Cancer patients hide their use of complementary and alternative treatments from their doctors


Although almost half (48 percent) of cancer patients treated with chemotherapy and radiation are using at least one type of complementary and alternative medical therapy (CAM) treatment, a majority of them (75 percent) don't tell their doctor, even while receiving conventional cancer treatment, according to a study presented October 16, 2005, at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology's 47th Annual Meeting in Denver.

The study shows that CAM use is almost twice as prevalent among patients treated by only chemotherapy (65 percent), compared to those treated by only radiation (35 percent). Most (88 percent) of patients are satisfied with using CAM as a cost-effective method of cancer treatment and use an average of two CAM treatments, with vitamin, herbal and botanical supplements being the most popular therapies. Only a little more than a third (36 percent) of them say their doctors were an important source of information on CAM.

"This study shows the significant lack of communication between patients and their doctors about the use of complementary and alternative medicines, like vitamins and herbs," said Neha Vapiwala, M.D., lead author of the study and a radiation oncologist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. "It's important for doctors to know about their patients' CAM use and to understand patients' reasons for using it, so that they can better tailor and optimize treatment regimens and improve patient quality of life during radiation and/or chemotherapy."

The study asked 487 cancer patients at a clinic and over the Internet about their CAM use from July to September, 2004.

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The study, "Initiation of Complementary and Alternative Medical Therapies (CAM) by Cancer Patients (Pts) During Radiation Therapy (RT)," will be available for poster viewing starting at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, October 16, 2005. If you would like a copy of the abstract or you would like to speak to the lead author of the study, Neha Vapiwala, M.D., please call Beth Bukata or Nick Lashinsky October 16-20 in the ASTRO Press Room at the Colorado Convention Center at 303-288-8454 or 303-228-8455. You may also e-mail them at [email protected] or [email protected].

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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