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Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2014 Nov;20(4):197-202. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2014.05.003. Epub 2014 Jul 22.

Complementary and alternative medicine usage in Scottish children and adolescents during cancer treatment.

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Dietetics, Nutrition and Biological Health Sciences, Queen Margaret University, Musselburgh, United Kingdom. Electronic address:
Department of Child Life and Health, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom.
Department of Haematology and Oncology, Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Edinburgh, United Kingdom.
Dietetics, Nutrition and Biological Health Sciences, Queen Margaret University, Musselburgh, United Kingdom.



To determine the prevalence of the use of CAM and spiritual practices in the paediatric oncology population of SE Scotland and to establish both the reasons for their use and the perceived benefits.


A retrospective survey was performed using previously piloted questionnaires. These were distributed to families whose children were <18 years and diagnosed with cancer. Demographic and clinical data were collected, descriptive statistics were used to establish frequencies and univariate associations were established by χ(2) test.


Of 169 families approached, 74 (44%) returned completed questionnaires. 41 (55%) families used CAM and 42 (57%) sought spiritual remedies whilst receiving conventional treatment. Higher socioeconomic status was the only factor associated with CAM usage and the most popular therapies were vitamins and minerals (n = 22; 53%), followed by massage (n = 12; 29%) and fish oils (n = 12; 29%). Most families used CAM to reduce stress and, overall, CAM was perceived to be beneficial.


The high prevalence of CAM usage in this population highlights the need for physicians to enquire routinely about CAM use and warrants high-quality interventional studies to assess safety and efficacy.


The use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) among paediatric patients during cancer treatment is popular worldwide, yet data from the UK are scarce. This study showed that more than half of this Scottish cohort used CAM and that there was an overall positive perception of the effect that these therapies had on the patients. Also, socio-economically advantaged families might be more likely to use CAM in Scotland.


Cancer; Children; Complementary and alternative medicine; Paediatric oncology; Young people

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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