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Complementary medicine visits by palliative care patients: a cross-sectional survey
  1. Amie Steel1,
  2. Janet Schloss2,3,
  3. Helene Diezel2,
  4. Per J Palmgren4,
  5. Jean Baptiste Maret5 and
  6. Marilène Filbet5
  1. 1Australian Research Centre in Complementary and Integrative Medicine, Faculty of Health, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  2. 2Office of Research, Endeavour College of Natural Health, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  3. 3Australian Research Centre in Complementary and Integrative Medicine, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  4. 4Department of Learning, Informatics, Management and Ethics, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Stockholm, Sweden
  5. 5Département de Soins Palliatifs, Centre Hospitalier Lyon-Sud Service de Radiologie, Pierre-Benite, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France
  1. Correspondence to Dr Amie Steel, Australian Research Centre in Complementary and Integrative Medicine, Faculty of Health, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2007, Australia; amie.steel{at}


Background The paucity of empirical research examining complementary medicine (CM) use in palliative care in France compared with other countries results in a gap in scientific knowledge. This study aims to describe the frequency and the cause of palliative care patients consulting with a CM clinician along with the conventional physicians.

Methods This study is an observational cross-sectional survey conducted in three palliative care centres in Lyon, France, between July 2017 and May 2018: two tertiary hospitals and one palliative care unit in a private hospital. Inpatients and outpatients visiting the palliative care clinics with a primary diagnosis of cancer were invited to participate in the study. Using a 19-item paper-based survey instrument, we collected data on the participants’ personal characteristics, health service utilisation and attitudes towards CM.

Results From the 138 participants meeting the inclusion criteria, 100 (72.4%) were included in the study. On average, they were 62.9 years old (SD 12.4) and the majority were women (60%). The primary cancer site was mostly colorectal (29.0%), breast (15.0%) and gynaecological (11.0%). The most commonly visited CM clinician was the aromatherapist (72.7%), recording more than six consultations (78.1%) for symptom management (21.9%). Visits to an osteopath were reported by 28.6% of patients, and 45.8% of osteopathy users reported visiting an osteopath more than six times for symptom management (62.5%). Participants visiting a naturopath (15.3%) reported less than four visits and indicated symptom management as the most common reason (76.9%).

Conclusions Our findings show a substantial proportion of palliative care patients visit CM clinicians and primarily seek symptom management from CM clinical care.

  • complementary therapy
  • cancer
  • communication
  • supportive care

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  • Contributors JS, HD and AS contributed to the conception, study design, data collection, analysis and interpretation, and drafting of the manuscript. MF and PJP contributed to the conception, study design, data interpretation, drafting and critical revision of the paper. JBM was engaged in data collection, interpretation of data and critical revision of the paper. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval Ethical approval to conduct the study was obtained from both Endeavour College of Natural Health (#20170343) and Centre Hospitalier Lyon Sud (#2017/22).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement No data are available. The ethical clearance for this study did not permit data sharing.

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