• We are sorry, but NCBI web applications do not support your browser and may not function properly. More information
Logo of bmjLink to Publisher's site
BMJ. Jul 9, 1994; 309(6947): 86–89.
PMCID: PMC2540590

Pursuit and practice of complementary therapies by cancer patients receiving conventional treatment.


OBJECTIVES--To determine what proportion of oncology patients receiving conventional medical treatment also use complementary treatments; to assess which complementary treatments are the most popular and to assess patients' motivation for using them; to evaluate associated advantages and risks. DESIGN--Postal screening questionnaire followed by semistructured interview. SETTING--Two hospitals in inner London. SUBJECTS--600 unselected oncology patients aged 18 or over who had known their diagnosis of cancer for at least three months. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Prevalence and demography of use of complementary therapies; patients' motivation and expectations of complementary therapies; areas of satisfaction and dissatisfaction associated with conventional and complementary therapies. RESULTS--415 (69%) patients returned the questionnaire. 16% had used complementary therapies. The most popular were healing, relaxation, visualisation, diets, homoeopathy, vitamins, herbalism, and the Bristol approach. Patients using complementary therapies tended to be younger, of higher social class, and female. Three quarters used two or more therapies. Therapies were mostly used for anticipated antitumour effect. Ill effects of diets and herb treatments were described. Satisfaction with both conventional and complementary therapies was high, although diets often caused difficulties. Patients using complementary therapies were less satisfied with conventional treatments, largely because of side effects and lack of hope of cure. Benefits of complementary therapies were mainly psychological. CONCLUSIONS--A sizeable percentage of patients receiving conventional treatments for cancer also use complementary therapies. Patient satisfaction with complementary therapies, other than dietary therapies, was high even without the hoped for anticancer effect. Patients reported psychological benefits such as hope and optimism.

Full text

Full text is available as a scanned copy of the original print version. Get a printable copy (PDF file) of the complete article (939K), or click on a page image below to browse page by page. Links to PubMed are also available for Selected References.

Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Lerner IJ. The whys of cancer quackery. Cancer. 1984 Feb 1;53(3 Suppl):815–819. [PubMed]
  • Caffeine and babies. BMJ. 1989 Jul 8;299(6691):121–121. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Cassileth BR, Lusk EJ, Strouse TB, Bodenheimer BJ. Contemporary unorthodox treatments in cancer medicine. A study of patients, treatments, and practitioners. Ann Intern Med. 1984 Jul;101(1):105–112. [PubMed]
  • Dickson AC, Dodd MJ, Carrieri V, Levenson H. Comparison of a cancer-specific locus of control and the multidimensional health locus of control scales in chemotherapy patients. Oncol Nurs Forum. 1985 May-Jun;12(3):49–54. [PubMed]
  • Zigmond AS, Snaith RP. The hospital anxiety and depression scale. Acta Psychiatr Scand. 1983 Jun;67(6):361–370. [PubMed]
  • Thomas KJ, Carr J, Westlake L, Williams BT. Use of non-orthodox and conventional health care in Great Britain. BMJ. 1991 Jan 26;302(6770):207–210. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Bristol Cancer Help Centre. Lancet. 1990 Nov 10;336(8724):1185–1188. [PubMed]
  • Slevin ML, Stubbs L, Plant HJ, Wilson P, Gregory WM, Armes PJ, Downer SM. Attitudes to chemotherapy: comparing views of patients with cancer with those of doctors, nurses, and general public. BMJ. 1990 Jun 2;300(6737):1458–1460. [PMC free article] [PubMed]

Articles from BMJ : British Medical Journal are provided here courtesy of BMJ Group


Related citations in PubMed

See reviews...See all...

Cited by other articles in PMC

See all...


  • PubMed
    PubMed citations for these articles

Recent Activity

Your browsing activity is empty.

Activity recording is turned off.

Turn recording back on

See more...