(NaturalNews) The majority of cancer patients use so-called "complementary methods" in addition to traditional treatments such as surgery and chemotherapy, according to a study conducted by researchers from the American Cancer Society and published in the journal Cancer.
"We receive thousands of phone calls each year about complementary methods at the American Cancer Society national cancer information center, and our Web pages on complementary methods are among the most popular on our Web site," lead author Ted Gansler said.
The researchers surveyed 4,139 adults who had been diagnosed with cancer within the previous 10 to 24 months about their use of complementary methods to improve their health and reduce the side effects of cancer treatments. Prayer or other spiritual practices was the most common complementary method, used by 61 percent of patients. The use of nutritional supplements or vitamins was reported by 40 percent of respondents, as were relaxation techniques and faith or spiritual healing methods. Massage, meditation, religious counseling and support groups were less popular, and were each used by only 10 to 15 percent of patients.
Gansler said that more research is needed on which methods are the most effective.
"Learning more about which complementary methods help cancer survivors with pain, fatigue, anxiety, depression, overall psychological adjustment, and overall physical functioning is very feasible," he said. "That information could increase attention and resources for providing complementary methods that are helpful and reducing the time and money spent on ones that are not."
Gansler noted that while recent studies have backed up the effectiveness of acupuncture in relieving the symptoms of cancer and the side effects of conventional therapies, only 1.2 percent of respondents reported using it. In contrast, 40 percent of respondents used vitamin therapy even though research has not supported its effectiveness and it can actually be risky in high doses.
Use of complementary methods was more common among women, whites, the young and those with higher income and education levels.