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Decision-Making About CAM by Cancer Patients: Integrative Literature Review

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Open Medicine: A peer-reviewed, independent, open-access journal.

April 15, 2014 – A new integrative literature review published today in Open Medicine looks at how patients dealing with cancer make decisions around incorporating complementary or alternative medicine (CAM) therapies into their treatment. The study appears online on Open Medicine.

“It’s time for decision support programs to be integrated into standard care,” says study co-author Laura Weeks. “Patients have been asking for that.”

Indeed, at least half of cancer patients use complementary or alternative therapies—which cover the gamut from natural products to massage therapy to acupuncture. The present integrative literature review examined the processes, content and outcomes of CAM-related decision-making through a thorough literature review and analysis of how decisions around CAM get made.

“What we learned is that when patients are making decisions about complementary and alternative medicine, they don’t distinguish–they just want to make health care decisions,” Weeks explains. “With that understanding, we can develop some programs to help people make those decisions.”

In fact, the researchers were able to identify seven distinct concepts relating to CAM decision-making and cancer: decision-making phases, information-seeking and evaluation, decision-making roles, beliefs, contextual factors, decision-making outcomes, and the relationship between CAM and conventional medical decision-making. They found that CAM decision-making is a non-linear, complex, dynamic process with distinct phases and influencing factors.

“Don’t pretend patients are not using complementary and alternative medicine,” cautions Weeks. Rather, this review and analysis may open up honest discussions about CAM and evidence-based treatment between cancer patients and their healthcare providers, and provides a framework to help professionals to better support patients in making wise, informed, empowering choices that reflect the best available knowledge and their own preferences and beliefs.

Laura Weeks, PhD, is a Senior Research Fellow at the Ottawa Integrative Cancer Centre, Ottawa, Ontario. Lynda G. Balneaves, RN PhD, is an Associate Professor in the School of Nursing at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia. Charlotte Paterson, MSc, PhD, MBChB, MRCGP, is a Research Fellow in the School of Social and Community Medicine at the University of Bristol, Bristol, England. Marja Verhoef, PhD, is a Professor and Canada Research Chair in Complementary Medicine in the Department of Community Health at University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta.

For more information please contact:

Laura Weeks,
T: 613-792-1222 x212

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