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Complementary medicine visits by palliative care patients: a cross-sectional survey

Abstract

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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