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Physicians’ attitudes towards the use of complementary therapies (CTs) by cancer patients in Finland


liisa Salmenpera, University of Turku, Department of Nursing, 20014 University of Nursing, Finland (e-mail:


This study describes physicians’ attitudes towards the use of complementary therapies (CTs) by cancer patients in Finland. Responses to 33 Likert-type statements were received from 234 physicians; the response rate was 50.6%. The questionnaire items were analysed separately and using five sum variables. Data analysis was based on descriptive statistics, chi-square and t-tests and analysis of variance. Attitudes among physicians and oncologists in particular were quite critical. Over four-fifths of the physicians (86%) were doubtful whether CTs should be used at all, given the scarcity of solid research evidence on their benefits. Three quarters (75%) referred to unknown risk factors, half (51%) were of the opinion that CTs should not be used in cancer care at all. On the other hand 58% believed that CTs could help to relieve stress and anxiety among cancer patients, and 79% wanted to see scientific testing to establish the effects of CTs. The most positive attitude towards CTs was shown by general practitioners and non-specialized physicians. Positive attitudes were associated with personal CT use, with recommending CTs to patients and with a high level of interest to participate in CT training. The physicians did not believe the specific CTs singled out for investigation would help patients to recover from cancer. They thought that the use of CTs by cancer patients was motivated by future hope, a determination to do everything possible to cure the cancer and the perception of CTs as a last resort. The result that professional attitudes towards CTs are quite critical in Finland presents a very special challenge to the relationship between physicians and patients: it is crucial that physicians know enough about CTs so that they can discuss the issue with patients and provide relevant advice and guidance on their use.