Complementary and alternative medicine use during chemotherapy: the dietitian’s role

Megan Crichton*, Katelyn Strike, Elisabeth Isenring, Wolfgang Marx, Anna Elizabeth Lohning, Skye Marshall

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting AbstractResearchpeer-review


Background: Despite uncertainty regarding safety and efficacy, 40‐80% of cancer patients use complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs) during chemotherapy. This CAM use is often self‐prescribed and undisclosed to health professionals.Aim: To explore chemotherapy patients' perspectives, experiences, support needs, and sources of information regarding CAM use during chemotherapy and the relevance to the dietetic profession.Methods: Semi‐structured interviews were conducted in adult participants who recently completed chemotherapy treatment at a public hospital in Brisbane, Australia. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and thematically analysed by three investigators.Results: Ten participants were interviewed (70% female, 80% >55 years). Three major themes were identified as “support needs and sources of information: trust in knowledge”; “perspective: natural complement to curative drugs”; and “experience: hope for improved wellbeing”. A subtheme was “vulnerability to external opinions”. “Historical responses”, representing participants' past experiences with CAMs, was a driver underpinning and influencing all themes.Conclusions: CAM use can be highly valuable to chemotherapy patients and play an important role in supporting their cancer treatment journey. Dietitians have an integral role in initiating CAM discussions and guiding appropriate education regarding CAMs in collaboration with other members of the multidisciplinary oncology team to ensure optimal quality of life and safety.
Original languageEnglish
Article number180
Pages (from-to)26
JournalNutrition and Dietetics
Issue numberS1
Early online date26 Aug 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Aug 2020
EventDietitians Association of Australia 37th National Conference: Discover. Grow. Evolve - Melbourne, Australia
Duration: 23 Aug 202025 Aug 2020
Conference number: 37th


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