A multisite, community oncology-based randomized trial of a brief educational intervention to increase communication regarding complementary and alternative medicine


  • We thank the Community Clinical Oncology Program sites and the nurses and patients who participated in the current study. We also thank Sunita Patterson from Scientific Publications at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center for her helpful editorial comments.



The use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is widespread, yet there is relatively little discussion regarding its use between oncology patients and their health care practitioners.


This multisite randomized trial examined the efficacy of an educational intervention designed to encourage oncology nurses to discuss CAM use with their patients. A total of 175 nurses completed questionnaires about discussing CAM use with patients at baseline and 2 months after the intervention. Patients at baseline (N = 699) and different patients at follow-up (N = 650) completed questionnaires regarding CAM.


At the 2-month follow-up, nurses in the intervention reported they were more likely to ask about CAM use than those in the control group (odds ratio, 4.2; P = .005). However, no significant effect was found for the percentage of patients who indicated that they were asked about CAM use (odds ratio, 2.1; P > .10). Approximately 40% of patients reported using CAM after their cancer diagnosis, yet the majority of nurses estimated that < 25% of their patients were using CAM.


CAM use in community-based oncology patients is common and is underestimated by oncology nurses. The brief, low-intensity intervention presented herein was found to be sufficiently powerful to change nurses' perceptions of their behavior but may not have been intensive enough to yield changes that were evident to patients. Cancer 2013;119:3514–3522.. © 2013 UT MD Anderson Cancer Center. Cancer published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. on behalf of American Cancer Society.