Background: The use of complementary and alternative medicine has increased over the last decade in the western world.
Objectives: To evaluate the extent and characteristics of CAM use among cancer patients in northern Israel.
Methods: Telephone interviews were conducted with 2,176 newly registered cancer patients or their family members, at least 1 year following referral.
Results: The rates of CAM use varied significantly according to demographic characteristics and chemotherapy treatment, from 3% in the basically educated elderly group up to 69% of educated Israeli-born Jews younger than 70 years receiving chemotherapy. The overall rate of CAM use was 17%. The most influential factors determining CAM use were academic or high school education, chemotherapy treatment, Israel as country of birth, and age 41–50 years. All patients used CAM in addition to conventional therapies. Less than half of them reported it to their physicians. The most frequently used treatments were various chemical, biological, botanic and homeopathy remedies. Friends and relatives were the main recommenders of CAM. Most CAM users reported that they used CAM because they believed it “strengthens the immune system,” alleviates side effects of chemotherapy, improves quality of life and helps to overcome pain and stress, and 62% of them reported subjective beneficial effects.
Conclusions: A predicting module of CAM user patients was built, which may help physicians initiate conversations with their patients on CAM use. Expanding physicians' knowledge on CAM methods will encourage them to provide additional advice, promote the use of beneficial therapies, and inform patients about potentially harmful methods.
 CAM = complementary and alternative medicine