Paper in Integrative Cancer Therapies
  • Juraskova I, Hegedus L, Butow, P, Smith B, Schofield P. (2010). Discussing complementary therapy use with early stage breast cancer patients: Exploring the communication gap. Integrative Cancer Therapies, 9: 168-176.

    Objective: The current study aimed to (1) describe communication patterns between oncologists and breast cancer patients regarding the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and (2) assess the relationship between CAM discussions and anxiety levels. 

    Methods: Interaction analysis of audiotaped initial consultations of 102 early-stage breast cancer patients with Australian and New Zealand oncologists was carried out. Preconsultation and postconsultation anxiety levels were assessed using the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory. 

    Results: At least 1 instance of CAM discussion was found in 24 of the 102 consultations (24%). CAM discussions were mainly patient initiated (73%). The most common doctor’s response to a patient’s mention of CAM was encouragement (38%), although 23% of CAM references elicited a discouraging comment, and 20% were ignored. No patient demographics were significantly associated with CAM discussion. Patients who discussed CAM reported higher preconsultation and postconsultation anxiety levels than those who did not discuss CAM. 

    Conclusions: CAM discussions during initial consultations between early-stage breast cancer patients and oncologists appear to be limited and linked with higher patient anxiety before and after the consultation. These findings indicate that doctors require further education about CAM therapies and supplements as well as guidance in how to raise and effectively discuss CAM issues with concern for their safety while balancing respect for the patients’ beliefs.