors will recommend, or patients may request, treatment alternatives that are not considered conventional medicine. Conventional refers to medicine typically practiced by people who have M.D. (medical doctor) or D.O. (doctor of osteopathy) degrees, and who suggest treatments that have been scientifically tested, found to be safe and effective, and approved by the FDA.

Sometimes, however, these doctors may also recommend some nonconventional therapies that may be used to complement, or complete, a treatment plan:

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) defines complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) as a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered part of conventional medicine.

The NCCAM points out that what is considered to be CAM changes continually because once those therapies are proven to be safe and effective, they become incorporated into conventional medicine.

What are the different types of complementary and alternative therapies?

The following are some complementary therapies that may be included in a patient’s treatment plan:

Before considering complementary and alternative therapy

Most complementary and alternative medicine fields are not standardized or controlled by any Western medical guidelines. You should consult your doctor before beginning any complementary or alternative therapy, as some therapies may interfere with standard treatment.

It is important to be an informed health care consumer when considering complementary or alternative medicine. Before starting therapy, you should consider the following:

What warning signs may indicate a fraudulent therapy?

According to the American Cancer Society, it is better to avoid treatment with the following warning signs:

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