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Cancer patients' experiences of using complementary therapies: polarization and integration

Cancer patients' experiences of using complementary therapies: polarization and integration
Cancer patients' experiences of using complementary therapies: polarization and integration
Objective: The use of complementary therapies by people with cancer is commonplace. In a recent synthesis of 26 qualitative studies of patients' experiences of complementary therapy use after a diagnosis of cancer, the emergent theme of ‘polarization’ was the most notable barrier to a positive experience of complementary therapies. In this paper, we explore the two synthesis concepts of ‘polarization’ and ‘integration’, and their relationship to health service policies and guidelines on integrated services.

Methods: A systematic literature search and a meta-ethnography to synthesize key concepts.

Results: The majority of patients who used complementary therapies after a diagnosis of cancer wanted to be certain that the therapies were not interfering with their conventional cancer treatment. They valued the therapies in wider terms including: taking ‘a niche of control’, relieving symptoms, improving wellbeing, and promoting reconnection and social interaction. The emergent theme of ‘polarization’ suggested that conventional physicians who are perceived to be poorly informed or negative about complementary approaches induce patient anxiety, safety concerns, and difficulties in access. They may compromise their therapeutic relationship and, rarely, they may trigger patients to abandon conventional medicine altogether. In contrast, integrated advice and/or services were highly valued by patients, although some patients preferred their complementary health care to be provided in a non-medicalized environment.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that the current polarized situation is unhelpful to patients, detrimental to therapeutic relationships and may occasionally be dangerous. They indicate that complementary therapies, in a supportive role, should be integrated into mainstream cancer care
1355-8196
54-61
Smithson, Janet
c759d9fa-bf65-4358-a655-d85b26a7efd7
Paterson, Charlotte
40b57130-2313-4f6e-842d-5f8ee280a194
Britten, Nicky
68f95423-a4ec-4e8d-afe9-1ed72a5b11e1
Evans, Maggie
2423a6da-4b43-4cce-9072-9fdc1245093f
Lewith, George
0fc483fa-f17b-47c5-94d9-5c15e65a7625
Smithson, Janet
c759d9fa-bf65-4358-a655-d85b26a7efd7
Paterson, Charlotte
40b57130-2313-4f6e-842d-5f8ee280a194
Britten, Nicky
68f95423-a4ec-4e8d-afe9-1ed72a5b11e1
Evans, Maggie
2423a6da-4b43-4cce-9072-9fdc1245093f
Lewith, George
0fc483fa-f17b-47c5-94d9-5c15e65a7625

Smithson, Janet, Paterson, Charlotte, Britten, Nicky, Evans, Maggie and Lewith, George (2010) Cancer patients' experiences of using complementary therapies: polarization and integration. Journal of Health Services Research & Policy, 15, supplement 2, 54-61. (doi:10.1258/jhsrp.2009.009104). (PMID:20194431)

Record type: Article

Abstract

Objective: The use of complementary therapies by people with cancer is commonplace. In a recent synthesis of 26 qualitative studies of patients' experiences of complementary therapy use after a diagnosis of cancer, the emergent theme of ‘polarization’ was the most notable barrier to a positive experience of complementary therapies. In this paper, we explore the two synthesis concepts of ‘polarization’ and ‘integration’, and their relationship to health service policies and guidelines on integrated services.

Methods: A systematic literature search and a meta-ethnography to synthesize key concepts.

Results: The majority of patients who used complementary therapies after a diagnosis of cancer wanted to be certain that the therapies were not interfering with their conventional cancer treatment. They valued the therapies in wider terms including: taking ‘a niche of control’, relieving symptoms, improving wellbeing, and promoting reconnection and social interaction. The emergent theme of ‘polarization’ suggested that conventional physicians who are perceived to be poorly informed or negative about complementary approaches induce patient anxiety, safety concerns, and difficulties in access. They may compromise their therapeutic relationship and, rarely, they may trigger patients to abandon conventional medicine altogether. In contrast, integrated advice and/or services were highly valued by patients, although some patients preferred their complementary health care to be provided in a non-medicalized environment.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that the current polarized situation is unhelpful to patients, detrimental to therapeutic relationships and may occasionally be dangerous. They indicate that complementary therapies, in a supportive role, should be integrated into mainstream cancer care

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Published date: 2 May 2010

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 73660
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/73660
ISSN: 1355-8196
PURE UUID: d8adb266-402d-4fd2-b35b-c3487a7a29e3

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Date deposited: 15 Mar 2010
Last modified: 08 Jan 2022 17:23

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Contributors

Author: Janet Smithson
Author: Charlotte Paterson
Author: Nicky Britten
Author: Maggie Evans
Author: George Lewith

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