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Differences in use of complementary and alternative medicine between children and adolescents with cancer in Germany: a population based survey

Gottschling S, Meyer S, Langler A, Scharifi G, Ebinger F, Gronwald B. Differences in use of complementary and alternative medicine between children and adolescents with cancer in Germany: A population based survey. Pediatr Blood Cancer. 2014;61(3):488-92.

BACKGROUND: Use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in children with cancer is common and probably increasing. However, data concerning differences between children and adolescents focusing on prevalence, reasons for use/non-use, costs, adverse effects, and socio-demographic factors are lacking.

PROCEDURE:

A population-based survey over a 1 year period with 497 participants was conducted.

RESULTS:

Of the 457 respondents (92%) 322 were children and 135 adolescents (>16 years of age) with malignancies. 31% reported CAM use from the time when being diagnosed, compared to an overall lifetime prevalence rate of 41% before cancer diagnosis. Among CAM users the most prevalent therapies were homeopathy, massage, anthroposophic medicine, acupuncture, and Bach flowers. The main reasons for use were to reduce therapy-related side effects, to strengthen the immune system, to achieve physical stabilization and to increase healing chances. Socio-demographic factors associated with CAM use were higher parental education and higher family income. A majority of CAM users (97%) would recommend CAM use. Most users (78%) informed a physician about CAM use. Side effects were rarely reported (5%), minor and self-limiting.

CONCLUSIONS:

 

The high prevalence rates seem to represent the parental or patients needs for additional treatment perceived as successful and devoid of side-effects. Clinical care and the physician-patient relation would profit from an enhanced understanding of CAM and a greater candidness towards the parental needs. Safety and efficacy - especially of CAM with high prevalence rates - should be studied in rigorous basic and clinical research.