How to Talk to Your Doctor About Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Are you interested in trying a supplement or therapy that you think may fall under the category of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)? How do you bring up this topic with your doctor?
A Look at CAM
What exactly is CAM? Coming up with a definition is not simple. This is because CAM consists of a range of products, therapies, and systems of healing. Complementary medicine uses non-mainstream methods of treatment in combination with conventional ones. Alternative therapies exclusively use non-mainstream treatments without any conventional ones.
In terms of today's approach to medical care, you may find it easy to locate a doctor who is open to the concept complementary medicine. Over time, many treatments that were considered non-mainstream, such as massage or acupuncture, have become more conventional. In contrast, you may have difficulty finding a doctor that will use alternative therapies without any conventional ones. As it is defined, alternative therapies are rarely recommended by doctors and there is not much evidence to support their use as primary treatment.
Examples of CAM therapies popular in the US include:
Reasons for Starting the Discussion
Why is it so important to make CAM a topic of conversation? While you may think that natural products or therapies are less likely to cause harm, the truth is that there can be dangerous side effects. You need to talk to your doctor about CAM because:
Follow these guidelines to prepare for a discussion about CAM:
Remember, too, that all of the professionals who make up your healthcare team rely on you to share information with them. If you are planning to try a new CAM treatment or have already been using one, do not keep this to yourself. It is in your best interest to speak up.
American Academy of Family Physicians
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
Are you considering complementary and alternative medicine? National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine website. Available at: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/decisions/consideringcam.htm. Updated March 2013. Accessed October 18, 2013.
Tips for talking to your provider about CAM. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://cam.cancer..... Accessed October 18, 2013.
Tips for talking with your health care providers about CAM. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine website. Available at: http://nccam.nih.gov/timetotalk/forpatients.htm. Updated July 31, 2012. Accessed October 18, 2013.
What is complementary and alternative medicine? National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine website. Available at: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/whatiscam. Updated May 2013. Accessed October 18, 2013.
Last reviewed October 2013 by Michael Woods, MD