“It's natural, so it should not hurt me”: The dietitian's role in complementary and alternative medicine use during chemotherapy

Megan Crichton, Katelyn Strike, Elisabeth Isenring, Alexandra L. McCarthy, Wolfgang Marx, Anna Elizabeth Lohning, Skye Marshall

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting AbstractResearchpeer-review


Background: Despite uncertainty regarding safety and efficacy, 40% to 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 patients' perspectives, experiences, support needs, and sources of information regarding CAM use during chemotherapy and their implications for dietetic practice. 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). These participants who received chemotherapy valued CAMs as a natural complement to chemotherapy to improve wellbeing, with their use most strongly influenced by past experiences rather than expert advice. Participants' trust in CAM knowledge and hope for improved wellbeing was influenced by a vulnerability to external opinions. Conclusion: CAM was highly valued by some chemotherapy patients; who felt it played an important role in supporting their cancer treatment journey. Health professionals would benefit from education on how to best inform patients of the potential risks, harms, and lack of efficacy for CAM use during chemotherapy in a way that does not stigmatise patients.
Original languageEnglish
Article number144
Pages (from-to)15
JournalNutrition and Dietetics
Issue numbers1
Publication statusPublished - 12 Mar 2021
EventDietitians Australia 2021 Conference: What's possible? - Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, Melbourne, Australia
Duration: 11 Jul 202113 Jul 2021


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