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Quality of Life and Patterns of Nontraditional Therapy Use by Patients With Cancer

Marcia L. Jordan
Linda R. Delunas
ONF 2001, 1107-1113 DOI:

Purpose/Objectives: To describe the characteristics of patients with cancer that may be associated with use of or interest in nontraditional healthcare practices or therapies.

Design: Descriptive study using survey methodology with a large convenience sample.

Setting: Private, outpatient, adult hematology/oncology practice in the midwestern United States.

Sample: 89 outpatients who had received, were currently receiving, or were scheduled to receive chemotherapy for cancer. Participants ranged in age from 21-88 years (mean = 63.26), were predominately Caucasian and female, and had a high school education.

Methods: Patients presenting for treatment were handed surveys and asked to mail them back to the investigators. Instruments included Ferrans and Powers' Quality of Life (QOL) Index--Cancer Version and a questionnaire designed for the purpose of this study to obtain demographic information and information regarding interest in or use of nontraditional therapy (NT). Data were analyzed for frequency of use, interest in using NT, and relationship between use/interest and quality of life.

Main Research Variables: QOL, using NT.

Findings: 34 (39.5%) of the respondents initiated use of NT after receiving a diagnosis of cancer; they were more commonly female, less than 65 years of age, and more highly educated. New users of NT tended to have known about their diagnosis longer, had experienced a recurrence or metastasis, and had been told that the possibility of cure was unlikely. QOL scores were higher among new users versus continuous users of various individual categories of NT.

Conclusions: Adult patients with cancer in this study sample very commonly used nontraditional healthcare practices; more than one-third initiated their use after diagnosis.

Implications for Nursing Practice: Practitioners are challenged and encouraged to become more knowledgeable regarding NT therapy use and more sensitive to issues surrounding patients' decisions to use them.

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