• complementary medicine;
  • alternative medicine;
  • complementary therapies;
  • head and neck cancer

The aim of the present study was to examine the patterns of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use in a sample of head and neck cancer patients, forming part of a larger study. A cross-sectional survey design was used collecting data through a descriptive 27-item questionnaire in nine countries in Europe. The participants were 75 patients with head and neck cancers. The prevalence rate of CAM use was 22.7%. The most common therapies used were herbal medicine (47%), medicinal teas (23.5%), use of vitamins/minerals (11.8%) and visualization (11.8%). Use of CAM dramatically increased after the diagnosis with cancer (i.e. eightfold increase in the use of herbs). A profile of CAM users was not evident in this sample. Patients used CAM for a variety of reasons together, with counteracting the ill effects from cancer and its treatment being the most common one. Information about CAM was obtained mostly from friends and family. As one in five head and neck cancer patients use CAM it is important that clinicians explore practices with their patients, improve communication about CAM with them and assist those who want to use CAM in using appropriate and safe therapies.