Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 22, Issue 6, pp 1571–1578 | Cite as

Complementary and alternative medicine use and disclosure amongst Australian radiotherapy patients

  • Darren Hunter
  • Richard Oates
  • Janet Gawthrop
  • Michelle Bishop
  • Suki Gill
Original Article



Information on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use in Australian radiotherapy patients is sparse. This study investigated the type and prevalence of CAM amongst an Australian regional radiotherapy patient cohort and the disclosure of information to the consultant radiation oncologist.


A single hardcopy questionnaire survey was provided to patients regarding the use of CAM and discussion with the treating medical practitioner. The National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) classification was used to group responses. The study was open for a period of 4 months, and all patients on treatment during this period were approached.


A total of 170 questionnaires were distributed to eligible patients, and 152 patients returned a completed questionnaire (89.4 % response rate). Sixty-nine of the 152 patients (45.4 %) reported active CAM use. Of the 69 patients who used CAM, mind–body medicine (n = 54, 78.3 %) and biological-based therapies (n = 54, 78.3 %) were the commonest NCCAM group, whilst manipulative/body-based therapies (n = 44, 63.8 %), whole medical systems (n = 7, 10.1 %) and energy therapies (n = 5, 7.2 %) were the least common. The most common therapies were vitamins and mineral supplementation (n = 33, 47.8 %) and massage therapy (n = 18, 26.1 %). Of note, only 29 participants stated that they had discussed CAM therapies with their radiation oncologist.


CAM use was prevalent amongst cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy, but frequently not discussed with the treating radiation oncologist. Considering the high prevalence of CAM, further resources could be justifiably directed at providing this service for cancer patients to foster a more holistic approach to their care.


Alternative medicine Australia Complementary therapies Radiation oncology Radiotherapy 



The authors wish to acknowledge the input and assistance of Judy Andrews, Catherine Anderson and Kathleen Murphy. In addition, the authors would like to thank the patients who participated in this study.

Conflict of interest statement

There is no conflict of interest to note.




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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Darren Hunter
    • 1
    • 2
  • Richard Oates
    • 1
    • 2
  • Janet Gawthrop
    • 1
    • 2
  • Michelle Bishop
    • 1
    • 3
  • Suki Gill
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Peter MacCallum Cancer CentreUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Radiation Therapy ServicesPeter MacCallum Cancer CentreBendigoAustralia
  3. 3.Department of Radiation OncologyPeter MacCallum Cancer CentreBendigoAustralia

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