Objective: Despite novel multimodal therapeutic approaches, the vast majority of glial tumors are not curable. Patients may search for complementary therapies in order to contribute to the fight against their disease or to relieve symptoms induced by their brain tumor. The extent of the use of complementary or alternative therapies, the patients' rationale behind it, and the cost of complementary therapy for gliomas are not known. We used a questionnaire and the database of the German Glioma Network to evaluate these questions.
Methods: A total of 621 questionnaires were available for evaluation from patients with glial tumors of WHO grades II to grade IV. The patients were recruited from 6 neuro-oncologic centers in Germany. Complementary therapy was defined as methods or compounds not used in routine clinical practice and not scientifically evaluated.
Results: Forty percent of the responding patients reported the use of complementary therapies. Significant differences between the group of complementary therapy users and nonusers were seen with respect to age (younger > older), gender (female > male), and education (high education level > low education level). The motivation for complementary therapy use was not driven by unsatisfactory clinical care by the neuro-oncologists, but by the wish to add something beneficial to the standard of care.
Conclusions: In clinical practice, patients' use of complementary therapies may be largely overseen and underestimated. The major motivation is not distrust in conventional therapies. Neuro-oncologists should be aware of this phenomenon and encourage an open but critical dialogue with their patients.