About one third of prostate cancer patients in the United States use some type of complementary or alternative medicine, a large national study shows.
Its important for patients to tell their physician if they are using any type of alternative medicine, because these therapies could interact with other medicines, Eric Elkin of the University of California-San Francisco, one of the study’s authors, told Reuters Health. However, up to one half of prostate cancer patients who take alternative therapies may not tell their doctors about it, he and his colleagues note in their report.
“It’s important that communication between the doctor and the patient to be there so that the doctor knows everything else the patient is taking,” Elkin added.
Past studies have found that prostate cancer patients often begin taking alternative or complementary medicines after receiving their diagnosis. To investigate more specifically, Elkin and his colleagues looked at use of more than 50 different types of complementary or alternative medicines in a group of 2,582 men in a registry of prostate cancer patients.
One third reported using some type of alternative medicine, with 26% using mineral or vitamin supplements, 16% taking herbs, 13% taking antioxidants and 12% taking some type of alternative treatment for “prostate health,” such as saw palmetto or lycopene.
Men using alternative medicine tended to have higher incomes, more education, and more advanced cancer at diagnosis. Alternative medicine users also were more likely to have other illnesses. The men who used alternative treatments targeted to prostate health were younger and less likely to be obese.
“It might be important to assess what influences patients to start using (complementary or alternative medicines) and where they are obtaining their information,” the researchers note. More study is needed to see how the use of alternative medicines affects quality of life and health in men with prostate cancer.
SOURCE: Urology, December 2005.
Revision date: July 7, 2011
Last revised: by Andrew G. Epstein, M.D.