Integrative medicine therapeutic approaches to cancer care: patient preferences from focus groups

  • Wonsun (Sunny) KimEmail author
  • Dara James
  • Denise M. Millstine
Original Article



To understand patient preferences for integrative therapeutics and/or modalities during cancer care.


Cancer patients currently going through treatment were recruited from the Mayo Clinic in Arizona. Participants were asked to engage in 1 of 4 focus groups to understand preferences regarding integrative therapeutic modalities in cancer treatment. Focus group data were transcribed and analyzed using thematic analysis. Eighty-five percent of inter-coder reliability was achieved with four team investigators.


Nineteen cancer patients participated in four focus groups with mixed cancer types (42% breast cancer), gender (53% female), and age (69% over age 60). Focus group analyses resulted in five themes with respect to preferences regarding integrative therapeutic modalities among cancer patients: (1) preference regarding accurate and congruent information; (2) preference regarding stress and symptom management; (3) preference regarding discussion of integrative therapies with healthcare providers (4) preference regarding support from family and friends; and (5) preference regarding personalized holistic care.


Patients have a desire to discuss integrative therapeutic aspects of their cancer treatment with healthcare providers. Understanding patient preferences allows opportunity for oncology providers to increase awareness/education of integrative therapeutic modalities. Increased integrative therapeutic knowledge may best support recovery and increased quality of life.


Qualitative research may facilitate understanding the scope of cancer patient preferences regarding the desire and use of integrative therapeutic modalities. A conceptual understanding of cancer patient preferences regarding integrative therapies and modalities may best inform successful direction and efficacy of treatment strategies.


Integrative therapies Oncology Patient preference Focus group Qualitative 



The authors dedicate this article to the memory of Julie McNulty, RN, PhD, CPHQ, who passed away prior to publication. The authors gratefully acknowledge her contribution in developing this article. Her passion for and dedication to improving health and wellness for patients with cancer and survivors will be remembered.

Compliance with ethical standards

The Mayo Clinic Institutional Review Board approved the study and patients provided written informed consent.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Nursing & Health InnovationArizona State UniversityPhoenixUSA
  2. 2.Women’s Internal MedicineMayo ClinicScottsdaleUSA

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