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Cancer: complementary therapies



At Dimbleby Cancer Care, we offer complementary therapies alongside your medical treatment to help support you.

Many patients find these therapies help them to manage symptoms and side effects. They may also help you to relax and sleep better.

None of these therapies are aimed at curing cancer.

Therapies we offer

We provide one-to-one therapy and group therapy sessions. 

One-to-one therapy

  • Massage

    A therapist will gently stroke your back, neck and shoulders or other areas of your body, such as your hands, legs or face. Massage can be given while you are seated, on a massage couch or in bed. It can be given through clothing, or directly in contact with skin using unscented base oils or cream. Massage can help with tension in your muscles, relaxation, and constipation.

  • Aromatherapy

    Clinical aromatherapy uses essential oils (plant extracts).

    Essential oils have therapeutic properties and their smell can be uplifting or calming. They can be blended with vegetable oils to give a gentle aromatic massage, or used for inhalation. The therapist works together with the patient to make up a bespoke blend.

  • Reflexology

    Reflexology involves massage to areas around the feet or hands. These areas are thought to link to different parts of the body.

    During a treatment, the reflexologist uses gentle techniques to stimulate the reflexes and nerve endings, aiming to help with stress and tension in your body as a whole.

  • Reiki

    Reiki was developed in Japan as a practice of energy work and therapeutic touch to rebalance the body, mind and spirit.

    The therapist places their hands on or over the body in a sequence of positions with the aim of encouraging relaxation and a feeling of wellbeing. Reiki is not offering 'healing' for any condition, nor is it based on any spiritual belief.

Group sessions

  • Acupuncture (Cancer Centre at Guy's only)

    Acupuncture is the insertion of very fine needles at specific points on the body, to stimulate or relax.

    Acupuncture can be used to help with symptoms and side effects of cancer and its treatments. Research also supports the effectiveness of acupuncture for pain relief, as well as reducing sensitivity to stress, and promoting relaxation.

    Read about acupuncture on the NHS website.

  • Relaxation and stress management

    This two-session workshop teaches practical techniques that may help you manage stress, anxiety or sleeplessness. The course will cover

    • what stress is and how it affects us
    • practical ideas for dealing with stress
    • self-massage and guided visualisations
    • breathing and relaxation techniques

    Practical handouts and a relaxation CD are provided for each person to continue using the techniques at home. Courses for patients and carers are held separately throughout the year. Participants are then eligible to sign-up for further short courses on offer at Dimbleby Cancer Care.

  • Complementary therapy short course

    Learn about topics such as the safe use of aromatherapy at home, meditation, mindfulness, coping with tiredness and coping with sleep issues.

How to book a treatment

To book an outpatient appointment or course at:

Outpatient appointments run for about 45 minutes, including a brief consultation with your therapist and the treatment itself.

Patients in the chemotherapy day units can receive shorter treatments depending on availability. Shorter treatments are also offered to patients on our wards. Please ask a member of the team caring for you.

How can complementary therapies help me?

Complementary therapies may help you with:

  • sleeping better
  • relaxing and coping with anxiety
  • aches and pains
  • headaches
  • feeling sick (nausea)
  • higher energy levels
  • caring for yourself
  • managing side effects of treatment
  • your wellbeing

Eligibility and referral process

In order to be able to offer a fair service, the following eligibility criteria apply. 

  • Outpatient appointments are available to patients within 24 months of diagnosis. Pre-booking is required and there can be waiting times.
  • Courses and workshops can be attended within 24 months of diagnosis and there can be waiting times. Please ask reception for more information.
  • Unplanned appointments at Chemotherapy Village are on a drop-in basis and subject to availability. Please enquire at Chemotherapy Village reception or ask a team member to help you sign up on the day.
  • Ward patients can be referred by clinical staff. Please ask your nurse or consultant, or one of our team members.

Who are the complementary therapists?

All our complementary therapists have experience and training in working with cancer patients and are registered with the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council or the Federation of Holistic Therapists

Supply of oxygen

Dimbleby Cancer Care is an outpatient setting and so we cannot provide oxygen or medication to our patients. Please make sure that you bring enough supplies to cover your appointment and your journeys to and from the hospital.