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Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in Mexican patients with cancer

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Cancer is the second cause of death in Mexico, most cases are detected at advanced stages and the use of chemotherapy is frequent. At present, more than 300 types of complementary and/or alternative medicine (CAM) treatments are known that offer different therapeutic objectives. Many patients use this type of treatments.


To determine the characteristics of the patients that use CAM, to identify the aim of these treatments, the source of information and the potential benefits obtained by the patient.

Patients and methods

A questionnaire was applied from February 20 to March 5, 2004 to non-selected patients with cancer in private consultation to determine age, sex, education level, work, use of CAM, type and number of used therapies, potential benefits and monthly cost. Two groups were formed, A for users and B for non-users of CAM. Results between groups were compared and the mentioned variables were correlated with the use of alternative medicine.


Group A included 37 patients and group B included 38, with no difference regarding age, education level, work and oncological diagnosis, p> 0.05; a significant trend was found as regards the feminine sex, p=0.07, neoplasm different from breast cancer, p=0.08 and evident association with neoplasm advanced stages, p=0.02. Most patients used between 1 and 3 types of therapies, 97.2%. The most common types of therapies were nutritional and spiritual, 54% and 48.6%, respectively. The source was the patient's family in 56.4% and the physician in 24.3%. Complementary and alternative therapy was considered a success in 57.1%; most of the users mentioned benefits (78.6%) deemed as tranquility (46.4%) or improvement of the physical condition (46.4%). The average monthly cost was $ 345.5 dollars, with a range of $ 13.6 to $2,545.5 dollars.


The use of complementary and/or alternative therapy is frequent among young women with advanced cancer and high level of education. The family participates in the decision of using these methods; most users noticed a benefit in their general condition and reported tranquility; these patients may be prone to higher incidence of depression and anxiety. The effectiveness and safety of this type of treatments remain to be determined, as well as the possible interactions with conventional therapy.

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Correspondence to Alberto Serrano-Olvera.

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Gerson-Cwillich, R., Serrano-Olvera, A. & Villalobos-Prieto, A. Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in Mexican patients with cancer. Clin Transl Oncol 8, 200–207 (2006).

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