Research on the long-term effects of complementary and integrative medicine (CIM) is limited. In this study, we explore the impact of a CIM intervention on gastro-intestinal (GI)-related concerns in patients with breast/gynecological cancer undergoing chemotherapy. Patients reporting chemotherapy-related GI concerns were referred by their cancer care providers to a CIM consultation and treatments and assessed at baseline and at 12 weeks. The following tools were used: Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale (ESAS), Measure Yourself Concerns and Wellbeing (MYCAW) and European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire (EORTC QLQ-C30). The intervention group was subdivided according to adherence to the integrative care program (AIC), defined as attending ≥4 CIM treatments with ≤30 days between each session. Controls chose not to undergo the CIM consultation or treatments. Of 289 patients reporting GI-related concerns, 42 were treated with CIM and optimally assessed (intervention arm; AIC = 33), as were 32 of controls. ESAS scores for appetite and nausea improved more significantly in the intervention group, more so in the AIC subgroup (appetite, p = 0.025; nausea, p = 0.033). MYCAW scores for GI-related concerns also improved in the intervention group, again more so in the adherent subgroup. EORTC scores improved more significantly with respect to global health (p = 0.021) and cognitive functioning (p = 0.031) in the intervention group, when compared to controls. The integration of a 12-week CIM intervention in conventional supportive cancer care may reduce nausea and improve appetite in patients with breast/gynecological cancer undergoing chemotherapy.
Keywords: Appetite; Breast cancer; Chemotherapy; Complementary medicine; Integrative medicine; Nausea.