Integrative practices of Canadian oncology health professionals

Alison SA Brazier


Objective:  While cancer patients increasingly use complementary medicine (CAM) during conventional treatment, there is limited data on how Canadian oncology health professionals attempt to assist patients with their use of CAM in the context of conventional cancer care.  As part of a larger qualitative study assessing the perceptions of Canadian oncology health professionals regarding integrated breast cancer care, an exploration of current integrative practices of oncology health professionals was undertaken. 

Design:  Using an interpretive description research design, a series of in-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with a variety of oncology health professionals using a purposive sampling.

Setting:  Health professionals were recruited from provincial cancer agencies, hospitals, integrative clinics, and private practice settings in four Canadian cities: Vancouver, Winnipeg, Montreal and Halifax. 

Participants:  A total of sixteen oncology health professionals participated including medical and radiation oncologists, nurses, and pharmacists. 

Results:  Findings highlighted two main strategies oncology health professionals used to create a more integrative approach for cancer patients:1) acting as an integrative care guide; and 2) collaborating with other health professionals.  Conclusions: While few clear standards of practice or guidance material were in place within their organizational settings, health professionals discussed some integrative roles they adopted depending on their interest, knowledge, and skills in supporting patients with CAM decisions.  Given that cancer patients report that they want to be able to confer with their conventional health professionals, particularly their oncologists, about their CAM use, health professionals who elect to adopt integrative practices are likely offering patients much welcomed support.  Keywords:  oncology health professionals, integrative cancer care, qualitative research, complementary therapies

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ISSN: 1198-0052 (Print) ISSN: 1718-7729 (Online)