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Wed, 14 Sep 2022

Cancer self-treatment concern

Image: Olga Kononenko

New research reveals more than 40 per cent of cancer patients in Townsville are using complementary and alternative medicines such as cannabis.

James Cook University PhD candidate Martin Keene led the study, which surveyed more than 100 people receiving cancer treatment in the north Queensland city.

“The main reasons given for using complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) were to treat symptoms of cancer, side-effects of treatment or to improve general health. Two-thirds of respondents disclosed their CAM use to health professionals,” said Mr Keene.

He said CAM users were statistically more likely to have used CAM prior to their cancer diagnosis and have lower emotional wellbeing than non-users.

“It’s a concern as these therapies may pose safety risks when combined with conventional anti-cancer treatments. St. John’s Wort for example, can decrease the therapeutic effect of chemotherapy,” said Mr Keene.

He said the most used therapies were cannabis (26.8 %), magnesium (24.4 %) and massage (19.5 %); with the average patient using at least two different types of CAM.

Mr Keene said one notable observation was that cannabis was the most common CAM used by the Townsville respondents – something not seen in other studies.

“Much of the evidence for the benefits of cannabis use to cancer patients is anecdotal and considered of low quality.

“Concern and lack of knowledge amongst CAM users and non-users of the interactions CAM has with conventional therapy highlights the importance of health professionals possessing a good knowledge of complementary and alternative medicine,” said Mr Keene.


Martin Keene