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International Seminars in Surgical
The use of complementary and alternative medicine by cancer
Mariama Adams* and Andrew Paul Jewell
Address: School of Radiography, Faculty of Health and Social Care Sciences, St George's University of London, Cranmer Terrace, London SW17
Email: Mariama Adams* - email@example.com; Andrew Paul Jewell - firstname.lastname@example.org
* Corresponding author
The use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) among cancer patients is widespread
and appears to be increasing. However, it is not clear whether patients use CAM as an 'alternative'
to standard oncology care or as an adjunct to the conventional treatment they receive. This study
reviews the role of CAM therapies in the management of cancer, from the view of both patients
and health professionals and it highlights issues relating to the efficacy of CAM used by cancer
patients. Most patients use CAM to 'complement' the conventional therapies of radiotherapy,
chemotherapy, hormone therapy and surgery. Health professionals in general have expressed
positive views when CAM is used 'complementarily' and not as an 'Alternative'. Results so far
published have shown that CAM can contribute to improving the quality of life of cancer patients
and their general well-being.
Many cancer patients have turned to Complementary and
Alternative Medicine (CAM) with the hope of finding a
cure to their illness as well as to make them feel better.
Surveys on the use of CAM by cancer patients have been
reported as high as 64% and as low as 7% . As the use
of CAM with cancer patients increases, the concern for its
efficacy and safety with cancer patients has also increased
[2,3]. In spite of the mass use of CAM therapies, very little
is known of the efficacy and safety of many of the CAM
therapies that cancer patients use.
Complementary and alternative medicine
Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) is
defined by the Cochrane collaboration as:" a broad
domain of healing resources that encompasses all health
system, modalities, and practices and their accompanying
theories and beliefs, other than intrinsic to the politically
dominant health systems of a particular society or culture
in a given historical period" . However, the National
Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
(NCCAM 2006) in America defines CAM as "a group of
diverse medical and health care systems, practices and
products that are not presently considered to be part of
conventional medicine" . The definition given by
Cochrane emphasises healing resources together with its
beliefs and theories, while NCCAM talks about systems,
practices and products outside conventional medicine. A
more recent definition of CAM adapted by the Cochrane
School of Complementary medicine is: " diagnosis, treat-
ment and/or prevention which complements main stream
medicine by contributing to a common whole, by satisfy-
ing a demand not met by orthodox methods or by diver-
sifying the conceptual framework of medicine". Ernst and
Cassileth favour this definition because it sees CAM as
Published: 30 April 2007
International Seminars in Surgical Oncology 2007, 4:10 doi:10.1186/1477-7800-4-10
Received: 18 February 2007
Accepted: 30 April 2007
This article is available from: http://www.issoonline.com/content/4/1/10
© 2007 Adams and Jewell; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0),
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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