There are a variety of reasons why patients use complementary and alternative therapies. While some are looking for a cure using alternative treatments, many are looking for an additional support... to help with side effects of their illness or treatment... and for some, it's a way of having more control over their situation. Let's hear what the experts say...
W. Baile, MD:
The tendency to gravitate toward CAM treatments was once thought to be an act of last desperation on the part of patients for whom there were no other cures available, but it's so widespread now, that I think many patients in response to the distress of a diagnosis or in response to the distress of a cancer reoccurrence do tend to avail themselves to those particular therapies.
E. Singletary, MD:
Most of our patients were using it to give them a sense of hope and a feeling that they had control of what was happening to them during their treatment.
Laura Michaud, PharmD:
It's really hard to say no to something even if it only has a very small chance of helping you. It's really hard when you're in a life threatening situation to say no to that. So a number of people come in taking all kinds of things.
J. Engebretson, DrPH:
I think they're looking for relief of symptoms, sometimes, I think they are looking often times for way to promote their health. To feel better, to function better and when you really look at healers, and look at the big spectrum, not just taking herbs and so forth, I think a lot of people are looking for ways with which to cope with this experience.
W. Baile, MD:
When you have cancer and you have depression and anxiety superimposed upon it, your quality of life can really suffer, because on top of distressing side effects of the disease, one can also experience insomnia and fatigue, decreased motivation, problems in concentrating and not only that, but the diagnosis of cancer itself can induce significant distress in individuals and some studies have indicated that in newly diagnosed patients, those who experience the highest distress are the most likely to initiate CAM treatments, so this might be one important way that patients can reassure themselves that they're doing something to address their distress, but interestingly it may also be a marker for anxiety and depression in a patient.
J. Engbretson, DrPH:
Spiritual and health connection is a way people are searching for to make meaning of the experience and make meaning of their lives, to kind of put this experience in the context of their live, and I think that's something that we really haven't looked at much and encompasses, embraced very much in health care. They basically say, you can see a chaplain if you want but it's very fragmented, and I think people are really looking for some sort of integration of the spiritual elements with their health.
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