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Attitudes of Patients With Gynecological and Breast Cancer Toward Integration of Complementary Medicine in Cancer Care

Ben-Arye, Eran MD*†; Schiff, Elad MD; Steiner, Mariana MD*; Keshet, Yael PhD§; Lavie, Ofer MD

International Journal of Gynecological Cancer: January 2012 - Volume 22 - Issue 1 - p 146–153
doi: 10.1097/IGC.0b013e318226c614
Quality of Life

Objective The purpose of this study was to explore prospectively the perspectives of patients with breast and gynecological cancers regarding integration of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in conventional oncology settings.

Methods We developed a 27-item questionnaire that was administered to convenient sample of patients with breast cancer and another with gynecological cancer who were attending a community-based oncology service in northern Israel.

Results Of the 275 respondents, 109 (39.6%) had gynecological cancers and 166 (60.4%) had breast cancer. Current and/or previous year CAM use for oncology treatment was significantly higher among the patients with gynecological cancer (73/166 [44%] vs 67/106 [63%], P = 0.03). A logistic regression model indicated that CAM use was associated with gynecological cancer (EXP [B], 2.51; 95% confidence interval for EXP [B], 1.29–4.88; P = 0.007], younger age, Jewish religion, and lesser degree of religiosity. The patients highly expected their gynecologist-oncologist and family doctor to refer them to CAM counseling. Moreover, they expected their gynecologist-oncologist to participate in building a CAM treatment plan if CAM were to be integrated into the oncology service. The patients expected the CAM consultant to inform them of the safety and efficacy of CAM treatments, emphasizing expectations to strengthen their general ability to cope with the disease, reduce chemotherapy side effects, and provide emotional and spiritual support.

Conclusion Although patients with gynecological malignancies use CAM significantly more than patients with breast cancer, both groups share similar conceptions regarding the active role of their gynecologist oncologists in the process of CAM integration within supportive care and expect CAM consultation to focus on improving their well-being.

*Integrative Oncology Program, The Oncology Service, Lin Medical Center, Clalit Health Services, Haifa and Western Galilee District, Israel; †Complementary and Traditional Medicine Unit, Department of Family Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa; and Clalit Health Services, Haifa and Western Galilee District; ‡Department of Internal Medicine, Bnai Zion Hospital, Haifa; and The Department for Complementary/Integrative Medicine, Law and Ethics, The International Center for Health, Law and Ethics, Haifa University, Haifa; §Department of Sociology, Western Galilee Academic College, Bar Ilan University, Haifa; and ∥Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Gynecologic Oncology Service, Carmel Medical Center, Haifa, Israel.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Eran Ben-Arye, MD, The Oncology Service and Lin Medical Center, 35 Rothschild St, Haifa, Israel. E-mail:

The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.

Received May 13, 2011

Accepted May 29, 2011

Copyright © 2012 by IGCS and ESGO