Cancer patients and complementary and alternative medicine.





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Complementary and alternative medical therapies have become more common over the past two decades. This emerging field covers numerous treatments including acupuncture, herbal therapies, massage therapies, chiropractic, aromatherapy, and Traditional Chinese Medicine, to name only a few. From an initial stages of development has grown a huge population of individuals whose personal health goals include the concept of preventing disease and staying healthy. While the movement actually started almost a half century ago, the growth has been most significant with the aging of the baby boomer population. Studies show that literally millions of Americans are using complementary and alternative therapies. One such study showed that approximately 3 of every 10 respondents in the pre–baby boom group, 5 of 10 in the baby boom group, and 7 of 10 in the post–baby boom group reported using some type of CAM therapy by the age of 33 years.1

Cancer patients are always looking for new hopes in therapy for their illnesses, including non-traditional treatments. In the October issue of Oncology, researchers determined the prevalence of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use in cancer patients. 100 cancer patients completed a descriptive cross-sectional survey in a South Florida hospital. The average age of the participant was 59 years old; 42 male and 58 female. 80% of the cancer patients reported using some type of CAM, according to the survey. 81% took vitamins, 54% took herbs, 30% used relaxation methods, 20% received massages, and 10% used home remedies. Among the 81% of vitamin users, the top vitamins taken were multivitamins, vitamin C, and vitamin E. Green tea, echinacea, shark cartilage, grapeseed extract, and milk thistle were the most prevalent herbs used. Meditation and deep breathing were also commonly practiced. Concluding, the authors stated that many cancer patients are using CAM. In addition, they urged that health-care professionals become educated about the most widespread complementary and alternative medicines and therapies used.2


1. Ronald C, et al. Long-Term Trends in the Use of Complementary and Alternative Medical Therapies in the United States. Ann Intern Med. Aug 2001;135:262-268.
2. Berenstein BJ, et al. Prevalence of complementary and alternative medicine use in cancer patients. Oncology (Huntingt), 2001 Oct;15(10):1267-72; discussion 1272-8, 1283.