To assess cancer patients’ utilization of complementary and alternative medical providers and the associated expenditures by specific treatment phases.
Cross-sectional analysis of medical services utilization and expenditures during three therapeutic intervals: an initial treatment phase, continuing care, and end-of-life.
Analysis of an insurance claims database that had been matched to the Washington State SEER cancer registry.
Of 2,900 registry-matched cancer patients 63.2% were female, the median age was 54 years, and 92.7% were white. Breast cancer was the most frequent diagnosis (52.7%), followed by prostate cancer (24.7%), lung cancer (10.1%), colon cancer (7.0%), and hematologic malignancies (5.6%). CAM provider using patients were 26.5% of the overall cohort (18.5% used chiropractors, 7.7% naturopathic physicians, 5.3% massage therapists, and 4.2% saw acupuncturists). The proportion of CAM using patients was similar during each treatment phase. All patients used some conventional care. Female gender, a breast cancer diagnosis, age, and white race were significant predictors of CAM use. Diagnosis of a musculoskeletal problem occurred at sometime during the study for 72.1% of cancer patients. CAM provider visits were 7.2% of total outpatient medical visits and 85.1% of CAM visits resulted in a musculoskeletal diagnosis. Expenditures for CAM providers were 0.3%, 1.0%, and 0.1% of all expenditures during the initial, continuing, and end-of-life phases respectively.
For cancer patients, musculoskeletal issues were the most commonly listed diagnosis made by a CAM provider. Although expenditures associated with CAM are a small proportion of the total, additional studies are necessary to determine the importance patients place on access to these services.
Keywords: Alternative Medicine, Oncology, Healthcare Expenditures, Treatment Phase