There is limited research into the benefits of complementary therapies in children, adolescents and young adults with cancer for a number of reasons. It is difficult to measure outcomes and the studies that have been done reveal that use is often concealed from the medical team.
Hopefully future research will provide evidence based data to support the use of complementary therapies in the future.
A 2005 review by a team in the United States looked at studies performed over the preceding decade. These studies found that complementary therapies are commonly used among children diagnosed with cancer. The reasons given include:
- Wanting to do whatever they could to contribute to their child’s health
- Help with symptom management
- Hopes of improving the immune system
- Hopes of improving the chance of a cure
The majority were not using complementary therapies due to any dissatisfaction with conventional treatment. An important, recurring finding was that doctors were often unaware of the children’s use of such therapies. Various reasons were given such as “it was not important for the doctor to know”, “the doctor would not understand”, and they “didn’t want to offend the doctor”.
The use of these therapies should always be disclosed so that safety issues can be addressed. The doctor should also be able to provide evidence-based information on potentially helpful therapies that may be safely incorporated into the child’s care plan.