• Vol. 39 No. 2, 129–135
  • 15 February 2010

Complementary and Alternative Medicine among Singapore Cancer Patients



Introduction: This study evaluates determinants, expectations, association with quality of life (QOL) and doctor’s awareness of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) use in Singapore cancer patients.

Materials and Methods: We interviewed 316 patients visiting the Cancer Centre of the National University Hospital on behaviour, attitudes and expectations towards CAM and assessed QOL via Euroqol Questionnaire (EQ-5D). Medical information was obtained from oncologists.

Results: One hundred and seventy-three patients (55%) re ported CAM use after cancer diagnosis. Chinese ethnicity, tertiary education, age <65 years and previous CAM use were independent predictors of CAM use. Fifty-one per cent of CAM users informed their doctors about their use and 15% of doctors reported to be aware of CAM use in these patients. Thirty-seven per cent believed CAM to be equally or more effective than conventional cancer therapies and 78% expected at least basic knowledge about CAM from their oncologists. Twenty-five per cent of patients reported concurrent use of oral CAM and chemotherapy, of which oncologists were unaware in 86% of cases. CAM users had higher EuroQol utility scores than non-CAM users (0.79 versus 0.73, respectively, P = 0.03), in particularly those aged ≥65 years and those with stage IV disease.

Conclusion: Singapore cancer patients show high prevalence of CAM use, high expectations regarding its effectiveness and doctors’ knowledge on CAM and many use it concurrently with chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Since oncologists are generally unaware of CAM use in their patients, doctor-patient communication on CAM use needs to be improved. The association of CAM use and higher QOL scores in some subgroups deserves further exploration.

Worldwide, the use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) by cancer patients is highly prevalent. For cancer specialists, knowledge on CAM use in their patients is particularly important as there can be potentially hazardous drug interactions between some forms of oral CAM and chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

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