Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use in advanced cancer: a systematic review

We seek to describe the factors, reasons, and decision-making process used by advanced-cancer patients to use CAM.


This systematic review synthesizes knowledge about the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) among advanced cancer patients. EBSCO and Ovid databases were searched using core concepts, including advanced cancer, CAM, integrative medicine, and decision-making. Articles included in the final review were analyzed using narrative synthesis methods, including thematic analysis, concept mapping, and critical reflection on the synthesis process. Results demonstrate that advanced cancer patients who are younger, female, more educated, have longer duration of disease, and have previously used CAM are more likely to use CAM during this stage of illness. Key themes identified include patterns of and reasons for use; and barriers and facilitators to informed CAM decision-making. Knowledge regarding the use of CAM in advanced cancer remains in its nascent stages. Findings suggest a need for more research on understanding the dynamic process of CAM decision-making in the advanced cancer population from the patients’ perspective.

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