Communication between Health Professionals and Cancer Patients about Integrative, Complementary and Alternative Therapies: Exploring Different Perspectives (#198)
The use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is widespread amongst cancer patients (mean 36%, range up to 80%). A systematic review of 26 studies from 13 countries reported an average prevalence of 31% amongst cancer patients. Australian studies have confirmed the popularity of CAMs among cancer patients with 22-52% of medical oncology patients, 40% of those being treated with palliative intent and 46% of children with cancer reporting use of at least one CAM.
CAM often act as adjuncts to mainstream cancer medicine, used for symptom management and to enhance quality of life. The majority of cancer patients who use non-traditional therapies undertake them as complements to conventional medical treatments, rather than as alternatives to replace them.
There is a lack of scientific evidence available for the efficacy of many CAMs. Some can be potentially harmful to patients either directly through biological activity or indirectly through delay or refusal of mainstream oncology care.
Amongst this background locally two important position statements were released in 2013 by the Clinical Oncological Society of Australia – focused on advising health professionals and Cancer Council Australia aimed at consumers. Both documents highlight the need for health professionals caring for cancer patients to be aware of complementary and alternative therapies being used or being considered, and to encourage open and respectful discussion regarding their use in terms of known benefits and harm.
COSA has also recently undertaken a national survey of it’s membership to determine characteristics of the current research activity investigating scientific applications of CAM in oncology settings. It is appropriate that the COSA 2014 ASM organising committee consider approving the conduct of a multidisciplinary focused symposia dedicated to CAM that reflects the complexity of the contemporary issues facing the field and the wide specialty representation of our Society.