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Ann Oncol. 2005 Apr;16(4):655-63. Epub 2005 Feb 2.

Use of complementary and alternative medicine in cancer patients: a European survey.

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  • 1School of Nursing, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK.



The aim of this study was to explore the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in cancer patients across a number of European countries.


A descriptive survey design was developed. Fourteen countries participated in the study and data was collected through a descriptive questionnaire from 956 patients.


Data suggest that CAM is popular among cancer patients with 35.9% using some form of CAM (range among countries 14.8% to 73.1%). A heterogeneous group of 58 therapies were identified as being used. Herbal medicines and remedies were the most commonly used CAM therapies, together with homeopathy, vitamins/minerals, medicinal teas, spiritual therapies and relaxation techniques. Herbal medicine use tripled from use before diagnosis to use since diagnosis with cancer. Multivariate analysis suggested that the profile of the CAM user was that of younger people, female and with higher educational level. The source of information was mainly from friends/family and the media, while physicians and nurses played a small part in providing CAM-related information. The majority used CAM to increase the body's ability to fight cancer or improve physical and emotional well-being, and many seemed to have benefited from using CAM (even though the benefits were not necessarily related to the initial reason for using CAM). Some 4.4% of patients, however, reported side-effects, mostly transient.


It is imperative that health professionals explore the use of CAM with their cancer patients, educate them about potentially beneficial therapies in light of the limited available evidence of effectiveness, and work towards an integrated model of health-care provision.

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