The use of complementary and alternative therapies by patients with cancer

Oncol Res. 2005;15(5):281-9. doi: 10.3727/096504005776404580.


The aim of this research was to assess the prevalence and predictors of complementary and alternative therapy (CAT) use among cancer patients in Australia. A total of 1492 cancer patients attending nine major public cancer treatment centers in New South Wales, Australia, were asked to complete the Supportive Care Needs Survey. Of the 1354 consenting patients, 888 (65%) returned a completed survey. This article reports the secondary analyses of the survey data, specifically focusing on CAT use. For all cancers, 17.1% of patients were using at least one CAT. The two main demographic characteristics of CAT users were gender and age, where females were more likely to use CAT than males and that CAT use declined as age increased. Time since diagnosis was identified as the only significant clinical predictor of CAT use, where CAT use increased with time until 5 years since diagnosis. Our research shows that herbal treatments and naturopathy are the most popular CAT used by cancer patients (constituting over 30% of all CAT use recorded). The use of CAT among cancer patients is a significant issue in cancer care, especially considering the potential interactions between CAT and conventional medicines. Given that many cancer patients may not be aware of potential risks associated with these interactions it is important that oncologists and others involved in cancer patient care are informed about CAT and its use amongst their patients.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Australia
  • Complementary Therapies / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / psychology
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires