Complementary and alternative medicine use among cancer patients at the end of life: Korean national study

Jin Young Choi, Yoon Jung Chang, Young Seon Hong, Dae Seog Heo, Samyong Kim, Jung Lim Lee, Jong Soo Choi, Ki Mun Kang, Si Young Kim, Hyun Sik Jeong, Chang Geol Lee, Youn Seon Choi, Ho Yeong Lim, Young Ho Yun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: To investigate in depth the use of complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs) by cancer patients at the end-of-life (EOL) and how they communicate with physicians about them. Design and location: In 17 hospitals in Korea between January and December 2004 we identified 4,042 families of cancer patients. Results: The prevalence of CAM use among cancer patients at the EOL was 37.0%, and 93.1% had used pharmacologic types of agents. The most frequent motive for CAM use was the recommendation of friends or a close relative (53.4%) or a physician (1.6%). Only 42.5% discussed CAM use with their physicians. Satisfaction with CAMS was recalled for 37.1%. The most common reason given for that satisfaction was improvement of emotional or physical well-being, while ineffectiveness was the most common reason given for dissatisfaction. The average cost of CAM during the last month of life was $US 900. CAM use was associated with longer disease periods, primary cancers other than liver, biliary, and pancreatic, and need of support from physicians or religion. Conclusions: CAM use among cancer patients at the EOL was common, not discussed with physicians, and associated with expectation of cure. Expectations were generally unmet while the treatments were a financial burden. Further studies evaluating the effects of CAM at the EOL and factors that enhance communication with the physician are needed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1419-1424
Number of pages6
JournalAsian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Complementary and alternative medicine
  • End of life
  • Korean cancer patients

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Oncology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Cancer Research


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