Research: CROCETTI and colleagues, UO Epid

Listed in Issue 22


CROCETTI and colleagues, UO Epidemiologia, CSPO USL 10, Firenze, Italy write that complementary medicine (CM) is widely used by cancer patients. The authors conducted a study to evaluate the knowledge of and the attitude towards CM amongst Italian allopathic oncologists.



76 oncologists from Genoa, 80 oncologists from Naples and 100 hospital practitioners from the Province of Sondrio replied to a self-administered structured questionnaire regarding CM, including their knowledge and opinion of CM and CM therapists, their sources of information, use of CM for themselves, practice of CM and attitude to refer patients to CM.


190 oncologists replied; the response from Naples oncologists was significantly lower. Twenty percent of the physicians replied that they had no knowledge of CM. Main sources of information were newspapers and TV . Twenty-five percent of physicians had personally used CM and about twenty-five percent had practised a kind of CM. the percentage of oncologists from Genoa who referred their cancer patients to CM was significantly higher than from the other groups. The physicians thought that about 84% of their patients used CM . Oncologists from Genoa referred patients to CM at a significantly higher rate. Oncologists who had personally used CM referred patients to CM 3 times more frequently than others.


According to their physicians, a large percentage of cancer patients used CM. The oncologists' level and quality of knowledge of CM was low. Oncologists could hardly be helpful for their patients in dealing with therapies different from conventional medicine.


Crocetti E et al. Complementary medicine and oncologists' attitudes: a survey in Italy. Tumori 82(6): 539-42. Nov-Dec 1996.


It is obvious that the use of complementary medicine among the public has burgeoned. The reaction from the medical profession seems to fall into several categories: 1) Find out why people want to use complementary medicine and make certain that people tell their physicians that they are using complementary medicine; 2) Learn about complementary therapies from the newspapers and TV; 3) Actually study and practise complementary therapies; 4) Refer patients to complementary practitioners. It is appalling that a fifth of the Italian oncologists surveyed above had absolutely no knowledge of complementary medicine, despite their estimate that about 85% of cancer patients use these therapies. The preferred answer must lie in the setting of standards for complementary therapies, and the gradual introduction of these disciplines into the medical school curriculum, so that future generations of physicians are not ignorant of complementary medicine.

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