Skip to main content
Log in

Oncologists’ experiences of discussing complementary and alternative treatment options with their cancer patients. A qualitative analysis

  • Original Article
  • Published:
Supportive Care in Cancer Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Abstract

Purpose

The rising use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) means oncologists are increasingly asked by patients to discuss CAM treatment options. However, no formal training or established standards are available on the subject. The aim of this paper was to investigate real-world discussions of CAM treatments. In particular, we wanted to learn about the values, norms and defining features that characterise oncologist-patient discussions on CAM.

Methods

Semi-standardised interviews with 17 oncologists were analysed using interpretation pattern analysis combined with thematic analysis.

Results

Advice on CAM is seen by oncologists as an important service they provide to their patients, even though their knowledge of the subject is often limited. Many interviewees mentioned an apparent lack of scientific proof, especially when their aim was to warn patients against the use of CAM. Discussions on CAM tend to reflect the idea that CAM belongs ‘to another world’, and judging by the interviews with oncologists, this notion appears to be shared by patients and oncologists alike.

Conclusions

Oncologists require reliable information on CAM and would profit from training in the communication of CAM treatment options to patients. Knowing scientific data on CAM would also lower barriers stemming from the view that CAM belongs ‘to another world’. Under- and postgraduate education programmes should include training on how to respond to requests addressing possible CAM options.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1

Similar content being viewed by others

References

  1. Ashikaga T, Bosompra K, O’Brien P, et al. (2002) Use of complimentary and alternative medicine by breast cancer patients: prevalence, patterns and communication with physicians. Support Care Cancer 10(7):542–548

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  2. Horneber M, Bueschel G, Dennert G, et al. (2012) How many cancer patients use complementary and alternative medicine: a systematic review and metaanalysis. Integr Cancer Ther 11(3):187–203

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  3. Baum M, Cassileth B, Daniel R, et al. (2006) The role of complementary and alternative medicine in the management of early breast cancer: recommendations of the European Society of Mastology (EUSOMA). Eur J Cancer 42:1711–1714

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  4. Frenkel M, Ben-Arye E, Cohen L, et al. (2010) Communication in cancer care: discussing complementary and alternative medicine. Integr Cancer Ther 9(2):177–185

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  5. Braun L, Harris J, Katris P, et al. (2014) Clinical Oncology Society of Australia position statement on the use of complementary and alternative medicine by cancer patients. Asia-Pacific J Clin Oncol 10(4):289–296. doi:10.1111/ajco.12227

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Schofield P, Diggens J, Charleson C, et al. (2010) Effectively discussing complementary and alternative medicine in a conventional oncology setting: communication recommendations for clinicians. Pat Edu Couns 79(2):143–151

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Boehm K, Raak C, Vollmar HC, et al. (2010) An overview of 45 published database resources for complementary and alternative medicine. Health Inf Libr J 27(2):93–105. doi:10.1111/j.1471-1842.2010.00888.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Yap KY, Kuo EY, Lee JJJ, et al. (2010) An onco-informatics database for anticancer drug interactions with complementary and alternative medicines used in cancer treatment and supportive care: an overview of the OncoRx project. Support Care Cancer 18(7):883–891

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  9. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (2010) What is CAM? http://www.nccam.nih.gov/health/whatiscam

  10. Lo Re M, Schmidt S, Güthlin C (2012) Translation and adaptation of an international questionnaire to measure usage of complementary and alternative medicine (I-CAM-G). BMC Complement Altern Med 12(1):259. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-12-259

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Braun V, Clarke V (2006) Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qual Res Psychol 3(2):77–101. doi:10.1191/1478088706qp063oa

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Oevermann U (2001) Zur Analyse der Struktur von sozialen Deutungsmustern (1973) [Analysis of the structure of social reference patterns]. Sozialer Sinn 1:3–34

    Google Scholar 

  13. Broom A, Adams J (2009) Oncology clinicians’ accounts of discussing complementary and alternative medicine with their patients. Health (London) 13(3):317–336

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Koenig CJ, Ho EY, Yadegar V, et al. (2012) Negotiating complementary and alternative medicine use in primary care visits with older patients. Patient Educ Couns 89(3):368–373. doi:10.1016/j.pec.2012.02.020

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  15. Macartney JI, Wahlberg A (2014) The problem of complementary and alternative medicine use today: eyes half closed? Qual Health Res 24(1):114–123. doi:10.1177/1049732313518977

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  16. Davis EL, Oh B, Butow PN, et al. (2012) Cancer patient disclosure and patient-doctor communication of complementary and alternative medicine use: a systematic review. Oncologist 17(11):1475–1481. doi:10.1634/theoncologist.2012-0223

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  17. Burstein HJ (2000) Discussing complementary therapies with cancer patients: what should we be talking about? J Clin Oncol 18(13):2501–2504

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

We would like to express our gratitude to Astrid Yamazoe who helped Corina Güthlin to code the interviews and to express our findings in English. We would also like to sincerely thank Phillip Elliott who translated the quotations and edited the final English version.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Güthlin Corina.

Ethics declarations

Funding source

This study was part of a larger research network called KOKON. KOKON was funded by the Deutsche Krebshilfe (DKH, No. 109863).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Corina, G., Christine, H. & Klein, G. Oncologists’ experiences of discussing complementary and alternative treatment options with their cancer patients. A qualitative analysis. Support Care Cancer 24, 3857–3862 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00520-016-3205-3

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00520-016-3205-3

Keywords

Navigation