A new study suggests that cancer patients of different ages have different views and acceptance on alternative treatments to ease their symptoms. Patients who are younger than 65 are more willing to try new treatments compared to the older patients.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia looked at the medical data of 969 participants who were diagnosed with different types of cancer. The data collected between June 2010 and September 2011 were from the thoracic, breast, and gastrointestinal medical oncology clinics at an academic cancer center.
The participants were asked whether they had done any alternative therapies aside from their initial treatments. Some of the alternative treatments include acupuncture, chiropractic care, art therapy, massage, yoga, tai chi, special diets or herbal supplements.
The survey showed that 59 percent of the participants had tried alternative treatments since their diagnosis. Majority of them were female, working, and younger than 65.
Those who didn't try alternative treatments explained that they didn't know that they had other options. Most of them said they did not have insurance coverage as well.
"We found that specific attitudes and beliefs -- such as expectation of therapeutic benefits, patient-perceived barriers regarding cost and access, and opinions of patients' physician and family members -- may predict patients' use of complementary and alternative medicine following cancer diagnoses," Jun Mao, director of integrated oncology at the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, said in a press release.
Experts warned the cancer patients to be careful on seeking alternative treatments though because some of the practitioners are not knowledgeable in handling cancer patients.
"It's very important that they have experience in working with cancer patients, and that they absolutely don't recommend something in place of conventional care," Dr. Lorenzo Cohen, director of the integrative medicine program at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, told Reuters Health. He wasn't involved in the study.
"I wouldn't go to a person who recommended supplements and told me to go off chemo, or someone who didn't take the time to ask what medications I have had so far to treat cancer."
The study was published in the May 26 issue of the journal CANCER.