Complementary Medicine and The Patient

Catherine Zollman and Andrew Vickers

From the British Medical Journal

"In surveys of users of complementary medicine, about 80% are satisfied with the treatment they received. Interestingly, this is not always dependent on an improvement in their presenting complaint. For example, in one UK survey of cancer patients, changes attributed to complementary medicine included being emotionally stronger, less anxious, and more hopeful about the future even if the cancer remained unchanged."

"Patients often come to complementary medicine after having tried everything that conventional medicine has to offer. Complementary practitioners can offer hope to such patients, both by attempting to influence the underlying disease and, often more importantly, by addressing emotional states, energy levels, coping styles, and other aspects that contribute to quality of life. This is particularly important for patients with chronic diseases and no prospect of cure from conventional medicine. However, practitioners need to balance their claims carefully, considering the realistic chances of improvement and the dangers of creating false hope and further disappointment."

"Patients often make assumptions about the safety of complementary medication bought over the counter. As many of these contain pharmacologically active agents, they have the potential for adverse effects, particularly where they are taken in combination with other complementary or conventional medication."

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