Although many studies indicate that the use of complementary and alternative medicine by cancer patients is common and widespread, few studies have focused on unmet needs of patients using complementary therapies (CTs). The aim of the present study was to evaluate, through a quantitative approach, possible associations between the use of CTs and the presence of specific unmet needs in cancer patients.
In six Italian oncology departments, 783 patients were interviewed about CTs use and completed the Needs Evaluation Questionnaire. 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 the survey, 38.3% of patients were using one or more types of CTs. According to Needs Evaluation Questionnaire, the use of CTs was associated (p < .05) with the need to be more involved in therapeutic choices (40% vs. 31.7%), the need to have a better dialogue with clinicians (44.4% vs. 37.2%), and the need to have more economic-insurance information in relation to their illness (46.1% vs. 36.4%). Statistical significance was confirmed with multivariable analysis for the last two items, whereas three more needs were associated with the use of CTs after adjustment: to receive more explanation on treatments (46.8% vs. 41.0%), to receive more comprehensible information (38% vs. 31.9%), and to receive more attention from nurses (16% vs. 12.1%).
Our study shows interesting differences regarding perceived needs between cancer patients who use and who do not use CTs. Unmet needs that are more expressed in CTs users should be known and, when possible, could be taken into account to improve both psychosocial interventions in the context of conventional care process and the quality of the relationship between patient and medical and nursing staff.