Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 26, Issue 6, pp 1791–1797 | Cite as

Convergent priorities and tensions: a qualitative study of the integration of complementary and alternative therapies with conventional cancer treatment

  • Jo RiverEmail author
  • Heather McKenzie
  • David Levy
  • Nick Pavlakis
  • Michael Back
  • Byeongsang Oh
Original Article



Demand for complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is high among cancer patients. This, alongside growing evidence for the efficacy of some CAM therapies, is driving change within cancer centres, where evidence-based CAM therapies are increasingly provided alongside standard cancer treatments. In Australia, commitment to equitable access to healthcare is strong, and some cancer centres are now providing integrative services at no cost to the patient. This represents a significant shift in healthcare provision. This study aimed to examine health professional and patient dynamics in an integrated cancer service where CAM is provided at no cost to patients alongside standard cancer treatments. It specifically sought to understand what might drive or hinder further integration of CAM with standard treatment in the cancer context.


Qualitative interviews were undertaken with twenty key stakeholders—cancer patients, cancer nurses, and oncologists—who were delivering or receiving care in an Australian public hospital where acupuncture services are provided at no cost to patients alongside standard chemotherapy and radiation treatments.


Findings point to key areas where the concerns and priorities of cancer patients, cancer nurses, and oncologists converge and diverge in ways that reflect core personal and professional interests regarding patient care needs, the evidence base for CAM efficacy and safety, and rising healthcare costs.


Understanding points of convergence and divergence could assist clinicians and service providers in negotiating ways forward for integrative cancer services.


Cancer Supportive care Integrative medicine Complementary and alternative medicine 


Compliance with ethical standards

Primary data for this study is held with authors named on the Human Research Ethics Approval. Data cannot be reviewed externally for ethical reasons—qualitative interview transcripts indicate the personal views of participants (cancer centre staff and patients), who might be identifiable in the original data.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.M02, Sydney Nursing SchoolThe University of SydneySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Cancer CentreChris O’Brien LifehouseCamperdownAustralia
  3. 3.Northern Sydney Cancer CentreLevel 1c, ASB, Royal North Shore HospitalSt LeonardsAustralia

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