Differences between older and younger cancer survivors in seeking cancer information and using complementary/alternative medicine

Jill A. Bennett, Linda D. Cameron, Lisa C. Whitehead, David Porter

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to describe the differences between younger and older cancer survivors in seeking cancer information, using complementary and alternative medical (CAM) services, and using conventional support services. DESIGN AND METHODS: Participants were 836 survivors of adult cancers (6 months-43 years since completion of primary cancer treatment) in New Zealand who answered a mailed questionnaire between April 2007 and January 2008. RESULTS: Younger survivors (aged <60 years at diagnosis) were more likely to seek information from sources beyond their physicians and used different sources for that information, compared to older survivors. Older and younger survivors used similar conventional support services, but different CAM services. In logistic regression analyses, information-seekers were 5.9 times more likely to use CAM than those who did not seek cancer information (p=0.02), but the association between information-seeking and CAM use depended on age (p=0.02). Older cancer survivors who did not seek information from sources beyond that provided by physicians were less likely to use CAM. IMPLICATIONS: Physicians should consider talking to older cancer survivors about their use of information sources or CAM therapies. A conversation between physician and patient may uncover inaccurate information or CAM use that has potential for adverse effects, while allowing the physician to encourage CAM that is potentially useful. Even a brief conversation may be sufficient to encourage older cancer survivors to take action themselves to find services that support their recovery from cancer and cancer treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1089-1094
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • CAM
  • Cancer
  • Information-seeking
  • Older adults
  • Support services

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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