The prevalence of dietary related complementary and alternative therapies and their usefulness among cancer patients attending the Colney Cancer Center in the Norwich Area, United Kingdom

Van Tonder, Esmarie (2008-03)

Thesis (MNutr (Human Nutrition))--Stellenbosch University, 2008.

Thesis

Background: Cancer patients have been documented to use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) frequently, a subject that has been extensively researched. There is however a lack in the current literature of controlled studies that investigate the prevalence of CAM use among cancer patients compared to non-cancer controls. Aim: To assess and compare the prevalence of dietary related CAM use among adult cancer patients and non-cancer controls in the Norwich area, England. Methods: Self-administered questionnaires were used to survey cancer patients attending a comprehensive cancer centre in Norwich, and non-cancer controls attending three dental surgeries also in the Norwich area. Questions addressed patient demographics, information relating to cancer diagnosis (cancer cases only) and information on CAM use. CAM users were asked about types and duration of CAM use, reasons for use, information sources used, disclosure to health professionals, reported side effects and benefits and satisfaction with CAM therapies. Results: Questionnaires were distributed to 132 cancer cases and 126 controls, with 98 and 96 assessable replies received from the cases and controls respectively. Overall, 47% of the cancer cases used CAM, in comparison to 53% of the control group, with no significant difference (p=0.673) between the two groups. Large quantities of juice, multivitamins, fish oils and glucosamine were the most popular CAM therapies among the two groups. Usage was significantly associated with the cancer site (p=0.036) and duration of cancer diagnosis (p=0.050). Only 54% of the cancer cases and 44% of the controls informed a health professional about their CAM use. The main reasons for using CAM were to boost the immune system and to improve quality of life. Reported benefits included increased optimism and hope. Conclusions: Although CAM was commonly used by British cancer patients, there was no significant difference in comparison to the non-cancer controls. Therefore, increased awareness and knowledge of CAM use should not be limited only to those working with oncology patients, but be extended to health professionals in all patient groups.

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