Pediatric oncologists' views toward the use of complementary and alternative medicine in children with cancer

J Pediatr Hematol Oncol. 2009 Mar;31(3):177-82. doi: 10.1097/MPH.0b013e3181984f5a.


Background: Pediatric oncology patients commonly use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), yet approximately only 50% of these patients discuss CAM with their oncologist.

Objective: The aim of this study is to assess barriers to CAM communication in pediatric oncology.

Design/methods: A 33-question survey was sent via electronic mail to 358 pediatric oncologists in the United States.

Results: Ninety pediatric oncologists completed the survey. Ninety-nine percent of pediatric oncologists think it is important to know what CAM therapies their patients use. However, less than half of pediatric oncologists routinely ask their patients about CAM. This is primarily because of a lack of time and knowledge. Many physicians think some forms of CAM may improve quality of life, such as massage (74%) and yoga (57%). Over half of physicians thought that dietary supplements, herbal medicine, special diets, vitamins, and chiropractic might be harmful to patients.

Conclusions: Pediatric oncologists believe it is important to know which CAM therapies their patients use; however, they are not asking about them owing to lack of time and knowledge. To improve communication about CAM, increased physician education is needed. In addition, physicians should identify patients using potentially harmful CAM therapies. Furthermore, CAM research in pediatric oncology should focus on those modalities physicians believe may improve patient quality of life.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Communication Barriers*
  • Complementary Therapies / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Oncology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Pediatrics*
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Surveys and Questionnaires