The Effects of Complementary Therapies on Patient-Reported Outcomes: An Overview of Recent Systematic Reviews in Oncology

Cancers (Basel). 2023 Sep 11;15(18):4513. doi: 10.3390/cancers15184513.


Many patients with cancer make use of complementary medicine alongside conventional medicine, but clinicians in oncology often lack the knowledge to adequately advise patients on the evidence base for complementary therapies. This study aims to provide an overview of recently published systematic reviews that assess the effects of complementary therapies on patient-reported health outcomes in patients with cancer. Systematic reviews, including a meta-analysis of at least two randomized controlled trials, were identified from the PubMed, Embase, Cochrane Library, CINAHL and PsycINFO databases. The methodological quality was assessed with AMSTAR 2. One hundred systematic reviews were included. The results suggest that several complementary therapies can improve health outcomes reported by patients with cancer, such as acupuncture to relieve pain, music interventions to reduce anxiety and yoga to improve cancer-related fatigue. The side effects related to complementary therapy use are generally mild. The results remain inconclusive for some intervention-outcome combinations. Many of the included systematic reviews insufficiently assessed the causes and impact of bias in their interpretation of the results. This overview of systematic reviews can support clinicians in counselling their patients on this topic and provide directions for future research and clinical practice guidelines in the field of complementary medicine.

Keywords: complementary medicine; meta-analysis; oncology; overview of systematic reviews; patient-reported outcomes (PROMS).

Publication types

  • Review

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