Complementary Medicine and Survival Among Patients With Cancer

Patients with cancer may seek out a variety of complementary medicine (CMs) to improve their quality of life; however, these alternative therapies are associated with decreased survival because they can lead to delays in receiving conventional cancer treatments (CCTs) and even refusal of CCTs, according to a study published in JAMA Oncology. 

Using the National Cancer Database, researchers analyzed more than 1 million patients (258 used CM) diagnosed with any of the top four most prevalent cancers (non-metastatic breast, prostate, lung, and colorectal cancer) between January 2004 and December 2013. Patients initially diagnosed with stage IV cancers were excluded.  

Results found that those who chose complementary medicine were more likely to be younger, women, from a higher socioeconomic status, have a higher level of education, have private insurance, and have stage I disease. Compared with patients who did not choose complementary medicine, those who did had the same median delay in beginning CCT from the time of diagnosis; however, there was a higher likelihood of refusal of CCT. Use of CM was associated with poorer 5-year overall survival. 

When used in conjunction with CCT, complementary medicine was not associated with risk of death, but the use of complementary medicine increased the likelihood of refusal of CCT that ultimately led to higher mortality rates.  

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Source: JAMA Oncology