The use of complementary and alternative medicine by patients with cancer: a cross-sectional survey in Saudi Arabia

  • Khadega A. Abuelgasim (Contributor)
  • Yousef Alsharhan (Contributor)
  • Tariq Alenzi (Contributor)
  • Abdulaziz Alhazzani (Contributor)
  • Yosra Z. Ali (Contributor)
  • Abdul Rahman Jazieh (Contributor)



Abstract Background A significant proportion of cancer patients use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) along with conventional therapies (CT), whereas a smaller proportion delay or defer CT in favor of CAM. Previous studies exploring CAM use among cancer patients in the Middle East region have shown discrepant results. This study investigates the prevalence and pattern of CAM use by Saudi cancer patients. It also discusses the possible benefits and harm related to CAM use by cancer patients, and it explores the beliefs patients hold and their transparency with health care providers regarding their CAM use. Methods A cross-sectional study was conducted in oncology wards and outpatient clinics by using face-to-face interviews with the participants. Results A total of 156 patients with a median age of 50 years (18â 84) participated in the study. The prevalence of CAM use was 69.9%; the most prominent types of CAM were those of a religious nature, such as supplication (95.4%), Quran recitation (88.1%), consuming Zamzam water (84.4%), and water upon which the Quran has been read (63.3%). Drinking camel milk was reported by 24.1% of CAM users, whereas camel urine was consumed by 15.7%. A variety of reasons were given for CAM use: 75% reported that they were using CAM to treat cancer, enhance mood (18.3%),control pain (11.9%), enhance the immune system (11%),increase physical fitness (6.4%), and improve appetite (4.6%). Thirty percent of CAM users had discussed the issue with their doctors; only 7.7% had done so with their nurses. Conclusions The use of CAM, including camel products, is highly prevalent among cancer patients in the Middle East, but these patients do not necessarily divulge their CAM use to their treating physicians and nurses. Although CAM use can be beneficial, some can be very harmful, especially for cancer patients. Association is known between camel products and brucellosis and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV). Both can lead to tremendous morbidity in immune-compromised patients. Doctorâ patient communication regarding CAM use is of paramount importance in cancer care.
Date made available1 Jan 2018

Cite this