Whether it is herbs, homeopathy
or vitamin and mineral supplements, more than a third
of cancer patients in Europe use alternative medicine.
Usage varies from less
than 15 percent of patients in Greece to nearly three-quarters
in Italy, according to the first Europe-wide study of
complementary and alternative therapies (CAM) published
in the Annals of Oncology.
"Irrespective of what
health professionals believe about CAM and how dismissive
they might be, our findings show that patients are using,
and will continue to use CAM," said Dr Alex Molassiotis,
of the University of Manchester School of Nursing, Midwifery
and Social Work, in England.
The survey of nearly
1,000 patients in 14 countries showed that alternative
therapy users tended to be young, educated women. It
was most popular in patients suffering from pancreatic,
liver, bone and brain cancers.
Herbs, homeopathy, medicinal
teas and vitamin and mineral supplements were the most
common of the 58 CAM treatments mentioned in the survey.
Patients in Israel, Denmark, Italy, Spain, Greece and
Iceland also used spiritual therapies.
Cancer sufferers used
the therapies for an average of 27 months to improve
their physical and emotional well being and to increase
their ability to fight the illness.
Patients were generally
satisfied with the treatments. Only 3 percent thought
it was useless.
"Although CAM use in
Europe in lower than in the U.S. according to North
American surveys, our study indicates that the average
... use in Europe has increased since a review of 29
studies was published in 1998," said Molassiotis.
"Since it appears that
CAM is here to stay, the European Union needs to consider
broader policies, common laws and rationalization of
available legislation," he added.