Familiarity With Complementary and Integrative Therapies Among Patients With Cancer and Caregivers

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In a single-institution study reported in JCO Oncology Practice, Larbi et al found that a high proportion of patients with cancer and their caregivers were unfamiliar with available complementary and integrative medicine services. The primary barriers to accessing complementary and integrative medicine services were cost and lack of knowledge.

Study Details

The study consisted of a survey of patients and caregivers about five complementary and integrative medicine therapies—acupuncture, massage, meditation, music therapy, and yoga—offered at University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center, Cleveland.

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Key Findings

A total of 576 surveys were completed by 464 patients and 112 caregivers. Among respondents, 65.6% were White, 57.2% were female, 74.2% had been a patient for less than 3 years, 73.8% had some college education, and 69.1% had an annual household income of more than $40,000.

Respondents were most familiar with therapeutic massage (34.2%), followed by music therapy (25.4%) and yoga therapy (23.2%), and least familiar with acupuncture (20.0%). Approximately half of respondents reported being not familiar with acupuncture (46.5%), yoga therapy (46.8%), and meditation therapy (44.7%).

Compared with initial survey responses, average interest in services increased from 53.3% to 64.1% when services were recommended by a medical professional, including increases from 52.8% to 61.1% for therapeutic massage, 36.9% to 51.6% for music therapy, 35.7% to 46.9% for meditation therapy, 34.6% to 47.8% for yoga therapy, and 30.1% to 41.4% for acupuncture.

Respondents were most willing to pay $1 to $60 for a single session of therapeutic massage (62.3%) and least willing to pay for a single session of meditation (43.7%). Overall, less than 20% of respondents were willing to pay more than $60 for any of the services, with a high proportion being unwilling to pay any amount for meditation therapy (43.7%), acupuncture (40.9%), music therapy (39.7%), yoga therapy (37.1%), or therapeutic massage (21.4%).

As reported by respondents, the primary barriers to accessing complementary and integrative medicine services were cost (56.0%) and lack of knowledge (52.1%). Additional barriers were location of the services (31.5%), lack of time (29.2%), and a lack of interest (23.3%).

The investigators concluded: “Overall, a significant proportion of patients and caregivers were unfamiliar with these five integrative therapies. Increasing education, decreasing cost, and a recommendation by medical professionals would improve complementary and integrative medicine usage.”

Richard T. Lee, MD, Director of Supportive & Integrative Oncology, University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, is the corresponding author for the JCO Clinical Practice article.

Disclosure: The study was supported by University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center, Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Helen Moss Foundation–Schoff Family Professorship in Integrative Oncology. For full disclosures of the study authors, visit

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.