To assess feasibility of methods for a future study of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use by cancer patients treated in conventional health care settings.
Patients aged 18 years and older, fluent in English or French, and diagnosed with cancer from St. Mary's Hospital Center, Montreal, Canada participated. Feasibility was measured by the rates of participation and CAM use in the past 1 and 12 months. Following the survey, one patient focus group was held to better understand cancer patient perspectives on discussions of CAM that occur or not with their family physicians.
Of 103 patients approached, 100 (97.1%; 77% female, 87% white) participated. Overall, 86% and 91% of respondents used at least one CAM in the past 1 and 12 months, respectively. More patients with breast compared with colorectal and other cancers (90.2%, 86.2%, and 80%, respectively) used CAM in the previous year. In the past 1 and 12 months, natural health products were used by 70% and 80% of respondents, respectively; mind-body therapies by 61% and 64%, respectively, and CAM practitioners by 11% and 29%, respectively. More than 98% of patients used CAM to improve quality of life and 68% disclosed CAM use to their physicians. Four of 5 focus group participants used CAM. Patient-physician CAM discussions varied from receiving a CAM referral to complete dismissal of the topic.
Recruitment methods were well accepted but a sampling strategy stratified by sex and ethnicity will ensure sufficient representation by males and non-whites. Whereas disclosure of natural health products use is occurring, informative CAM discussion is not.