Background: Although several clinical studies have shown that mistletoe therapy (MT, Viscum album) may improve cancer patients' quality-of-life (QoL), qualitative information on the improvement's nature is still lacking.
Design: This exploratory, prospective, cohort-study comprised 25 patients with different types of cancer. The patients filled in the EORTC QLQ-C30 Version 3.0 questionnaire at the beginning of MT (n = 25) and three months later (n = 21). If patients agreed, they were interviewed on both occasions (n = 17); the interviews were transcribed verbatim and submitted to a qualitative content analysis (n = 12).
Results: Analysis of the questionnaires showed significant improvements in several subscales during MT. The interviews analysis revealed that most patients adopted the MT with a supportive goal, with all patients undergoing conventional therapies. After three months of MT, most interviewed patients revealed higher vitality and autonomy. MT was often seen as a chance to make an own personal contribution to the therapy, which was particularly appreciated in cases in which no conventional therapy was (anymore) advised. Concrete personal achievements such as changes in the private and/or in the professional environment were spontaneously mentioned by the patients, illustrating and corroborating their improvements in QoL.
Conclusion: Our results show that the patients experienced an improvement of QoL during MT. This therapy seemed to offer a platform for an integrative coping with the disease, which might be important in reconciling the perceived shock of an existential illness with a good QoL.