Study shows many cancer survivors use complementary therapies

In collaboration with the Press Association

Many cancer patients and survivors use complementary and alternative therapies, according to a new study by the American Cancer Society.

The study, which is published in the journal Cancer, found that several types of complementary therapies are used by nearly half of cancer survivors, according to co-author Dr Ted Gansler, a member of the American Cancer Society.

Researchers analysed data on more than 4,000 survivors of ten different cancers and found that the most common forms of complementary and alternative therapy were prayer/spiritual practice (61.4 per cent), relaxation (44.3 per cent), faith/spiritual healing (42.4 per cent) and nutritional supplements and vitamins (40.1 per cent).

 

Less common forms of therapy included meditation (15 per cent), religious counselling (11.3 per cent), massage (11.2 per cent) and support groups (9.7 per cent).

Dr Gansler revealed: "Surprisingly, other methods such as acupuncture and hypnosis were used by fewer than two per cent of cancer survivors, even though recent studies found them to be useful in relieving some cancer-related symptoms, such as pain."

The study also revealed that some people, including women, young people, white people, high-income individuals and those with a high level of education, are more likely to use complementary therapies than others.

There was also an association between the type of cancer a patient had and whether or not they were likely to use complementary therapies. People with melanoma or kidney cancer were least likely to use such therapies, while survivors of breast and ovarian cancer were the most likely.

Commenting on the research, Dr Alison Ross, science information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: "There are a number of complementary therapies available that may help people with cancer to feel better.

"There is limited evidence about the benefits of some of these therapies, but cancer and its treatments can be very difficult to cope with and Cancer Research UK welcomes any complementary therapies that are helpful for patients.

"We're also funding research looking at some complementary treatments that have shown benefits for patients in scientific studies.

"For example, we recently helped to fund a clinical trial of aromatherapy massage for people with cancer, and found that the treatment can help to relieve anxiety and depression. We are also funding a trial to see if acupuncture can relieve some of the side effects caused by radiotherapy for head and neck cancer."