[Why do cancer patients use alternative medicine?]

Schweiz Med Wochenschr. 1991 Jul 9;121(27-28):1029-34.
[Article in German]


160 patients (53.3%) replied to an anonymous questionnaire distributed to 300 consecutive patients of our Outpatient Oncology Clinic. 83 patients (53%) mentioned some experience of one or more alternative methods of cancer treatment. Most often cited were various herbal teas (35 instances), beetroot juice (16), Vogel plant extracts (15), laying-on of hands (14), homeopathic medicine (13), the mistletoe extract Iscador (13), magnetopathy (12), various diets (10), acupuncture (10) and psychological methods (9). Resort to alternative methods of treatment correlated significantly with lower age (51.5 years vs 59.8 years, p = 0.001). The reasons for using alternative medicine were the desire to do everything possible to regain health (49), to use one's psychological forces as well (35), reports of successful cancer cures (28), desire for a holistic approach (23), hope of "softer" medicine with less severe side effects (18) and, in 7 cases only, disappointment with conventional university medicine. The major source of information was relatives and friends, not the mass media. The physician should be aware of the locally available alternative medicine options and be able to advise his patients accordingly. He should also recognize and give due consideration to the patient's underlying desire for better control of his disease and a more holistic approach to care.

Publication types

  • English Abstract

MeSH terms

  • Complementary Therapies*
  • Homeopathy
  • Humans
  • Motivation*
  • Neoplasms / psychology
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Switzerland
  • Touch