Integrated care: Utilisation of complementary and alternative medicine within a conventional cancer treatment centre

Heather Gage, Lesley Storey, Charlotte McDowell, Gail Maguire, Peter Williams, Sara Faithfull, Hilary Thomas, Karen Poole

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objectives: To estimate the proportion of cancer outpatients who visit a Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) unit that is located within a conventional cancer treatment centre; to compare the characteristics of CAM unit visitors with those of all outpatients; to monitor the demand for 20 CAM therapies delivered by professionals, and the use of the CAM unit for waiting, gathering information and informal support from volunteer staff. Design: Prospective, observational, over a six month period. Setting: CAM unit within a NHS cancer treatment centre. Main outcome measures: Utilisation of the CAM unit for 20 complementary therapies, and for waiting, gathering information, informal support; characteristics of CAM users compared with those of all cancer outpatients attending the cancer centre; predictors of CAM therapy use and frequent use. Results: 761 (95% of those approached) people were recruited, 498 (65.4%) cancer patients, 202 (26.5%) relatives, 37 (4.8%) friends/carers, 24 (3.2%) staff. Women predominated (n = 560, 73.6%). Of all outpatients attending the cancer centre, 498 (15.8%) visited the CAM unit, 290 (9.2%) accessed therapies. Compared to all outpatients, those visiting the CAM unit were: younger (mean 63.7 vs. 58.4 years), more likely to be female (57.9% vs. 78.7%), have breast (14.8% vs. 51.9%), gynaecological (5.0% vs. 9.1%) cancer, live in local postal district (57.3% vs. 61.6%). Significant predictors of therapy use and frequent visits were being a patient, female, higher education, living closer to the cancer centre. Conclusions: Despite easy access to CAM therapies, a relatively small number of people regularly used them, whilst a larger number selectively tried a few. The integrated CAM unit meets a demand for information and informal support. The findings inform emerging policy on integrating CAM and conventional cancer treatment to address psychosocial needs of people with cancer. More research is needed on why people do not use integrated CAM services and how charges affect demand.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)84-91
Number of pages8
JournalComplementary Therapies in Medicine
Volume17
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2009

Keywords

  • CAM (complementary and alternative medicine)
  • Integration
  • Oncology
  • Utilisation

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