Background: The purpose of the current study was to determine the prevalence of use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) by children with cancer and to compare the characteristics of CAM users and CAM nonusers.
Methods: A cross-sectional study was performed at a pediatric oncology center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The parents of 97 children with cancer were interviewed using a structured questionnaire.
Results: Overall, 84.5% of the respondents had used CAM, and most of them believed that CAM provided a boost to the immune system, and used CAM with the intention to complement conventional treatment. The most frequently used CAM was water therapy (78%), followed by spirulina (33%), vitamin C (27%), multivitamin (23%), visit to traditional healers (22%), sea cucumber (Stichopus horrens) (15%), and Chinese traditional medicine (12%). The Malay (n = 67) were using more often (93%) CAM than non-Malay (n = 30, use 67%, P = 0.001).
Conclusions: CAM use is common among Malaysian children with cancer. Understanding the sociocultural dimension of patients' health beliefs is important to a successful treatment, and pediatric oncologists should ask for the use of CAM.