Many EU Cancer Patients Use Alternative Meds

Herbal treatments, homeopathy, vitamins and spiritual therapies popular

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THURSDAY, Feb. 3, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- More than a third of cancer patients in Europe use complementary and alternative therapies, says a study in the latest issue of the journal Annals of Oncology.

Based on their findings, the international team of researchers who conducted the study said the use of complementary and alternative medicine in cancer care should be integrated into healthcare systems and regulated by the European Union.

Herbal treatments were mostly commonly used by European cancer patients, followed by treatments such as homeopathy, vitamin and mineral supplements, and spiritual therapies, the researchers found.

The Europe-wide study of almost 1,000 cancer patients found that use of these types of treatments by cancer patients ranged from a low of slightly less than 15 percent in Greece to a high of almost 75 percent in Italy.

Users of alternative or complementary therapies tended to be female, younger and more highly educated. Most users believed in the efficacy of these remedies, with only 3 percent expressing doubts as to their effectiveness. People with pancreatic, bone, liver and brain cancer (cancers with a poor prognosis) used alternative treatments far more often than other cancer patients. The mean length of treatment was 27 months, with a range from one month to 18 years, the researchers report.

The findings show that it's essential for doctors and other health professionals to be aware of alternative remedies, and to be able educate their patients about them, the study authors said.

"Irrespective of what health professionals believe about complementary and alternative medicines and how dismissive they might be, our findings show that patients are using, and will continue to use [them]," study lead author Dr. Alex Molassiotis of the University of Manchester School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work, said in a prepared statement.

More information

For more on alternative medicine, head to the U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Therapies.

SOURCE: Annals of Oncology, news release, Feb. 3, 2005

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