Other treatments

Often, people with cancer think about using complementary therapy, alternative therapies or traditional healing. Many people feel it gives them a greater sense of control over their illness, and that it's "natural" and low-risk. They just want to try everything that seems promising. For many it is their usual cultural practice (for example, rongoā).

It is important to talk to your doctor about any other therapies you're using or thinking about because they may interfere with hospital treatment.

Complementary therapies

Complementary therapies include massage, meditation, acupuncture and other relaxation methods, which are used alongside medical treatments used by your cancer doctor. They may help you feel better and cope better with your cancer treatment.

Alternative therapies

Alternative therapies include some herbal and dietary therapies, which are used instead of medical treatment. Most have not been tested scientifically. Most that have been tested have not worked, or have been harmful, especially:

  • when used instead of medical treatment
  • if the herbs or other therapies make your medical treatment less effective.

Many unproven therapies are advertised on the internet and elsewhere without any control or regulation.

For more information, we recommend you read the Cancer Society's booklet:

Before using a complementary or alternative remedy or traditional healing, it is recommended you discuss it with your doctor.

Traditional healing

Traditional healing includes rongoā, Pacific medicine, Ayurveda and Chinese medicine.

Traditional Māori healing

Traditional healing has been an integral part of Māori culture since time began. Values, belief systems and teachings from kaumātua and tohunga alike have seen Māori focus on total wellbeing encompassing taha tinana, taha hinengaro, taha wairua and taha whānau (the physical domain, the domain of mind and behaviour, the spiritual domain and the family or social domain).

When Māori are faced with tough decisions on health care or treatment, some opt for traditional healing methods. These can include rongoā Māori, romiromi or mirimiri to name a few customary remedies based on native plants, massage therapy and spiritual healing. If you are thinking about using these treatments, please talk about them with your clinical treatment team. Both parties aim to provide you with the best possible care which has minimal side effects.

If you have difficulty expressing your needs to your treatment providers, find someone to advocate on your behalf so both traditional Māori healers and hospital treatment specialists are able to work together to support you on your lung cancer journey.

Pacific traditional healing

Traditional healing has long been used by Pacific people to help in their recovery. It involves taking a holistic approach to treating the person, where their mental, emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing are looked after together, rather than as separate parts. The treatment offered to each person can vary, depending on their needs.

Medicinal plants and herbs may be used during the treatment process, as well as stones and massage. Pacific people may choose to complement Western treatment with traditional healing.

If you choose to include traditional healing as part of your treatment, please make sure you let your doctors know. They may ask questions about the types of treatments your traditional healer is using. This can be difficult to explain sometimes, especially if it is tricky to work out which English words to use to translate certain Pacific concepts.

If you find it hard to tell your doctor or nurses about the traditional healing methods being used by your healer, it may be helpful for your doctor or nurses to talk directly to your healer or even a close family member who knows what treatments you are receiving.

It may sometimes feel like the doctor and the traditional healer don't need to know about what each other is doing. But it is important they do to make sure the medicines you're taking are working well together and not causing side effects. Traditional plant medicines can sometimes react with Western drugs. Your doctor may also want to make sure that traditional massages are okay to use, particularly around the chest area if you have just had your operation.

It is possible to use both Western and traditional medicine as part of your healing journey. Both have their place and benefits.

A woman and child

Palliative care

Palliative care is caring for people with advanced cancer that focuses on improving quality of life. It is not just about care at the end of life. Palliative care can be offered in a hospital, rest home, at home or in a hospice.

Palliative care is coordinated care provided by specialist doctors, nurses, social workers, spiritual care workers and whānau and Pacific health care.

Palliative care will:

  • help you enjoy the best quality of life you can for as long as possible
  • make sure your physical, practical, emotional and spiritual needs are looked after as well as possible
  • help manage symptoms of lung cancer or treatment
  • help you feel in control of your situation
  • make the time you have as positive as it can be for you and your family.

It is a good idea to ask for palliative care early—being able to deal with problems or issues early rather than waiting until they become difficult to manage can help reduce stress for both you and your family.

You may also be faced with decisions and choices that are confusing or difficult to make during your illness. The palliative care team may be able to explain things to you, and help you find answers.

In general, palliative care services are free. There may be a charge for hire of some equipment for home care.

Palliative care and hospice services are funded by both the government and voluntary donation.