, Volume 19, Issue 4, pp 521-529
Date: 25 Mar 2010

Complementary and alternative medicine: use and disclosure in radiation oncology community practice

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The aims of this study were to evaluate the frequency of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use among radiation oncology patients, the coping strategies that influenced this use, and the rates of disclosure of CAM use to their healthcare providers.


One hundred fifty-three patients undergoing radiation therapy for various neoplasms at rural cancer centers in Minnesota completed the Mayo Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use Survey and the Coping Inventory for Stressful Situations questionnaires. Data regarding CAM use was also compared with provider consultation notes in the medical record at the onset of radiation therapy to determine rates of patient disclosure of CAM use to their healthcare providers.


A total of 153 participants completed the study with 61.4% females and 38.6% males and a mean age of 64.9 years. The two most frequent diagnoses of participants were breast cancer (43.8%) and prostate cancer (22.9%). CAM use was reported in 95% of the participants and was categorized into three domains: treatments and techniques, vitamins, and herbs and supplements. The three most frequently reported treatments and techniques were spiritual healing/prayer (62.1%), exercise (19.6%), and music (17.6%). The top three most frequently used biologically based CAM therapies were multivitamins (48.1%), calcium (37.3%), and vitamin with minerals (21.5%). The most frequently used herbs and other dietary supplements were fish oil (19.0%), flaxseed (15.0%), glucosamine (15.0%), and green tea (15.0%). The most common reason cited for CAM treatments and techniques use was previous use (26.1%), for use of vitamins and minerals was recommendation by a physician (33.0%), and for use of herbs and other supplements was previous use (19.0%). One hundred twelve participants reported taking vitamins, minerals, or supplements, and 47% of those 112 did not disclose this use to their providers.


Consistent with previous research, our study found that the majority of cancer patients used CAM treatments. Spiritual healing/prayer was the most commonly reported, followed by multivitamins. Patients reported using CAM primarily due to previous use and physician recommendation. Unfortunately, disclosure of CAM use to healthcare providers was relatively low.

This abstract was presented as a poster at the North American Research Conference on Complementary and Integrative Medicine, May 12–15, 2009 in Minneapolis, MN.