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Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine Among Children, Adolescent, and Young Adult Cancer Survivors: A Survey Study

Ndao, Deborah H. MPH*; Ladas, Elena J. MS, RD*; Bao, Yuanyuan MS; Cheng, Bin PhD; Nees, Shannon N. BS§; Levine, Jennifer M. MD, MSW, MS*; Kelly, Kara M. MD*

Journal of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology: May 2013 - Volume 35 - Issue 4 - p 281–288
doi: 10.1097/MPH.0b013e318290c5d6
Original Articles

Purpose: The main objective of this study was to investigate the prevalence of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use, types and reasons for use, and determinants of use among survivors of childhood cancer.

Methods: An interviewer-based survey of CAM use was administered to 197 survivors or their guardians. Demographic data, CAM therapies used, purpose and referral for use, and communication about use was collected.

Results: A total of 115 (58%) survivors reported using CAM in survivorship, 72% of which used biologically based therapies. The majority of therapies were used for relaxation and stress management (15%), referred for use by the parent (25%), reported as very effective (62%), and initiated 0 to 4 years after completion of cancer treatment (41%). Among CAM users, young adults used manipulative and body-based therapies [odds ratio (OR)=3.3; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.4-7.8] and mind-body therapies (OR=2.8, 95% CI: 1.2-6.4) more than children. Use of mind-body therapies was associated with not attending religious services regularly (OR=2.4; P<0.01). Half (51%) of all CAM therapies were disclosed to the physician.

Conclusions: Survivors of childhood cancer frequently use CAM for health promotion and mitigation of physical and psychological conditions. Clinicians should consider the role of CAM in the adoption of healthy lifestyles among this population.

*Division of Pediatric Oncology/Blood and Marrow Transplantation, Columbia University Medical Center

Division of Epidemiology, New York State Psychiatric Institute

Department of Biostatistics, Columbia University Medical Center, Mailman School of Public Health

§College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, NY

Supported in part by funding to the Integrative Therapies Program for Children with Cancer through the Tamarind Foundation.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Reprints: Kara M. Kelly, MD, Division of Pediatric Oncology/Blood and Marrow Transplantation, Columbia University Medical Center, 161 Fort Washington Avenue, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10032 (e-mail:

Received April 17, 2012

Accepted March 5, 2013

© 2013 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.