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. 2016 Dec;15(4):478-494.
doi: 10.1177/1534735416640091. Epub 2016 May 4.

Individualized Integrative Cancer Care in Anthroposophic Medicine: A Qualitative Study of the Concepts and Procedures of Expert Doctors

Free PMC article

Individualized Integrative Cancer Care in Anthroposophic Medicine: A Qualitative Study of the Concepts and Procedures of Expert Doctors

Gunver S Kienle et al. Integr Cancer Ther. .
Free PMC article


Background Cancer patients widely seek integrative oncology which embraces a wide variety of treatments and system approaches. Objective To investigate the concepts, therapeutic goals, procedures, and working conditions of integrative oncology doctors in the field of anthroposophic medicine. Methods This qualitative study was based on in-depth interviews with 35 highly experienced doctors working in hospitals and office-based practices in Germany and other countries. Structured qualitative content analysis was applied to examine the data. Results The doctors integrated conventional and holistic cancer concepts. Their treatments aimed at both tumor and symptom control and at strengthening the patient on different levels: living with the disease, overcoming the disease, enabling emotional and cognitive development, and addressing spiritual or transcendental issues according to the patient's wishes and initiatives. Therapeutic procedures were conventional anticancer and symptom-relieving treatments, herbal and mineral remedies, mistletoe therapy, art therapies, massages and other external applications, nutrition and lifestyle advice, psychological support, and multiple forms of empowerment. The approach emphasised good patient-doctor relationships and sufficient time for patient encounters and decision-making. Individualization appeared in several dimensions and was interwoven with standards and mindlines. The doctors often worked in teams and cooperated with other cancer care-related specialists. Conclusion Integrative cancer care pursues an individualized and patient-centered approach, encompassing conventional and multimodal complementary interventions, and addressing, along with physical and functional needs, the emotional and spiritual needs of patients. This seems to be important for tumor and symptom control, and addresses major challenges and important goals of modern cancer care.

Keywords: clinical reasoning; doctors; individualized medicine; integrated oncology; integrative medicine; patient-centered care; qualitative study.

Conflict of interest statement

Declaration of Conflicting Interests: The author(s) declared the following potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: IFAEMM has received restricted research grants, honorariums and travel expenses from Weleda, Abnoba, and Helixor. None of them had any influence on the design, conduction, analysis, and publication of the study.


Figure 1.
Figure 1.
Concepts of cancer disease and treatment, and patient assessment determining the interviewed doctors’ integrative cancer care practice.
Figure 2.
Figure 2.
Patient assessment in the interviewed doctors’ integrative cancer care practice.
Figure 3.
Figure 3.
Integrative cancer care practiced by the interviewed doctors.
Figure 4.
Figure 4.
Factors affecting modes of mistletoe treatment.

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