Philadelphia Research: Positive Effects of CAM Utilization in Oncology

In 2013, a team of scientists, mostly from the Pennsylvania University of Philadelphia, conducted a survey on the effects of CAM therapies on oncology patients. The results were subsequently published in a study called Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use and Benefit Finding Among Cancer Patients (235). The research was conducted at three outpatient oncology clinics at the Pennsylvania University Abramson Oncology Center in Philadelphia. The research consisted of a cross-sectional survey of a large heterogeneous sample of oncology patients aged 18 and above. Based on their medical documentation, patients were approached (with the consent of the oncologist) in the waiting rooms of the oncology clinics. Those that agreed to participate in the study, then filled in a questionnaire. The study was approved by the Institutional Control Board of Pennsylvania University. We present an abstract of this study, which was published in the PubMed database:


Purpose: An increasing number of cancer patients are choosing Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) as an active way to manage the physical, psychological, and spiritual consequences of cancer. This trend parallels a movement to understand how a difficult experience, such as a cancer diagnosis, may help facilitate positive growth, also referred to as benefit finding. Little is known about the associations between the use of CAM and the ability to find benefit in the cancer experience.

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional survey of medical oncology outpatients in an urban academic cancer center. Patients completed measures of CAM use and benefit finding following a diagnosis of cancer. A hierarchical regression, adjusting for covariates, was performed to evaluate the unique contribution of CAM use on benefit finding. The relationship between specific CAM modalities and benefit finding was explored.

Results: Among 316 participants, 193 (61.3%) reported CAM use following diagnosis. Factors associated with CAM use were female gender (p=0.005); college, or higher, education (p=0.09); breast cancer diagnosis (p=0.016); and being 12 to 36 months postdiagnosis (p=0.017). In the hierarchical regression, race contributed the greatest unique variance to benefit finding (23%), followed by time from diagnosis (18%), and age (14%). Adjusting for covariates, CAM use uniquely accounted for 13% of the variance in benefit finding. Individuals using energy healing and healing arts reported significantly more benefit than nonusers. Special diet, herbal remedies, vitamin use, and massage saw a smaller increase in benefit finding, while acupuncture, chiropractic, homeopathy, relaxation, yoga, and tai chi were not significantly associated with benefit finding.

Conclusions: Patients who used CAM following a cancer diagnosis reported higher levels of benefit finding than those who did not. More research is required to evaluate the causal relationship between CAM use, benefit finding, and better psychosocial well-being.”