Patients' use of complementary medicines more common than oncologists think

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A small survey shows oncologists may often underestimate their patients' use of complementary medicines, Medscape reported June 14. 

The survey, funded by the healthcare data science company IQVIA, included responses from 164 breast cancer patients and 115 oncologists practicing nationwide.

About two-thirds of oncologists said complementary medicine practices — such as acupuncture, art therapy or tai chi — can lead to better quality of life for patients. Overall, 73 percent of patients reported using at least one type of complementary medicine to relieve pain or other symptoms from their cancer treatments. However, only 43 percent of oncologists said they believe their patients use these approaches.

"There is a disconnect in communication between patients and physicians in the area of complementary medicine," Wayne Jonas, MD, a study author and executive director of integrative health programs for the Samueli Foundation, told Medscape. "It is the responsibility of both parties to bring the topics up and have respectful and open communication about these practices."

The Samueli Foundation is funding an effort by the Society for Integrative Oncology and American Society of Clinical Oncology to create practice guidelines for integrative approaches to treating common symptoms such as pain, anxiety, fatigue and insomnia.

The research was presented at the 2021 ASC Annual Meeting held virtually June 4-8.

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