As survival after cancer diagnosis increases, patients are increasingly turning toward integrative therapies (e.g., yoga, acupuncture, massage) to manage acute and chronic concerns related to cancer treatment and survivorship. As such, integrative medicine programs devoted to combining conventional Western cancer care with complementary treatments such as yoga, acupuncture, botanicals, and homeopathy are increasingly common in cancer communities around the world. However, few integrative medicine programs have included psycho-oncology providers in order to systematically evaluate and treat psychological and behavioral health factors affecting adjustment to cancer.
A pilot program was initiated at a large academic medical center to explore benefits of a collaborative clinic visit conducted with psycho-oncology and integrative medicine within an existing supportive oncology clinic. Collaborative medical and psychological interventions were provided to enhance patient quality of life and reduce symptom burden.
Forty-nine patients were seen via the dyadic consultation model. Sixty-eight percent of patients rated their emotional distress at or above clinical cutoffs, indicating unmet supportive care needs. The majority of patients seen were White, non-Hispanic, and female.
Many cancer patients and survivors report persistent emotional distress and chronic physical problems associated with their diagnosis and treatment. The types of patients seen in this pilot program raise concern about ongoing inequalities in access to integrative medicine and psycho-oncology services, which may contribute to downstream health disparities and poorer clinical outcomes. Future directions will explore billing practices, financial sustainability, and methods to increase access to this type of program for demographically diverse individuals across cancer populations.
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Kacel, E.L., Pereira, D.B. & Estores, I.M. Advancing supportive oncology care via collaboration between psycho-oncology and integrative medicine. Support Care Cancer 27, 3175–3178 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00520-019-04840-y
- Supportive oncology
- Integrative medicine
- Integrative therapies