• Vol. 35 No. 11, 753–758
  • 15 November 2006

Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Paediatric Oncology Patients in Singapore



Introduction: Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is garnering increasing interest and acceptance among the general population. Although usage is thought to be widespread among paediatric cancer patients, local studies have not been done. We aimed to investigate the prevalence and predictors of CAM usage in paediatric cancer patients in a single institution.

Materials and Methods: Parents of 73 paediatric cancer patients treated at KK Women’s & Children’s Hospital completed an interviewer-administered questionnaire. Data about the types of CAM therapies used, motivations for use, adverse effects, costs and discussion of usage with the patient’s physician were obtained. General perceptions towards CAM and conventional medicine were explored. A subsequent telephone survey enquired about spirituality, benefits of CAM use and overall satisfaction with the therapies.

Results: Two-thirds of patients used at least 1 CAM treatment, mainly as supportive adjuncts to conventional cancer treatment. Dietary changes, health supplements, herbal tea and bird’s nest were the most common therapies used. Few patients (8.1%) consulted a CAM practitioner. Positive predictors of CAM usage included being of Chinese race, the practice of Buddhism or Taoism, the use of CAM prior to diagnosis, perception of CAM effectiveness and dissatisfaction with conventional treatment. Significantly, 55.1% of the parents had not discussed their CAM usage with their child’s physician.

Conclusions: A substantial proportion of paediatric cancer patients utilises CAM therapies, often without their physician’s knowledge. Healthcare providers need to remain cognisant of the potential implications of CAM usage in order to proactively counsel patients. This would ensure that conventional therapy remains uncompromised.

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) has been gaining acceptance throughout the world. The efficacy of CAM is unproven, yet it remains popular with the general public, with many of them utilising it for a whole spectrum of ailments.

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