This article was originally published here
Integrates Cancer Ther. 2021 Jan-Dec;20:15347354211051622. doi: 10.1177/15347354211051622.
Integrative oncology aims to coordinate the delivery of conventional medicine and evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to patients receiving cancer care. This field has grown out of increased interest in the use of CAMs in cancer patients. However, the use of CAMs in medically underserved cancer patients remains to be well characterized. We assessed CAM awareness and the prevalence and characteristics of CAM use in 170 consecutive, medically underserved cancer patients presenting to a large, downtown, academic cancer clinic using a survey tool. Fifty-three participants declined to participate and 17 survey results were incomplete. Therefore, 100 survey results were included in the final analysis. There were 65 men and 35 women in the survey with an average age of 64.2. About 98% of respondents were African American while 2% identified as Hispanic. About 45% of patients had metastatic cancer, 24% had early stage disease while 31% of patients were unaware of the stage of their cancer. About 55% of patients had a primary school or lower level of education while only 16% had a university degree or higher. About 92% of respondents were unemployed. Some knowledge of CAMs was reported by 22% of patients, while use of CAMs was reported by only 16% of patients. Female gender and university degree were significantly associated with CAM use. The most commonly used CAM modality was meditation (56%), followed by herbal remedies (31%), yoga (31%) and acupuncture (12%). Among CAM users, a majority have used multiple CAM therapies. All users reported benefiting from using CAM. Emotional well-being was the most common benefit, followed by improvement in treatment-related adverse events, chemotherapy-related symptoms, pain, and sleep. Even though the majority of our patients surveyed have never used CAM, 90% of non-users were interested in getting more information about the different CAM options and exploring its use and potential benefits. The majority (70%) wanted their primary oncologist to provide them with information about CAM options and discuss their safety and potential complementary benefits in managing their cancer and associated symptoms.