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Gender, Symptom Experience, and Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine Practices Among Cancer Survivors in the U.S. Cancer Population

Judith M. Fouladbakhsh

Manfred Stommel

insomnia, survivors, complementary and alternative therapies, male, women, pain, fatigue, symptoms
ONF 2009, 37(1), E7-E15. DOI: 10.1188/10.ONF.E7-E15

Purpose/Objectives: To identify relationships among gender, physical and psychological symptoms (pain, insomnia, fatigue, and depression), and use of specific complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practices among survivors in the U.S. cancer population.

Design: Secondary analysis of the 2002 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). The CAM Healthcare Model, an extension of the Behavioral Model for Health Services Use, guided the study.

Setting: United States.

Sample: 2,262 adults (aged 18 years and older) diagnosed with cancer representing more than 14.3 million cancer survivors in the United States.

Methods: NHIS interview data on use of CAM practices (diet, yoga, tai chi, qigong, meditation, guided imagery, relaxation, and deep breathing) were examined in relationship to gender and symptoms. Analysis was conducted using Stata® 9.2 software for population estimation. Binary logistic regression, the primary statistical model employed in the analysis, focused on between-subject differences in practice use.

Main Research Variables: Dichotomous outcome variables included use of at least one CAM practice and use of specific individual CAM practices. Independent variables included gender, age, education, race, provider contact, cancer diagnosis, pain, insomnia, fatigue, depression, and health status.

Findings: CAM practice use was more prevalent among female, middle-aged, Caucasian, and well-educated subjects. Pain, depression, and insomnia were strong predictors of practice use, with differences noted by gender and practice type.

Conclusions: CAM practices are widely used in the U.S. cancer population, especially among women. Symptom experience influences likelihood of use, with increased odds when men report symptoms.

Implications for Nursing: Study findings inform oncology nurses on the benefits of integrating self-care CAM practices in relationship to gender into the symptom management care plan for cancer survivors. Findings reported in this study will help guide future CAM practice intervention studies.

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