Use of complementary and alternative medicine among women with gynecologic cancers

Elizabeth M. Swisher, David E. Cohn, Barbara A. Goff, Judy Parham, Thomas J. Herzog, Janet S. Rader, David G. Mutch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

101 Scopus citations


Objective. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence and types of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) usage by women with gynecologic cancer in an outpatient midwestern university practice. Methods. Any patient with a gynecologic cancer seen in the outpatient clinic of the gynecologic oncology division at Washington University over a 3-month period was eligible, excluding those patients with a new cancer diagnosis. Subjects completed a questionnaire anonymously. Two by two comparisons were made using the Fisher exact test and P was considered significant at P < 0.05. Results. Nearly half (49.6%) of 113 respondents had used CAM since being diagnosed with cancer. Characteristics significantly associated with CAM use include annual income greater than $30,000, cancer site of origin other than the cervix, and use of CAM prior to cancer diagnosis. Users with annual incomes greater than $30,000 were significantly more likely to use CAM in the "other" category that included acupuncture, reflexology, and electromagnetic therapy. Fewer than 25% of CAM users received information regarding CAM from a physician, nurse, or practitioner of CAM. Women used CAM in hopes of achieving a wide range of potential benefits including both improved well-being and anti-cancer effects. The most common actual benefit these women perceived was an improvement in psychosocial well-being, including increased hope or optimism. Conclusions. American patients with gynecologic cancer frequently use CAM in addition to standard medical therapy. Oncologists caring for women with gynecologic cancer should initiate a dialogue about usage of CAM, discussing the potential adverse effects of CAM and the patient's therapeutic goals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)363-367
Number of pages5
JournalGynecologic oncology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2002


  • Alternative medicine
  • Cancer
  • Complementary
  • Gynecology


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