Widespread Use of CAM Among European Patients with Cancer

Internal Medicine World ReportFebruary 2005

Widespread Use of CAM Among European Patients with Cancer

Complimentary and alternative medicine (CAM) is used by more than one third of patients with cancer in Europe, according to a new survey of nearly 1000 patients conducted by the European Oncology Nursing Society and published in the Annals of Oncology (doi: 10.1093/annonc/mdi110).

The first Europe-wide survey of CAM showed its use varies from a low of <15% of patients with cancer in Greece to a high of nearly three quarters of patients with cancer in Italy. The Czech Republic and Switzerland also report high use of CAM therapies. A total of 14 countries and 956 patients participated in the survey.

“Irrespective of what health professionals believe about CAM and how dismissive they might be, our findings show that patients are using, and will continue to use CAM. So, this will probably necessitate rethinking the provision of medical and health care education, broadening our understanding of the concept of medicine and working toward integrating into mainstream health care services those CAM therapies for which there is evidence of effectiveness,” said lead author Alex Molassiotis, RN, PhD, of the University of Manchester School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work, United Kingdom.

CAM users tended to be women, younger, and better educated; patients with pancreatic, liver, bone, or brain cancer used CAM significantly more often than other patients.

The 5 most frequently used CAM therapies were: herbs, homeopathy, medicinal teas, vitamins, and minerals.

Israel, Denmark, Italy, Spain, Greece, and Iceland also reported high usage of spiritual therapies.

Patients said they used CAM therapies because they wanted to:

  • 50%—increase their body’s ability to fight the disease (50%)
  • 40%—improve their physical well-being
  • 35%—improve their emotional well-being

Overall, patients were satisfied with their CAM and felt their particular therapy was effective, with only 3% saying it was useless.

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