Purpose: Complementary and integrative medicine (CIM) services are more prevalent in cancer centers but continue to be underutilized by patients. This study examines perspectives from patients and caregivers about these services being offered at a comprehensive cancer center.
Methods: Patients and caregivers were surveyed about their familiarity, interest, and experience with five CIM therapies: acupuncture, massage, meditation, music therapy, and yoga. Respondents were asked about their interest in and/or paying for these services at baseline, when recommended by their medical team, and when offered in a clinical trial. Respondents were also asked about perceived barriers to accessing these services. Chi-squared tests were performed to explore associations between past experience, interest levels, and willingness to pay.
Results: A total of 576 surveys were obtained (464 patients and 112 caregivers). Most respondents identified as White or Caucasian (65.6%), female (57.2%), had been a patient for < 3 years (74.2%), had some college education (73.8%), and made > $40,000 in US dollars as their annual household income (69.1%). Respondents were most familiar with therapeutic massage (34.2%) and least familiar with acupuncture (20.0%). The average interest in these services increased from 53.3% to 64.1% when recommended by a medical professional. Respondents were most willing to pay $1-60 for therapeutic massage (62.3%) and least willing to pay for meditation (43.7%). The main barriers to accessing CIM services were cost (56.0%) and lack of knowledge (52.1%).
Conclusion: Overall, a significant proportion of patients and caregivers were unfamiliar with these five integrative therapies. Increasing education, decreasing cost, and a recommendation by medical professionals would improve CIM usage.