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Prev Med. 2001 Nov;33(5):347-54.

Use of alternative medicine by children with cancer in Washington state.

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Cancer Prevention Research Program, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA 98109-1024, USA.



Use of alternative medicine is widespread among adult cancer patients, but considerably less is known about the use of these therapies by pediatric cancer patients. Our objective was to investigate the distribution and patterns of alternative medicine use by children diagnosed with cancer in Washington State.


Pediatric cancer patients (< or =18 years) with first primary neoplasms were identified from the Cancer Surveillance System of western Washington. Telephone interviews were conducted with parents of 75 patients to obtain data on the prevalence and types of alternative medicine used, satisfaction with conventional and alternative medicine, motivations for use of alternative medicine, adverse effects, and costs.


Seventy-three percent of patients used at least one alternative treatment or therapy. Twenty-one percent of patients consulted an alternative provider (e.g., acupuncturist, naturopathic doctor), and insurance companies covered 75% of these costs. Twenty-eight percent used high-dose dietary supplements such as vitamins C or E, and 35% used herbal preparations. Although use of alternative medicine was associated with parental dissatisfaction with their child's physician (P = 0.02), no patient used alternative medicine as a substitute for standard medical care. Most patients used alternative medicine to cope with disease symptoms or the side effects of the medical treatments.


Pediatric oncology patients use alternative treatments as adjuncts to conventional care. Both researchers and health care providers should remain informed about the benefits and adverse effects of alternative therapies in order to discuss treatment options with patients and their families and to monitor treatment efficacy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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