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Barriers and challenges in integration of anthroposophic medicine in supportive breast cancer care

Eran Ben-Arye12*, Elad Schiff34, Moti Levy5, Orit Gressel Raz15, Yael Barak15 and Gil Bar-Sela6

Author Affiliations

1 Integrative Oncology Program, Oncology Service, Lin Medical Center, Clalit Health Services, Haifa and Western Galilee District, 35 Rothschild St, Haifa 35152, Israel

2 Department of Family Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Complementary and Traditional Medicine Unit, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel

3 Department of Internal Medicine and Integrative Surgery Service, B’nai Zion Hospital, Haifa, Israel

4 The International Center for Health, Law, and Ethics, Haifa, Israel

5 Clalit Complementary Medicine, Clalit Health Services, Haifa, Israel

6 Division of Oncology, Rambam Health Care Campus, Haifa, Israel

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SpringerPlus 2013, 2:364  doi:10.1186/2193-1801-2-364

Published: 31 July 2013

Abstract

In the last decade, more and more oncology centers are challenged with complementary medicine (CM) integration within supportive breast cancer care. Quality of life (QOL) improvement and attenuation of oncology treatment side effects are the core objectives of integrative CM programs in cancer care. Yet, limited research is available on the use of specific CM modalities in an integrative setting and on cancer patients’ compliance with CM consultation. Studies are especially warranted to view the clinical application of researched CM modalities, such as anthroposophic medicine (AM), a unique CM modality oriented to cancer supportive care. Our objective was to characterize consultation patterns provided by physicians trained in CM following oncology health-care practitioners’ referral of patients receiving chemotherapy. We aimed to identify characteristics of patients who consulted with AM and to explore patients’ compliance to AM treatment. Of the 341 patients consulted with integrative physicians, 138 were diagnosed with breast cancer. Following integrative physician consultation, 56 patients were advised about AM treatment and 285 about other CM modalities. Logistic multivariate regression model found that, compared with patients receiving non-anthroposophic CM, the AM group had significantly greater rates of previous CM use [EXP(B) = 3.25, 95% C.I. 1.64-6.29, p = 0.001] and higher rates of cancer recurrence at baseline (p = 0.038). Most AM users (71.4%) used a single AM modality, such as mistletoe (viscum album) injections, oral AM supplements, or music therapy. Compliance with AM modalities following physician recommendation ranged from 44% to 71% of patients. We conclude that AM treatment provided within the integrative oncology setting is feasible based on compliance assessment. Other studies are warranted to explore the effectiveness of AM in improving patients’ QOL during chemotherapy.

Keywords:
Integrative medicine; Anthroposophic medicine; Viscum album; Quality of life; Complementary medicine; Cancer