Complementary Therapies and Childhood Cancer

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Background: The use of complementary and alternative therapies by children with cancer is common. Up to 84% of children have used complementary therapies along with conventional medical treatment for cancer. Methods: We reviewed the PubMed and CINAHL databases for studies published between 1994 and 2004 on the use of complementary and alternative therapies by children with cancer and reports from any publication year through 2004 of clinical trials involving complementary and alternative therapies for children with cancer. Results: Fourteen studies were retrieved reporting the results of survey or interview data collected from parents on children's use of complementary and alternative therapies during or after childhood cancer. Across studies, the use of such therapies ranged from 31% to 84%. Common reasons for using complementary and alternative therapies were to do everything possible for their child, to help with symptom management, and to boost the immune system. Many parents indicated they also hoped to treat or cure the cancer. In most cases, the child's treating physician had not been informed of the child's use of complementary and alternative therapies. Conclusions: Use of complementary therapies by children with cancer is common, although methodological variations limit the ability to compare results across studies. Treating physicians often do not know the child is using complementary therapies in addition to medical treatments. The scientific evidence is limited regarding the effects and mechanisms of action of complementary or alternative therapies, but research is being conducted on these topics.

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Cancer Control, v. 12, issue 3, p. 172-180