On This Page:
- What Is Integrative, Complementary or Alternative Medicine (ICAM)?
- Types of ICAM Therapies
- How Do I Get ICAM?
- How Much Does ICAM Cost?
- Safety and ICAM
- Questions to Ask Your Healthcare Team About ICAM
- Integrative, Complementary and Alternative Medicine Video
What Is Integrative, Complementary or Alternative Medicine (ICAM)?
Integrative, complementary or alternative medicine (ICAM) are therapies outside of standard medical care.
Integrative medicine is a coordinated approach using both conventional and complementary medicine for treatment. This is done through the same treatment center or system. To be considered integrative medicine, the approach must have shown significant effectiveness and safety when combined with conventional medicine. An example is a patient who gets acupuncture to lessen nausea and pain from chemotherapy.
Complementary medicine is used with conventional medicine. An example is a patient who gets massage from a professional familiar working with cancer patients.
Alternative medicine is used in place of conventional medicine. An example is a patient who uses a certain diet to try to treat the cancer instead of having surgery, chemotherapy or radiation.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate ICAM therapies. Though not a proven treatment, evidence suggests that some of these approaches may help control symptoms and side effects.
Approaches doctors often use with conventional medicine for pancreatic cancer patients include:
- Acupuncture has been shown in some studies to relieve chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.
- Exercise has been shown to have several beneficial effects for cancer survivors, including maintaining quality of life and weight.
Some ICAM therapies, such as meditation and yoga, can also be helpful for caregivers.
Types of ICAM Therapies
- Dietary supplements
- Special teas
- Massage therapy
- Spiritual healing
- Medical cannabis
Though some of these therapies are widely available, it is important for patients to look for providers who have experience working with people with cancer.
Note: The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network does not recommend nor endorse one type of treatment over another. Before beginning any new ICAM treatment, please discuss it with your doctor.
How Do I Get ICAM?
Many institutions offer integrative and complementary medicine resources. Ask your healthcare team if your treating center has these resources or can help you find them.
There may also be clinical trials studying integrative or complementary medicine.
How Much Does ICAM Cost?
As with any treatment, costs may be different from person to person. Check with the service provider and your insurance company to understand costs. ICAM therapies at a patient’s treating institution are often free or covered by insurance.
Safety and ICAM
ICAM therapies are still related to your health. If you are considering ICAM:
- Always talk to your entire healthcare team about any treatments you consider or receive, including dietary supplements
- Use sources other than a product or its company’s website to research the therapy, any studies on it, possible side effects and possible interactions with your other treatments
- Look for highly qualified, licensed practitioners who have worked with cancer patients
Contact PanCAN Patient Services for credible ICAM resources.
Questions to Ask Your Healthcare Team About ICAM
- How will this therapy help me?
- What are the risks of this therapy?
- How will this therapy interact with my other treatment(s)?
- What are the potential side effects?
- Is this therapy part of a clinical trial? If so, who is sponsoring the trial?
- Will the therapy be covered by my health insurance?
Tell your healthcare team about any medicines you are taking, including ICAM. This will help avoid negative interactions with ongoing treatment.
Integrative, Complementary or Alternative Medicine Video
We’re Here to Help
To learn more about pancreatic cancer treatment – including integrative, complementary or alternative medicine – contact PanCAN Patient Services.
Information reviewed by PanCAN’s Scientific and Medical Advisory Board, who are experts in the field from such institutions as University of Pennsylvania, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Virginia Mason Medical Center and more.