Clinical and Descriptive Epidemiology Unit, Institute for Cancer Research and Prevention (ISPO), Florence, Italy; Centro Studi e Ricerca Synthesis, Florence, Italy.
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In Italy, data regarding the use of complementary therapies (CTs) among patients with cancer are sparse and discordant.
The present study aimed to investigate the demographic and psychological characteristics of Italian cancer patients who use CTs and the perceived benefit of users.
Eight hundred three patients from six Italian oncology departments were interviewed about CT use and completed two questionnaires to explore psychological distress and the resilience trait called sense of coherence (SOC). Patients included in the study had different primary tumor sites and were in different phases of the disease and care process.
At the time of measurement, 37.9% of patients were using one or more types of CTs. The most commonly used CTs were diets and dietary supplements (27.5%), herbs (10.8%), homeopathy (6.4%), and mind-body therapies (5.5%). The Italian context is characterized by a high percentage of patients who informed their physicians about CT use (66.3%) and who experienced benefits (89.6%); 75.2% of the patients had used CTs in the past. Multivariate analysis revealed that young, female patients, who previously used complementary and alternative medicine in the past, appear more likely to use at least one type of CT in the present. Predictors of the use of CTs varied according to the type of CT. Among psychological factors, SOC was positively associated with both past and present CT use.
Overall prevalence of CTs among Italian cancer patients is high and is in accordance with the European average. In addition to clinical and sociodemographic factors, the resilience trait SOC also was associated with CT use.