Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 22, Issue 5, pp 1319–1331 | Cite as

The role of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) routines and rituals in men with cancer and their significant others (SOs): A qualitative investigation

  • Nadja KlafkeEmail author
  • Jaklin A. Eliott
  • Ian N. Olver
  • Gary A. Wittert
Original Article



Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is frequently used in cancer patients, often with contribution of the significant others (SOs), but without consultation of healthcare professionals. This research explored how cancer patients integrate and maintain CAM use in their everyday life, and how SOs are involved in it.


In this qualitative study, male participants were selected from a preceding Australian survey on CAM use in men with cancer (94 % response rate and 86 % consent rate for follow-up interview). Semistructured interviews were conducted with 26 men and 24 SOs until data saturation was reached. Interview transcripts were coded and analyzed thematically, thereby paying close attention to participants’ language in use.


A major theme associated with high CAM use was “CAM routines and rituals,” as it was identified that men with cancer practiced CAM as (1) functional routines, (2) meaningful rituals, and (3) mental/spiritual routines or/and rituals. Regular CAM use was associated with intrapersonal and interpersonal benefits: CAM routines provided men with certainty and control, and CAM rituals functioned for cancer patients and their SOs as a means to create meaning, thereby working to counter fear and uncertainty consequent upon a diagnosis of cancer. SOs contributed most to men’s uptake and maintenance of dietary-based CAM in ritualistic form resulting in interpersonal bonding and enhanced closeness.


CAM routines and rituals constitute key elements in cancer patients’ regular and satisfied CAM use, and they promote familial strengthening. Clinicians and physicians can convey these benefits to patient consultations, further promoting the safe and effective use of CAM.


Complementary and alternative medicine Oncology Cancer Qualitative research Supportive care Men Relatives Caregivers Family Australia 



The authors acknowledge Prof Michael P. Brown, Prof Dorothy Keefe, Prof Eric Yeoh, A/Prof Dusan Kotasek, Dr Martin Borg, Dr Nick Murray, Dr Sid Selva-Nayagam, Dr Michael Penniment, Dr Nimit Singhal, Dr Thean Hsiang TAN, and Dr Anne Taylor for their support of this study. This study was undertaken with support of The International Postgraduate Research Scholarship and The University of Adelaide Scholarship (funded by The University of Adelaide), the Florey Medical Research Foundation Postgraduate Cancer Research Top Up Scholarship (funded by the Florey Medical Research Foundation, The University of Adelaide), and The Freemasons Masonic Club Travelling Scholarship (funded by the Freemasons Foundation, Adelaide, Australia). The authors have no conflict of interest to declare, have full control of all primary data and agree to give Supportive Care in Cancer permission to review the data if requested.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nadja Klafke
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jaklin A. Eliott
    • 2
  • Ian N. Olver
    • 3
  • Gary A. Wittert
    • 4
  1. 1.School of PsychologyThe University of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia
  2. 2.Discipline of General Practice, School of Population HealthThe University of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia
  3. 3.Cancer Council Australia, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia; School of MedicineThe University of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia
  4. 4.Freemasons Foundation Centre for Men’s Health Research, Discipline of MedicineUniversity of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia

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