Use of complementary therapies for cancer symptom management: results of the 2007 National Health Interview Survey

J Altern Complement Med. 2012 Mar;18(3):235-41. doi: 10.1089/acm.2011.0022.


Objectives: Complementary therapies are often used as adjuncts to conventional treatment by individuals with cancer. Patterns of use of these practices and products represent important data for health care providers in delivering adequate patient care.

Design: This study compared use of complementary therapies between the cancer and noncancer populations in the United States through secondary analyses of the 2007 National Health Interview Survey data. The analysis compared use by cancer survivors (those individuals self-reporting a diagnosis of cancer; n=1785) and individuals without cancer (n=21,585), as well as self-report of symptoms affecting health-related quality of life (HQoL).

Results: Data suggest similar patterns of use between cancer survivors and the general population; however, a greater percentage of cancer survivors use complementary modalities. Individuals with cancer reported a greater percentage of use of complementary therapies overall, with cancer status significantly associated with ever having used complementary and alternative medicine (p<0.001). The five most common complementary practices and products used by individuals with cancer and controls were vitamin/mineral supplements, prayer for self, intercessory prayer, chiropractic/osteopathic manipulation, and herbal therapies. Additionally, as might be expected, individuals with cancer experience greater frequency of deleterious symptoms associated with decreased HQoL. Individuals with cancer were more likely to sleep fewer than 7 hours (p=0.0108) or greater than 9 hours (p=0.0108), and have increased insomnia (p<0.001), excessive sleepiness (p<0.001), depression (p<0.001), and anxiety (p<0.001) versus those without cancer.

Conclusions: The current findings may inform health care providers about the use of complementary and integrative practices and products by patients with cancer in an effort to manage symptoms of the disease. Additionally, these results may also be used to promote research to define the merits of the use of such complementary and integrative practices and products.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Complementary Therapies / statistics & numerical data*
  • Depression / etiology
  • Disorders of Excessive Somnolence / etiology
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / complications
  • Neoplasms / psychology
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Palliative Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care*
  • Quality of Life*
  • Self Report
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / etiology
  • Survivors
  • United States