Association of distress symptoms and use of complementary medicine among patients with cancer

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Abstract

Aims and objectives.

The aim of this study was to investigate the association between distress symptoms and the types of complementary and alternative medicine use in patients with cancer.

Background.

Patients diagnosed with cancer have increasingly turned to the use of complementary and alternative medicine to manage its symptoms and cope with the side effects of conventional treatment.

Design.

A descriptive cross-sectional study.

Methods.

A face-to-face interview using a structured questionnaire was conducted with 208 outpatients at a medical centre in central Taiwan. The questionnaire included questions on socio-demographic information, disease specifics, distress symptoms and complementary and alternative medicine usage in the past 12 months. Logistic regression analysis was used to assess the association between distress symptoms and the use of different complementary and alternative medicine modalities.

Results.

A total of 165 (79·3%) patients reported use of at least one complementary and alternative medicine modality during the past 12 months. Complementary and alternative medicine users and non-users were not significantly different in age, sex, marital status, education level, religious affiliation and disease-related variables. Fatigue (66·8%) was the most frequently reported symptoms and was significantly associated with complementary and alternative medicine use (OR = 14·11, p = 0·001). Regarding specific complementary and alternative medicine modalities, chanting and enzyme therapy were found to be associated with 13 (68·4%) of the 19 distress symptoms.

Conclusions.

There was no association between complementary and alternative medicine use and demographic or disease-related variables. Complementary and alternative medicine was widely used by patients with cancer, and symptom of fatigue was most strongly associated with complementary and alternative medicine use. Chanting and enzyme therapy were the two most frequently used complementary and alternative medicine modalities that were significantly associated with the 19 distress symptoms.

Relevance to clinical practice.

Health care providers should ask their patients about their complementary and alternative medicine use to avoid possible adverse interactions between conventional treatment and complementary and alternative medicine interventions, in particular, those remedies that are likely to interact with cancer medications.

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