University of Adelaide psychology PhD student Nadja Klafke quizzed 400 men with various types of cancer and found more than 50 per cent used complementary medicines, as well as prayer, meditation, yoga and exercise, in conjunction with conventional treatments.
She said the popularity of complementary and alternative treatments reflected the benefits – real or perceived.
“Many complementary therapies have the potential to help reduce common side effects of cancer treatment and disease symptoms,” Ms Klafke said.
“For example, acupuncture and acupressure may relieve chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting; hypnosis and massage are beneficial for cancer-related pain; and meditation and relaxation techniques can relieve fatigue.”
The study found dietary supplements were the most common natural therapy used by men suffering cancer.
Prayer was identified as the second most popular alternative therapy, while herbs and botanicals ranked third.
Ms Klafke said the study suggested many men were turning to alternative options because they were either dissatisfied with the results from conventional medical treatments or were being pressured by their spouse or family to try something different.
It also found that most oncologists were not aware that their male cancer patients used alternative treatments in conjunction with conventional medicine.
“It would definitely be worth clinicians having an open discussion with their patients about the efficacy and safety of complementary and alternative medicine,” she said.
“A better understanding of the role, reasons for use and the benefits of complementary and alternative medicine may lead to more holistic approaches to care.”