The role of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) routines and rituals in men with cancer and their significant others (SOs): A qualitative investigation

Nadja Klafke, Jaklin A. Eliott, Ian N. Olver, Gary A. Wittert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is frequently used in cancer patients, often with contribution of the significant others (SOs), but without consultation of healthcare professionals. This research explored how cancer patients integrate and maintain CAM use in their everyday life, and how SOs are involved in it. Methods: In this qualitative study, male participants were selected from a preceding Australian survey on CAM use in men with cancer (94 % response rate and 86 % consent rate for follow-up interview). Semistructured interviews were conducted with 26 men and 24 SOs until data saturation was reached. Interview transcripts were coded and analyzed thematically, thereby paying close attention to participants' language in use. Results: A major theme associated with high CAM use was "CAM routines and rituals," as it was identified that men with cancer practiced CAM as (1) functional routines, (2) meaningful rituals, and (3) mental/spiritual routines or/and rituals. Regular CAM use was associated with intrapersonal and interpersonal benefits: CAM routines provided men with certainty and control, and CAM rituals functioned for cancer patients and their SOs as a means to create meaning, thereby working to counter fear and uncertainty consequent upon a diagnosis of cancer. SOs contributed most to men's uptake and maintenance of dietary-based CAM in ritualistic form resulting in interpersonal bonding and enhanced closeness. Conclusions: CAM routines and rituals constitute key elements in cancer patients' regular and satisfied CAM use, and they promote familial strengthening. Clinicians and physicians can convey these benefits to patient consultations, further promoting the safe and effective use of CAM.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1319-1331
Number of pages13
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished or Issued - May 2014


  • Australia
  • Cancer
  • Caregivers
  • Complementary and alternative medicine
  • Family
  • Men
  • Oncology
  • Qualitative research
  • Relatives
  • Supportive care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology

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