Complementary and alternative medicine among Singapore cancer patients

Wen Hann Chow, Pearlly Chang, Soo Chin Lee, Alvin Wong, Han Ming Shen, Helena Marieke Verkooijen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


INTRODUCTION: This study evaluates determinants, expectations, association with quality of life (QOL) and doctor's awareness of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) use in Singapore cancer patients.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: We interviewed 316 patients visiting the Cancer Centre of the National University Hospital on behaviour, attitudes and expectations towards CAM and assessed QOL via Euroqol Questionnaire (EQ-5D). Medical information was obtained from oncologists.

RESULTS: One hundred and seventy-three patients (55%) reported CAM use after cancer diagnosis. Chinese ethnicity, tertiary education, age <65 years and previous CAM use were independent predictors of CAM use. Fifty-one per cent of CAM users informed their doctors about their use and 15% of doctors reported to be aware of CAM use in these patients. Thirty-seven per cent believed CAM to be equally or more effective than conventional cancer therapies and 78% expected at least basic knowledge about CAM from their oncologists. Twenty-fi ve per cent of patients reported concurrent use of oral CAM and chemotherapy, of which oncologists were unaware in 86% of cases. CAM users had higher EuroQol utility scores than non-CAM users (0.79 versus 0.73, respectively, P = 0.03), in particularly those aged >or=65 years and those with stage IV disease.

CONCLUSION: Singapore cancer patients show high prevalence of CAM use, high expectations regarding its effectiveness and doctors' knowledge on CAM and many use it concurrently with chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Since oncologists are generally unaware of CAM use in their patients, doctor-patient communication on CAM use needs to be improved. The association of CAM use and higher QOL scores in some subgroups deserves further exploration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-35
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of the Academy of Medicine, Singapore
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2010


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Complementary Therapies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms
  • Quality of Life
  • Singapore
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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