Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 26, Issue 6, pp 2063–2069 | Cite as

Influence of family on expected benefits of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in cancer patients

  • Shelly Latte-NaorEmail author
  • Robert Sidlow
  • Lingyun Sun
  • Qing S. Li
  • Jun J. Mao
Original Article



Cancer patients often use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) based on recommendations from family. However, the relationship between family endorsement of CAM and the patient’s expectation of its benefits has never been quantified.


Between 2010 and 2011, we conducted a cross-sectional survey study among patients with a diagnosis of cancer recruited from thoracic, breast, and gastrointestinal medical oncology clinics at a single academic cancer center. We performed multivariate linear regression analyses to evaluate the relationship between perceived family endorsement of and expected benefits from CAM, adjusting for covariates.


Among the 962 participants, 303 (31.3%) reported family endorsement of CAM use. Younger patients and those who had college or higher education were more likely to report family endorsement (both p < 0.05). Patients with family support had expectation scores that were 15.9 higher than patients without family support (coefficient 15.9, 95% CI 13.5, 18.2, p < 0.001). Participants with family encouragement of CAM use were also more likely to expect CAM to cure their cancer (12 vs. 37%) and prolong their life (24 vs. 61%). These relationships remained highly significant after adjusting for covariates).


Family endorsement of CAM use is strongly associated with patient expectation of its clinical efficacy, including expectations for cure and improved survival. These findings underscore the importance of including family in counseling and education on CAM use in order to achieve realistic patient expectations, maximize benefits, and avoid potential medical adverse effects through herb-drug interactions or rejections of conventional care.


Complementary Alternative CAM Family support Cancer 



The study was supported in part by the MSK Integrative Medicine and Translational Research Grant and by the Byrne Fund of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. This research was also funded in part by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Cancer Center Support Grant P30 CA008748. The funding agencies had no role in the design or conduct of the study.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Integrative Medicine Service, Division of Survivorship and Supportive CareBendheim Center for Integrative Medicine, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer CenterNew YorkUSA

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