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Complementary Medicine After Cancer

Posted 7/26/2013

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I have written many times about the value, perceived or real or uncertain, of various CAM (complementary and alternative therapies in medicine) for symptoms of cancer treatment. I hope we agree that the data to support the use of CAM to treat the cancer itself is much less valid--and, I would say, useless. But it is another story and another day to rant about the vulnerability and fear of cancer patients who are preyed upon (my words, obviously) by sleazy people who are hoping to make money off their difficult situations. Today's topic is less controversial--the potential value of CAM treatments during survivorship, after treatments are done.

Many doctors prefer that their patients avoid CAM during radiation or chemotherapy. There is some evidence to suggest that some treatments may interfere with the efficacy of the radiation or chemo, and it does seem quite foolish to put yourself through these tough treatments and do something that might make them work less well. Once treatment is done, usually doctors are comfortable with patients doing whatever they want to help themselves feel empowered and healthier. This is a survey from the UK about the use of CAM treatments by cancer survivors. The twist is that the survey went to CAM practitioners and asked about what they are doing and what they think about their work. The bottom line is that a lot of cancer survivors are using one or another CAM treatment and most practitioners are not adequately educated about their care of these people.

Here is the abstract from the European Journal of Cancer . If you would like to read the whole article, please email me at: hhill@bidmc.harvard.edu and I will forward it to you. Can't post a link without forcing you to pay for access to the whole article.

Complementary therapy support in cancer survivorship: a survey of complementary and alternative medicine practitioners’ provision and perception of skills

C.A. SAMUEL, PHD, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Surrey, Guildford, & S. FAITHFULL, PHD, MSC, BSC (HONS) RN, PROF. OF CANCER NURSING PRACTICE, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK SAMUEL C.A. & FAITHFULL S.

(2013) European Journal of Cancer Care Complementary therapy support in cancer survivorship: a survey of complementary and alternative medicine practitioners’ provision and perception of skills This study reviewed the confidence and perceived skills of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practitioners in providing care and symptom management for clients post cancer. An e-survey was mailed to approximately 21 000 CAM practitioners, targeted at those working with clients who were experiencing consequences of cancer and its treatments. Questions were asked about the main symptoms and concerns of clients, the confidence and current skill levels of practitioners and additional training requirements. Six hundred and twelve practitioners responded to the survey, 507 of whom were working with individuals experiencing the consequences of cancer and its treatments. Forty-five per cent (n = 134) had undertaken training in cancer prior to working with cancer patients, 61% (n = 182) had undertaken courses or study days relative to cancer care in the past two years. The most often treated symptoms or concerns of patients were those of a psychosocial nature, pain management and lymphoedema. CAM practitioners with limited knowl- edge and training are providing support to cancer survivors, particularly in services where the National Health Service has limited provision. CAM practitioners may fulfil a future role in providing long-term support for cancer survivors; however, in order to properly safeguard patients they are in need of further training and development.

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