Motivations and influences on the use of complementary medicine in patients with localized prostate cancer treated with curative intent: results of a pilot study


D. Theodorescu, Department of Urology, Box422, University of Virginia Health Sciences Center, Charlottesville, Virginia, 22908, USA. e-mail:



To analyse descriptively the use of complementary medicine (CM) by patients with localized prostate cancer treated with curative intent, assessing the major influences on their choice to use CM, and the major critics and advocates of CM.


From January 1997 to June 2000, 351 men with stage T1c-T3 adenocarcinoma of the prostate were treated with either radical prostatectomy (RP) or brachytherapy. On the final date all patients were mailed a questionnaire relating to their use of CM and the results analysed cross-sectionally.


In all, 238 (67.8%) patients returned the questionnaires, of whom 37% acknowledged using some type of CM, with a similar overall use of CM among those treated with RP or brachytherapy. Of these, 43% began using CM before and 32% after starting conventional treatment, and most indicated they would never discontinue these therapies. The most common reason for using CM was the patient's impression that it made them feel better, and secondarily that they felt it helped to cure their cancer. Physicians were the most common source of information about CM, with twice as many patients identifying physicians as being advocates rather than critics of CM. Many patients felt their urologist or radiation oncologist was neutral or chose not to discuss CM. However, when these physicians discussed CM, more patients felt that they encouraged rather than discouraged the use of CM.


These data on the motivations for patient choices relating to CM are novel; the sources of information, both positive and negative, that patients find useful in their decision to use these therapies were explored. Interestingly, physicians were generally supportive of the use of such approaches.