Complementary Therapies

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Acupuncture The National Cancer Institute (NCI) published a white paper on the use of acupuncture in oncology that reported the practice as apparently safe for both adult and pediatric patients with cancer.5 The 2 clinical trials on the use of acupuncture for managing CINV in pediatric patients found it to be effective. Findings included significant decreases in vomiting and antiemetic use.3

Aromatherapy This review included one study on the use of aromatherapy in children undergoing hemotopoeitic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). Among 27 children with anxiety who were undergoing HSCT for several types of cancers, bergamot essential oil actually increased the patients’ anxiety and nausea compared with the control group.

Massage This beneficial and accessible practice can be learned from a licensed massage therapist. Parents can learn proper techniques that will help their children with cancer; it is cost effective and readily available. Adults with cancer also benefit from massage during their cancer treatment.

In conclusion, despite the benefits of many of these practices, Dr Ladas notes that more research on the use of integrative medicine in pediatric patients with cancer is needed.


1. Integrative medicine defined. American Board of Physician Specialties website. Accessed November 14, 2018

2. Complementary, alternative, or integrative health: what’s in a name? National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health website. Accessed November 14, 2018

3. Ladas EJ. Integrative medicine in childhood cancer. J Altern Complement Med. 2018;24(9-10):910-915.

4. Orgel E, Genkinger JM, Aggarwal D, Sung L, Nieder M, Ladas EJ. Association of body mass index and survival in pediatric leukemia: a meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016;103(3):808–817.

5. Zia FZ, Olaku O, Bao T, et al. The National Cancer Institute’s Conference on Acupuncture for Symptom Management in Oncology: state of the science, evidence, and research gaps. J Natl Cancer Inst Monogr. 2017;2017(52).