Use of alternative treatment in pediatric oncology


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Abstract

The use of alternative treatment along with conventional cancer therapy is very popular. However, little is known about the use of alternative treatment in pediatric oncology. A study to determine which medical and demographic characteristics distinguish users from nonusers was conducted in a pediatric oncology sample of children with different survival perspectives. The parents of 84 children with cancer (43 patients in first continuous remission and 41 patients who had suffered a relapse or second malignancy) participated in the study and were surveyed with respect to the use of alternative treatment. The survival perspective appeared to be the most important variable distinguishing users of alternative treatment from nonusers. Twenty-six families (31%) had used or were using alternative treatment, of which 19 were families of children with cancer who had suffered a relapse (46%), and 7 were families of children with cancer in remission (16%). The most common types of alternative treatment used were based on homeopathy and anthroposophy (treatments based on autonomous medical concepts). Because of the finding that lower survival perspective is related to the use of alternative treatment, the use of alternative treatment conceivably could be a coping strategy based on illusions. Therefore, it is recommended that alternative treatment be discussed openmindedly by all health care providers involved in the care of pediatric oncology patients.

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