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October 2021

Eur J Cancer. 1997 Apr; 33(4): 575-80.

Why are cancer patients using non-proven complementary therapies? A cross-sectional multicentre study in Norway.

Risberg T, Kaasa S, Wist E, Melsom H.

Institute of Community Medicine, University of Tromsø, Norway.

This study addressed the use of alternative medicine, here called non-proven therapies (NPTs), among hospitalized Norwegian cancer patients. A total of 126 (20%) of the assessable 630 patients were users of NPTs. Approximately 43% of all patients and more than 60% of the users of NPTs stated that they would like NPTs to be an option in hospitals belonging to the National Health Service. Most users of NPTs (82%) consulted traditional medicine first, while 15% started treatment with NPTs simultaneously. Users of NPTs reported to have received less hope of a cure (30%) from their physicians than non-users (50%). Users mostly learned about NPTs from friends and relatives. Most users believed that NPTs might give them strength and relieve their symptoms. Very few patients believed in a cure (10%). Nearly 40% were uncertain of any effect of the NPTs or felt there had been no effect. 4 patients reported adverse effects. 15 patients had been treated abroad, most of them in Denmark. Expenses incurred through use of NPTs were mostly moderate, but some patients used large sums of money. Patients' opinions on whether or not the treatment had been expensive were closely linked to their anticipation of the effect of the treatment.

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