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Survey of German non-medical practitioners regarding complementary and alternative medicine in oncology

Koehl B, Muenstadt K, Micke O, Muecke R, Buentzel J, Stoll C, Prott FJ, Dennert G, Senf B, Huebner J. Survey of German non-medical practitioners regarding complementary and alternative medicine in oncology. Oncol Res Treat. 2014;37(1-2):49-53.

BACKGROUND: In total, 40-70% of cancer patients use complementary or alternative medicine (CAM). Many of them ask for advice from non-medical practitioners (NMPs). Our aim was to investigate the attitude of NMPs regarding their treatments for cancer patients.

METHODS:

survey was performed on members of NMP associations, using an online questionnaire on diagnosis and treatment, goals for using CAM, communication with the oncologist, and sources of information.

RESULTS:

Of the 1,500 members of the NMP associations, 299 took part. The treatments were found to be heterogeneous. Homeopathy is used by 45% of the NMPs; 10% believe it to be a treatment directly against cancer. Herbal therapy, vitamins, orthomolecular medicine, ordinal therapy, mistletoe preparations, acupuncture, and cancer diets are used by more than 10% of the NMPs. None of the treatments is discussed with the respective physician on a regular basis.

CONCLUSIONS:

Many therapies provided by NMPs are biologically based and therefore may interfere with conventional cancer therapy. Thus, patients are at risk of interactions, especially as most NMPs do not adjust their therapies to those of the oncologist. Moreover, risks may arise from these CAM methods as NMPs partly believe them to be useful anticancer treatments. This may lead to the delay or even omission of effective therapies.