Use of traditional and complementary/alternative medicine (TCAM) in children with cancer in Guatemala


  • Conflict of interest: Nothing to report.



International surveys have demonstrated that use of traditional and complementary/alternative medicine (TCAM) is highly prevalent among children with cancer; however, little is known about its use among children with cancer in Latin America. As part of a regional initiative, we present the results of the first survey exploring use of TCAM among children with cancer residing in Latin America.


A cross-sectional sample of 100 parents whose children received treatment in Guatemala City were interviewed from May 2008 to February 2010. Upon consent, an in-person interview was performed during a routine clinical visit. Information on the form, duration, cost, and satisfaction of TCAM was collected. Approval from the institutional review board was obtained.


The median age of patients was 9.2 years with 63% undergoing treatment. Use of TCAM was reported by 90% of parents. Most often, more than one type of therapy was utilized. Most patients (67%) relied on TCAM for supportive care indications; however, a significant percentage (34%) used TCAM for curative purposes. The most commonly reported form was the use of oral supplements with the majority perceiving TCAM as effective for the intended purpose.


Use of TCAM was highly prevalent among children with cancer residing in Guatemala. Most importantly, TCAM was used alongside conventional therapy for supportive care indications. These findings underscoring the need for open lines of communication between clinicians and families. Future research may consider exploring the role of TCAM within the scope of supportive care and its effect on existing supportive care interventions. Pediatr Blood Cancer 2014;61:687–692. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.