Efficacy of complementary and integrative medicine on health-related quality of life in cancer patients: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Cancer Manag Res. 2019 Jul 22:11:6663-6680. doi: 10.2147/CMAR.S195935. eCollection 2019.


Complementary and integrative medicine (CIM) has been used for improving health-related quality of life (HRQOL) in patients with cancer. The objective of this review is to evaluate the effects of CIMs on the HRQOL of cancer patients. We identified randomized controlled trials (RCTs) involving patients with cancer at any stage by retrieving electronic databases from the inception to February 14, 2018 (Systematic Review Registration: PROSPERO CRD42018091609). The main outcomes were HRQOL scores and related domains such as physical well-being scores. The standardized mean difference was used for the analysis and heterogeneity was assessed with the I 2 statistic. A Bayesian framework was used to estimate the ranking order of efficacy in HRQOL change. Finally, 34 RCTs with 3,010 patients were included. As a whole, the results showed clearly superior efficacy of CIM in improving HRQOL. For different domains of HRQOL, different CIM interventions may play different roles. The ranking order of efficacy in change HRQOL was qigong plus mindfulness, Chinese herbal medicine, multimodal complementary medicine, qigong, nutritional supplement, mindfulness, acupuncture, yoga, and massage, and it was different among different domains. There was no evidence of publication bias. In conclusion, CIM may improve the HRQOL of cancer patients. More studies, especially focusing on male cancer patients, are needed to increase the confidence level of our findings.

Keywords: alternative medicine; complementary medicine; health-related quality of life; integrative medicine; randomized controlled trials.

Publication types

  • Review