Oncologists Underestimate Patients’ Use of Complementary Medicines After Diagnosis of Breast Cancer
Almost three-quarters of breast cancer patients (73%) report using at least one type of complementary medicine after a cancer diagnosis, while oncologists estimate that less than half (43%) of patients use these. approaches during cancer care. These and other findings from a national survey of oncologists and breast cancer patients were released in conjunction with the 2021 ASCO annual meeting. The study found that doctors say they discuss integrative health with only about half of patients, leading patients to seek information outside of the clinic.
Cancer is a complex disease that affects all parts of a patient’s life. While conventional medicine is effective in curing disease, it may not help patients heal. Patients turn to these therapies for hope and to improve their quality of life and well-being after diagnosis, but they seek more guidance from their oncologists. “
Wayne Jonas, MD, report co-author and executive director of integrative health programs at the Samueli Foundation
A national survey of 115 clinical oncologists who treat breast cancer was conducted in late 2020 alongside a similar survey of 164 breast cancer patients diagnosed within two years of the survey. The survey was conducted by IQVIA, a global provider of advanced analytics, technology solutions and clinical research services to the life sciences industry, to understand awareness, use and attitudes towards the use of complementary and lifestyle therapies in addition to medical treatment.
In the study, researchers found that two-thirds of oncologists (66%) and patients (65%) believe that the use of complementary therapies and lifestyle improves the quality of life of patients. Many patients (60%) also believe that these treatments lead to better health outcomes. Interestingly, patient use of tai chi / chi gong or acupuncture had the strongest correlation with a positive impact on quality of life among the 12 modalities tested.
The survey also assessed patient and physician awareness of complementary and lifestyle therapies and sources of information for patients. Most oncologists reported being familiar with at least one therapy. These physicians viewed nutrition counseling, support groups, psycho-oncology support, and exercise counseling as the most important integration services. However, they gave relatively low marks to spiritual services and meditation or mindfulness – two approaches that patients see as important. Patients also recall that their healthcare teams provided fewer recommendations on these two modalities than the others.
While oncologists and patients alike agree that an oncologist, oncology nurse, or patient navigator is a good source of information for complementary medicine and lifestyle therapies, patients have a slight preference for hearing directly. oncologists.
“Many oncologists are generally supportive of integrating complementary and lifestyle therapies with conventional medical treatment, but the education and advice given to patients varies widely,” said Terri Crudup, senior director of primary intelligence at IQVIA. “Oncologists and the institutions in which they practice should research methods to educate and expose patients to a variety of safe and effective complementary and lifestyle therapies to find those that will best help their patients.”