Clinician Recommendations May Pique Patients’ Interest in Complementary and Integrative Therapies

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Patients with cancer expressed more interest in complementary and integrative medicine services when these services were recommended by an oncologist or other medical professional or were provided for free in a clinical trial, according to a survey reported in JCO Oncology Practice.1 The survey included 464 patients with cancer treated at University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center, Case Western University School of Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center, Cleveland, and 112 caregivers. All were asked about their past experience and interest in five integrative services: acupuncture, therapeutic massage, music therapy, meditation therapy, and yoga therapy.

Richard T. Lee, MD, the report’s corresponding author and Director of Supportive and Integrative Oncology at Seidman Cancer Center, told The ASCO Post he was “not entirely surprised” that more than half of the patients and caregivers were unfamiliar with integrative therapies. “In my own practice, I do find patients who have heard of these therapies but don’t really understand them,” he continued. “There is a huge need to make sure they understand these types of therapies. We always want our patients to be proactive in learning about their options,” Dr. Lee added, but it is the responsibility of a cancer center’s medical professionals “to provide information and guidance about what resources are available, including integrative therapies.”

The survey found interest in complementary and integrative medicine services increased by an average of 11.7% when they were recommended by a medical professional.

Educating Medical Professionals

Another study based on a survey of patients, caregivers, and health-care providers, including oncologists, found that “one of the barriers to utilization by health-care providers is knowledge and education,” Dr. Lee reported. That survey was also conducted at Seidman Cancer Center and has been published online in the Journal of Supportive Care in Cancer.2

“We need to inform and provide more avenues for education for health-care providers in the cancer world. That might be through conferences or online resources, or maybe we can start from the beginning—in medical school,” Dr. Lee stated. “Upfront, there is movement to provide education early on in the career of health-care professionals as well as for those who are already practicing.” Dr. Lee also called for “more research to fully understand the benefits of such integrative therapy approaches.” 

DISCLOSURE: Dr. Lee has received institutional research funding from Merck and Tracon Pharmaceuticals and has held other relationships with Grow Ohio ­Pharmaceuticals.


1. Larbi OM, Jiang C, McLane B, et al: Interest and willingness to pay for integrative therapies of patients with cancer and caregivers. JCO Oncol Pract. January 22, 2021 (early release online).

2. Jiang C, Larbi O, Feyes D, et al: A survey of cancer patients, caregivers, and providers regarding familiarity, importance, and utilization of supportive and integrative oncology services. Support Care Cancer. March 19, 2021 (early release online). 


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