Use of complementary and alternative medicine by pediatric oncology patients during palliative care

Support Care Cancer. 2016 Jul;24(7):2869-75. doi: 10.1007/s00520-016-3097-2. Epub 2016 Feb 2.


Purpose: Although the popularity of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) has risen in the last decade, information about its use by pediatric patients in palliative care is still scarce. The purpose of the study was to assess the frequency and types of CAM administered by parents with children suffering from cancer during the palliative phase.

Methods: All parents who lost their child due to cancer in the federal state North Rhine Westfalia/Germany were eligible for the study. The first group of eligible parents was contacted in 1999-2000 and a second group of parents in 2005-2006. Upon agreement, parents were asked to complete a semi-structured questionnaire about the frequency of CAM use and the specific treatments that had been used. The types of CAM were categorized according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM).

Results: A total of 96 parents participated in the study (48 in each cohort). Forty-three percent of all parents in both groups reported CAM use. The results show an increase of CAM use from 38 % in the first group to 49 % in the second cohort of pediatric patients during palliative care. The most common types of CAM used in both groups were homeopathy and treatment with mistletoe preparations.

Conclusions: The study provides information about usage of CAM in children suffering from cancer during the palliative phase of the disease. Further research is required to investigate benefits, potential adverse effects, and the potential efficacy of CAM in this population.

Keywords: Cancer; Children; Complementary and alternative medicine; Palliative care; Pediatric oncology.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Complementary Therapies / methods*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Palliative Care / methods*