ABSTRACT: Communication between physicians and cancer patients
about complementary and alternative medicine: exploring patients'
The aim of this paper is to identify barriers to communication between
physicians and cancer patients regarding complementary and alternative
medicine (CAM) by exploring the perspectives of patients.
face of the recent popularity of CAM use among cancer patients,
the lack of communication is a serious problem. A number of CAM
therapies may interfere with conventional treatments and thus
impact patients' well-being and chances of survival.
lack of communication is problematic in the health care context
because the development of openness and trust between health
care providers and clients is contingent upon effective interpersonal
We conducted semi-structured interviews with 143
cancer patients to explore their experiences with CAM use. Using
a qualitative research method, we examined interview data from
93 CAM users who provided sufficient information about communication
As a result, three themes emerged describing barriers
to unsuccessful communication as perceived from the patient's
point of view: physicians' indifference or opposition toward
CAM use, physicians' emphasis on scientific evidence, and patients'
anticipation of a negative response from their physician.
education about CAM and regular assessment of CAM use may help
physicians to be more aware of their patients' CAM use. As a
result, physicians may provide patients with information on risks
and benefits of CAM use and refer patients to other services
that may address unmet needs.
Given a difference in epistemiologic
beliefs about cancer and its treatment, the challenge is to find
a common ground for an open discussion in which physicians consider
that scientific evidence is not all that counts in the life of
an individual facing a serious disease.
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