How do we evaluate outcome in an integrative oncology program?

Stephen Sagar


            Integrative oncology focuses on the roles of complementary therapies, such as meditation and other mind–body approaches, music therapy, massage and other touch therapies, acupuncture, natural health products (such as botanicals), nutrition, fitness therapies, and more. Its goal is to increase the effectiveness of conventional cancer treatment programs, to reduce symptoms, and to improve quality of life for cancer patients. The Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine defines integrative medicine as ";the practice of medicine that reaffirms the importance of the relationship between practitioner and patient, focuses on the whole person, is informed by evidence, and makes use of all appropriate therapeutic approaches, healthcare professionals and disciplines to achieve optimal health and healing."; Implementation of integrative oncology programs should be based on the best evidence and must continually be evaluated to ensure quality, optimization of  techniques, collection of new data, and to ensure cost-effectiveness. Useful domains that can be evaluated include, symptom control, adherence to treatment protocols, quality of life, individual outcomes, prevention, rehabilitation, the potential advantages of a whole systems  health approach, and  the economics of health services.

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