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N Z Med J. 2003 Jan 24;116(1168):U296.

The use of complementary/alternative medicine by cancer patients in a New Zealand regional cancer treatment centre.

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Guy's Hospital, London, United Kingdom.



To study the prevalence and patterns of complementary/alternative medicine (CAM) use in cancer patients managed by a New Zealand regional cancer treatment centre.


A self-administered anonymous questionnaire was used to survey patients attending outpatient clinics of the MidCentral Regional Cancer Treatment Service. Questions addressed patient demographics, cancer diagnosis and conventional treatments received. CAM users were asked to identify types of therapies used, reasons for use, perceived effectiveness, safety and financial cost.


Questionnaires were distributed to 350 patients, with 200 assessable replies received. Overall, 49% of patients in this group used CAM, with vitamins, antioxidants, alternative diets, and herbal therapies the most commonly used agents and usage was more common in younger patients. CAM was used by 47% to improve quality of life and by 30% in the hope of a cure of their cancer. Of CAM users, 71% believed these therapies had been helpful in the management of their cancer, and 89% felt they were safe. Only 41% of users had discussed CAM with their oncologist and almost one third had started such therapies before being seen at the Cancer Treatment Centre. The median cost of CAM was NZ$55/month.


CAM is commonly used by New Zealand cancer patients, who often use multiple therapies, not only during conventional treatment, but also without consultation with their oncologist. This lack of open communication about CAM between patients and medical staff may prevent identification not only of potential harmful effects, but also of positive and negative drug interactions between CAM and conventional therapies.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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