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Patient Educ Couns. 1999 Oct;38(2):101-8.

Complementary therapies: evaluating their effectiveness in cancer.

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  • 1Department of Community Health Sciences, University of Calgary, 3330 Hospital Drive N.W., Calgary, AB T2N 4N1 Canada.


The use of complementary therapies is common among cancer patients. However, a major concern is that very few of these therapies have been appropriately evaluated and, thus, little is known about their safety and efficacy. The gold standard for evaluating cancer treatments is the randomized controlled trial (RCT). However, there are several issues inherent to the nature and practice of complementary therapies that interfere with the straightforward use of RCTs. Alternative approaches are often highly individualized and attempt to respond to patients' needs. They are often holistic, taking into account many facets of a patient's life. Placebo effects and the role of the provider are frequently recognized as an important part of treatment. Outcomes of complementary therapies are often subjective, rather than being more objective outcomes, such as increased survival time. Although it is important to evaluate complementary therapies, it is mandatory that studies be sensitive to these issues and that existing research methods be adjusted and modified for this purpose.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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