Blog | Thursday, October 4, 2012

QD: News Every Day--Alternative medicine prevalent and rising for cancer care

More than seven of 10 cancer patients use complementary or alternative medicine (CAM), and more than half began a remedy post-diagnosis, even though many didn't tell their doctors about it, a study found.

The most common reasons for using CAM include seeking a cure or reducing recurrence, mitigating adverse effects of treatments, and improving general well-being. The most popular treatments are special diets or supplements, mind-body techniques, and movement-physical therapy

Among the benefits reported in the literature are:

--Chinese herbal medications associated with reduced treatment adverse effects,

--increased quality of life,

--improved survival rates,

--better quality of life in patients with breast cancer,

--reduced lymphedema in breast and gynecologic cancers, and

--less pain and better mood in patients with advanced cancers.

Researchers sent surveys to 2,777 randomized adults from among more than 9,000 patient seen during a one-year period for cancer screening, prevention or treatment at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey.

Results appeared in the Journal of Oncology Practice.

There were 1,228 (71.5%) respondents with a cancer diagnosis, 923 of whom (75.2%) were using at least one form of CAM. Of this group, 532 (57.6%) began using it after diagnosis. Of those who started CAM after a diagnosis 496 (93.2%) were still using CAM at the time of the survey.

For all CAM therapies combined, women were 1.7 times more likely than men to start CAM after a diagnosis, although when broken down by type, women were more likely to adopt psychotherapy and mind-body approaches.

Lead author Adam I. Perlman, MD, FACP, and co-authors wrote that hospitals, practitioners and insurance companies are increasingly incorporating CAM into cancer care. "Given the high prevalence of use--especially after diagnosis--the knowledgeable integration of CAM into conventional care is becoming necessary to safely and effectively treat patients during and after cancer therapy," the authors concluded.