Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) in cancer patients: An Italian multicenter survey

Introduction – Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) include a wide range of products (herbs, vitamins, minerals, and probiotics) and medical practices, developed outside of the mainstream Western medicine. Patients with cancer are more likely to resort to CAM first or then in their disease history; the potential side effects as well as the costs of such practices are largely underestimated. Patients and method – We conducted a descriptive survey in five Italian hospitals involving 468 patients with different malignancies. The survey consisted of a forty-two question questionnaire, patients were eligible if they were Italian-speaking and receiving an anticancer treatment at the time of the survey or had received an anticancer treatment no more than three years before participating in the survey. Results – Of our patients, 48.9% said they use or have recently used CAM. The univariate analysis showed that female gender, high education, receiving treatment in a highly specialized institute and receiving chemotherapy are associated with CAM use; at the multivariate analysis high education (Odds Ratio, (OR): 1.96 95% Confidence Interval, CI, 1.27-3.05) and receiving treatment in a specialized cancer center (OR: 2.75 95% CI, 1.53-4.94) were confirmed as risk factors for CAM use. Conclusion – Roughly half of our patients receiving treatment for cancer use CAM. It is necessary that health professional explore the use of CAM with their cancer patients, educate them about potentially beneficial therapies in light of the limited available evidence of effectiveness, and work towards an integrated model of health-care provision.

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