Providing integrative care in the pre-chemotherapy setting: a pragmatic controlled patient-centered trial with implications for supportive cancer care

J Cancer Res Clin Oncol. 2018 Sep;144(9):1825-1833. doi: 10.1007/s00432-018-2700-y. Epub 2018 Jul 6.


Context and objectives: To examine the impact of a complementary/integrative medicine (CIM) program on quality of life (QoL)-related concerns among patients scheduled for chemotherapy for breast and gynecologic cancer.

Methods: Chemotherapy-naïve patients were referred by their oncology healthcare professional to an integrative oncology program, where CIM is provided as part of palliative/supportive care. CIM treatments were tailored to patients' preferences and leading concerns, and for most included acupuncture and mind-body-spirit modalities, which were usually co-administered in the week preceding the first chemotherapy cycle. Patients attending the program were considered part of the treatment group; those who chose to receive only standard supportive care as controls. Assessment of quantitative outcomes was conducted during the week before chemotherapy; at 24 h before and after the treatment; and at 1 week post treatment. For this purpose, the Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale (ESAS) and Measure Yourself Concerns and Well-being questionnaire (MYCAW) were used. Qualitative assessment was based on short narratives at the end of the follow-up MYCAW questionnaire, which were analyzed with ATLAS.Ti software for systematic coding.

Results: Of the 55 patients referred, 31 (56%) underwent CIM treatments, with 24 controls. Both groups had similar baseline demographic and cancer-related characteristics. QOL-related outcomes were significantly less impaired following CIM treatments for ESAS fatigue scores (P = 0.013), depression (P = 0.005), and feeling of well-being (P = 0.027); and MYCAW scores for well-being (P = 0.005) and emotional distress (P = 0.02). Qualitative analysis detected both specific and non-specific effects of the CIM treatment regimen, most describing a reduction in pre-chemotherapy anxiety.

Conclusion: A patient-tailored CIM program, initiated within a week of the first chemotherapy cycle, may help reduce the severity of fatigue, depression, and impaired well-being among patients with breast and gynecological cancers.

Keywords: Anxiety; Chemotherapy; Complementary medicine; Integrative medicine; Quality of life; Supportive care.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Complementary Therapies / methods
  • Female
  • Genital Neoplasms, Female / drug therapy
  • Genital Neoplasms, Female / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Integrative Medicine / methods
  • Middle Aged
  • Mind-Body Therapies / methods
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Antineoplastic Agents