Prevalence of complementary and alternative diet therapies used in patients attending oncology and haematology day units at a teaching hospital (#292)
Background: Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use among patients with cancer is increasing and may have detrimental effects on patients’ clinical outcomes. This study aimed to investigate the prevalence of complementary and alternative diet therapy use in patients attending the day units.
Methods: A cross-sectional questionnaire survey over 4 weeks. Patients >18 years of age with cancer and who were able to give informed consent and complete a questionnaire were recruited. Response rate was 79% (n=148).
In this study, alternative diet therapies were defined as specific diets that are followed with the hope of curing cancer or delaying cancer growth. They are often poorly balanced and restrict nutrients essential for wellbeing. Healthy eating and/or strategies to improve oral intake were considered as complementary diet therapies.
Results: The median age was 62 years (range 19-89 years); 51% were male and 25% were with Asian background. The majority of patients (82%) were on chemotherapy and 64% of (n=95) had solid tumours.
Sixty two percent of patients were modifying their diet and/or taking supplements. Thirty nine patients (24%) reported modifying their diet because of their cancer diagnosis; 24 dietary changes met the definition of alternative diet. Most common dietary changes were food avoidance; including red meat (n=17), sugar (n=8), dairy products (n=6), and dietary intake of fruit and fruit juices only (n=1). Fifty percent of patients were taking supplement(s) (such as herbal, multivitamin, fish oil, oral nutritional supplement drinks). The number of supplements taken range from 0 to 18 types. Of those patients who took supplements, only 55% of them had informed their treating doctor.
Conclusion: The majority of patients made some form of dietary change including taking supplements with the view to improve health outcomes. Some of the dietary changes may be potentially harmful. Increased awareness and discussion between health professionals and patients regarding the potential harm and benefits of CAM is required.