More than 70 percent of adults with cancer use alternative therapies

SEATTLE - More than 70 percent of adult cancer patients in western Washington use alternative therapies and almost all report substantial improvements in well-being as a result of using alternative medicine, according to a Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center survey. The results of this survey - the first population-based study of its kind to look at predictors, motivators and costs of different types of alternative-medicine use in adults with cancer - appear today in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine: Research on Paradigm, Practice and Policy.

Ruth E. Patterson, Ph.D., R.D., and colleagues in Fred Hutchinson's Public Health Sciences Division led the study, which was supported by grants from the National Cancer Institute and funds from Fred Hutchinson. Researchers at Bastyr University in Kenmore, Wash., and Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, Ore., also consulted on the project.

"This is the first study to specifically inquire about patients' attitudes regarding the effectiveness of alternative treatments," Patterson said. Patients were considered users of alternative medicine if they received care from an alternative provider within the past year or had used at least one alternative supplement or therapy. Depending on the type of therapy, 83 percent to 97 percent of patients surveyed said they used alternative medicine for general health and nearly all reported that use of these therapies improved their well-being.

A smaller number of those surveyed, between 8 percent and 56 percent, turned to alternative interventions to treat their cancer. Patients who underwent multiple medical therapies (chemotherapy, radiation, surgery) were twice as likely to use alternative medicine for cancer treatment or symptom management as compared to those who'd had surgery alone.

Seventeen percent of the patients received care from an alternative provider such as a naturopathic doctor, spiritual advisor or massage therapist,

Contact: Kristen Woodward
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

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