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Patients with advanced cancer and their usage of complementary and alternative medicine

Abstract

Purpose

A total of 40 % of cancer patients use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), and patients with advanced cancer use CAM more often than others. The aim of our study was to gather data on CAM use and reasons to use CAM of patients with advanced cancer being admitted for residential palliative care and their relatives.

Methods

Structured interviews were carried out with 25 patients and 25 relatives of those patients, respectively, of a German comprehensive cancer center based on a standardized questionnaire of the working group Prevention and Integrative Oncology of the German Cancer Society.

Results

Median age of patients was 64.5 years (relatives: 53.5); 15 patients were male and 10 were female (relatives: 7 and 18). In total, 40 % of all patients used some CAM method at the time of the study, supplements and prayer being the most frequent method. Main reasons for using CAM were to sustain one’s own strength (52 % for patients and 72 % for relatives) and to be able to do something by oneself (36 and 40 %). Sources of information were television/radio (48 and 28 %) and family/friends (40 and 48 %). Relatives also use the Internet (40 %).

Conclusions

Also for patients in palliative care and their relatives, CAM is important. Reasons for using CAM are similar for patients with less advanced cancer. As most patients do not discuss using CAM with their physician, side effects and interactions of biologically based treatments may be dangerous. The desire of patients to act autonomously should be encouraged. Yet, physicians should ensure safe administration of complementary methods by including CAM in their communication with the patient and the family.

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Conflict of interest

We declare that we have no conflict of interest.

Author information

Correspondence to Jutta Hübner.

Additional information

This study was conducted on behalf of PRIO (Working group prevention and integrative oncology of the German Cancer Society).

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Paul, M., Davey, B., Senf, B. et al. Patients with advanced cancer and their usage of complementary and alternative medicine. J Cancer Res Clin Oncol 139, 1515–1522 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00432-013-1460-y

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Keywords

  • Complementary and alternative medicine
  • Palliative care
  • Cancer
  • Source of information
  • Lay concepts of etiology