Biologically based therapies (BBTs) such as herbal medicines represent the most commonly used type of complementary and alternative medicine by cancer patients. There is a paucity of data regarding individuals' motives for starting and continuing use of BBTs in cancer. Our objective is to explore lay perspectives on use of BBTs in cancer. Our hope is that the data generated will support pharmacists and other professionals in improving their communication about BBTs with patients.
Interviews with 12 individuals with cancer who used BBTs were analyzed with interpretive description and framework analysis, to build on previous literature and gain new knowledge of clinical relevance.
The findings suggest that users are motivated to continue to use BBTs when they experience these as both effective and harmless. Perceived effects of BBTs include a wide range of responses such as improved physical and psychological well-being, and cancer-related benefits. These experiences go beyond the legal health and medical claims for these products. The findings indicate that users' views of side-effects, ascribed to BBT use, are situation-dependent with the potential to either facilitate or hinder continued BBT use.
Our results indicate the importance of acknowledging users' own views of BBTs to improve patient-provider communication. This should aid the design of more effective BBT surveillance systems and hence increase patient safety and satisfaction.