Last year in the UK over 60,000 cancer patients enrolled on clinical trials aimed at improving cancer treatments and making them available to all.
A study to find out what patients and health care professionals think about complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs)
We know that this is an especially worrying time for people with cancer and their family and friends. We have separate information about coronavirus and cancer. Please read that information alongside this page. We will update that information as guidance changes.
This study looked at what people thought about complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs). Complementary therapies are often used alongside conventional or standard medical treatments. They include acupuncture, massage, reflexology and homeopathy, for example. But alternative therapies are more often used instead of conventional treatments. Both complementary and alternative therapies have often not been tested in large clinical studies, and we may not know if they have any benefit.
Some work has been done on this, but no one really knows what makes people decide whether to use CAMs. The research team running this study wanted to find out more about how people came to their decision. They did this by asking 80 people with cancer about themselves and what they thought about CAMs.
The team also wanted to find out what health care professionals thought about CAMs. So they interviewed 30 health care professionals including doctors, nurses, pharmacists and CAM practitioners.
The aim of this study was to find out more about what people with cancer and health care professionals thought about CAMs. And why some of them used CAMs and some didn’t.
Summary of results
The researchers interviewed 80 people with cancer, 27 men and 53 women. They had different types of cancer and were at different stages of their disease. Their ages ranged from 20 to 87. Of these 80 people
- 68 were using complementary or alternative medicines – CAMs
- 12 were not
The research team also interviewed 30 health care professionals including doctors, nurses, radiographers, pharmacists and CAM practitioners.
A member of the research team read through the interviews to understand the experiences of these people. Then another member of the research team read through the interviews to challenge and test the findings of their colleague. They then read the interviews a third time to get a final understanding of what the experiences of these people were.
What they found was that
- People with advanced cancer and people who were told they may not have long to live used CAMs the most
- Users of CAMs mostly found out about them from their friends, family and other people with cancer
- Some people thought CAMs should be available in a hospital and others in the community
- People got most of their information about CAMs and CAM services from their specialist cancer nurse
- It was the therapy itself that was more important to users than the relationship they might have with the person giving the CAM therapy
- A cure was less of a concern for users of CAMs than their emotional, social and spiritual wellbeing
- A large number of people who used CAMs felt their
quality of lifewas greatly improved
- There was a difference in viewpoint of CAMs between health care professionals working in a hospital and those working in a
The research team concluded that this study increased the understanding of why people with cancer use CAMs and what they, and health care professionals, thought about CAMs.
We have based this summary on information from the team who ran the study. As far as we are aware, the information they sent us has not been reviewed independently (
How to join a clinical trial
Dr Philip Tovey
Department of Health