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Open Access Research article

Use of selected complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments in veterans with cancer or chronic pain: a cross-sectional survey

F Patricia McEachrane-Gross12, Jane M Liebschutz3* and Dan Berlowitz1

Author Affiliations

1 Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital, 200 Springs Road, Bedford, MA, USA

2 Martin Army Community Hospital, Building 9200, Fort Benning, GA, USA

3 Section of General Internal Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston Medical Center, USA

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2006, 6:34  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-6-34

Published: 6 October 2006

Abstract

Background

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is emerging as an important form of care in the United States. We sought to measure the prevalence of selected CAM use among veterans attending oncology and chronic pain clinics and to describe the characteristics of CAM use in this population.

Methods

The self-administered, mail-in survey included questions on demographics, health beliefs, medical problems and 6 common CAM treatments (herbs, dietary supplements, chiropractic care, massage therapy, acupuncture and homeopathy) use. We used the chi-square test to examine bivariate associations between our predictor variables and CAM use.

Results

Seventy-two patients (27.3%) reported CAM use within the past 12 months. CAM use was associated with more education (p = 0.02), higher income (p = 0.006), non-VA insurance (p = 0.003), additional care outside the VA (p = 0.01) and the belief that lifestyle contributes to illness (p = 0.015). The diagnosis of chronic pain versus cancer was not associated with differential CAM use (p = 0.15). Seventy-six percent of CAM non-users reported that they would use it if offered at the VA.

Conclusion

Use of 6 common CAM treatments among these veterans is lower than among the general population, but still substantial. A large majority of veterans reported interest in using CAM modalities if they were offered at the VA. A national assessment of veteran interest in CAM may assist VA leaders to respond to patients' needs.