What is lymphoma?

Lymphomas are blood cancers that develop in the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is part of the immune system. It helps your body fight off infection.

Symptoms of lymphoma include:

  • swelling of the lymph nodes, in the neck, armpit, or groin
  • enlarged tonsils, liver, or spleen
  • fever
  • unexplained weight loss
  • sweating
  • chills
  • lack of energy
  • itching over several weeks

Common treatments for lymphoma include radiation and chemotherapy. However, many people are now considering complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). This refers to treatments or therapies that aren’t routinely included in conventional, Western medicine. Common CAM treatments include acupuncture, stress relief, and ginger.

Complementary treatments won’t cure lymphoma, and you shouldn’t postpone conventional treatments to pursue CAM. However, you can use CAM along with traditional treatments to control symptoms of lymphoma.

There’s no solid evidence that alternative therapies can treat lymphoma, but many people claim that it helps relieve symptoms. Always talk to your doctor before making any changes to your treatment plan.

Read more: What do you want to know about lymphoma? »

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), 30 percent of American adults and 12 percent of American children use healthcare approaches outside of conventional, Western medicine. This includes:

  • dietary supplements other than vitamins and minerals
  • yoga, tai chi, or qi gong
  • chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation

Today, Americans are looking to CAM more and more. But some CAM options can interfere with traditional treatment. Before you start a CAM treatment, you should talk to your doctor. It’s also important to choose a CAM practitioner carefully. Consider asking for recommendations from your doctor or hospital.

Several professional organizations certify CAM practitioners. It’s best to work with a certified or licensed professional, when possible. Certification implies that a practitioner has received specific training and has met certain acceptable standards for safe and competent practice.

License requirements vary by state. CAM services that often are regulated include:

  • acupuncture
  • chiropractic manipulation
  • massage therapy
  • naturopathy

CAM therapies shouldn’t be used solely to treat cancer, but they may be helpful in reducing symptoms. Several common CAM treatments are described below.


Acupuncture is a type of traditional Chinese medicine that involves inserting small needles into points throughout your body. This is said to unblock energy, or qi, realigning energy pathways. Acupuncture may reduce vomiting caused by chemotherapy and may also reduce pain.

Stress relief

A number of CAM techniques have been shown to reduce stress and pain associated with cancer treatment. They can also help balance your mind and body. Stress-relieving CAM therapies include:

  • massage therapy
  • meditation
  • yoga
  • tai chi
  • hypnosis
  • biofeedback


Ginger is a traditional treatment used for nausea. It has been used for pregnancy-associated nausea. It may also help relieve nausea associated with chemotherapy.

Ginger may be taken in a variety of ways. Some people like eating candied ginger or chewing ginger gum. Others prefer taking the powered, dried rhizome in pill form. Ginger may also be consumed as a beverage.

It’s possible that ginger might interfere with other cancer treatment. If you’re consuming ginger frequently, be sure to tell your doctor.

Alternative medical systems

The National Cancer Institute also recommends these alternative practices that have developed in different cultures to help relieve cancer symptoms:

  • Ayurvedic medicine, from India, which focuses on balancing the mind, body, and spirit
  • Chinese medicine, which is based on the opposing forces yin and yang
  • Homeopathy, which uses small doses of medicines to help the body heal itself
  • Naturopathic medicine, which allows the body to heal itself without the use of substances

Although CAM practices can’t cure cancer by themselves, they can be effective in relieving some cancer symptoms or relieving side effects of cancer treatment. Increasing numbers of Americans are turning to CAM to help treat cancer and many other conditions. But remember: These treatments should be used in addition to traditional cancer treatments, not by themselves. Be sure to talk to your doctor before altering any treatment plan.