Aims: To determine which types of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) are being used by cancer patients commencing curative-intent chemotherapy, whether the CAM taken has the potential to affect treatment efficacy, the reasons for patients’ decisions to use CAM and whether these patients would like information on CAM safety with chemotherapy.
Methods: 75 solid tumour malignancy patients receiving curative-intent treatment attending a cancer care day unit were interviewed about their CAM use on the day of receiving their first dose of chemotherapy.
Results: 60% of study participants were using CAM at the start of chemotherapy treatment. Biologically-active CAM assessed as having potential to interact with prescribed chemotherapy was ingested by 27% of patients, all of whom had routinely used CAM prior to cancer diagnosis. CAM was used by 51% of patients for supportive care reasons and by 28% of patients with the intention of treating their cancer. Patients’ CAM decision-making was influenced by advice from family and friends, practitioners, and from casual acquaintances. 13% of patients were told by a CAM advice-giver not to have chemotherapy. The majority of patients (84%) would have liked to receive information on which CAM is safe to use with chemotherapy before treatment commenced.
Conclusions: Patients being treated with curative intent, particularly those with a history of CAM use, may be taking biologically-active CAM with potential to compromise their chemotherapy treatment. These patients may be contending with alternative health advice to not have chemotherapy and want cancer-care health professionals to provide them evidence-based information on safe CAM use.