One-third of U.S. survey participants with a history of cancer reported using complementary and alternative medicines in addition to or instead of conventional treatment, according to a research letter published in JAMA Oncology.
Many of these participants (29.3%) did not disclose their use of complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs) to their physicians, often because they weren’t asked or didn’t think the physician needed to know.
“Individuals diagnosed with cancer may have many motivations for seeking CAM, including persistent symptoms, psychological distress or to gain a sense of control over their care,” Nina N. Sanford, MD, assistant professor in the department of radiation oncology at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, and colleagues wrote. “Given the high proportion of patients with cancer and cancer survivors reporting use of CAM in this nationally representative sample, the potential implications of CAM use on oncologic outcomes merits further study.”
Sanford and colleagues evaluated use of CAMs among 3,118 adults with cancer and cancer survivors (median age, 66 years; women, n = 1,888) who participated in the National Health Interview survey in 2012.
Of all patients, 1,023 (33.3%) said they used CAMs in the past 12 months.
They included herbal supplements (n = 363), chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation (n = 256, massage (n = 129), yoga/tai chi/qigong (n = 85), mantra/mindfulness/spiritual meditation (n = 75), special diets (n = 29) and acupuncture (n = 26).
CAM users appeared more likely to be white (adjusted OR [AOR] = 1.82; 95% CI, 1.28-2.58), female (AOR = 1.55; 95% CI, 1.26-1.91), non-Hispanic (AOR = 1.64; 95% CI, 1.05-2.56) and younger (AOR = 1.02 per year; 95% CI, 1.01-1.02).
A total of 288 patients reported that they did not disclose CAM use to their physicians. AORs for CAM nondisclosure ranged from 0.51 (95% CI, 0.26-1.03) for herbal supplements to 5.38 (95% CI, 2.26-12.81) for mantra/mindfulness/spiritual meditation.
The most common reasons for nondisclosure were because the physician did not ask (n = 155), or because the participant did not think it was important for the physician to know (n = 140).
“Policy and guidelines should be established to encourage discussion of CAM,” Sanford and colleagues wrote. “Additional research is needed to assess health outcomes, quality of life and cost implications associated with CAM use in the oncology patient population.” – by John DeRosier
Disclosures: Sanford reports no relevant financial disclosures. One author reports research grants from Varian Medical Systems outside the submitted work.