Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 15, Issue 8, pp 993–998 | Cite as

Twenty years of therapeutic touch in a Canadian cancer agency: lessons learned from a case study of integrative oncology practice

  • Joanne E. Stephen
  • Gina Mackenzie
  • Sarah Sample
  • Jennifer Macdonald
Short Communication


Goals of work

Therapeutic touch (TT) is a complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatment modeled on the ancient practice of “laying on of hands” that has been developed into a contemporary supportive care intervention. Evidence-based support for TT is emerging with increasingly more sophisticated studies; however, flaws in early research contributed to a perception that TT is poor science. Yet TT is a safe CAM treatment that is highly valued by patients and can be integrated into conventional settings. Having offered TT as a supportive care intervention within a provincial cancer agency for 20 years, we have grappled with the issues of evidence and of satisfying both patient demands and administrative needs. Our TT practice evolved in response to changing needs and our experience may be useful to those who are contemplating offering a CAM treatment within a conventional setting.


The objectives are to describe TT practice within a conventional cancer agency and to identify the important issues and success factors of this program and, secondly, to discuss TT research and our approach to the issues.

Main results and conclusions

TT is a safe and beneficial intervention for cancer patients that can be integrated within a conventional setting, providing that the program evolves with changing patient and organizational needs. Lessons gleaned include (1) positioning TT within the context of research and evidence-based practice, (2) developing and adhering to standards of practice and professionalism, and (3) maintaining a nonpartisan attitude and communicating a plausible rationale.


Therapeutic touch Supportive care Integrative practice Oncology 



Grateful acknowledgement to comments provided by BC Cancer Agency TT program leaders Norma Hoeppner, Myrna Tracey, and Catherine Traer-Martinez.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joanne E. Stephen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Gina Mackenzie
    • 3
  • Sarah Sample
    • 3
  • Jennifer Macdonald
    • 2
  1. 1.Faculty of Health SciencesSimon Fraser UniversityBurnabyCanada
  2. 2.BC Cancer Agency, Patient and Family CounselingSurreyCanada
  3. 3.BC Cancer Agency, Patient and Family CounselingVancouverCanada

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