Trends in integrative medicine and health consults: differences between cancer survivors and patients without cancer

Noël M. Arring, Denise Millstine, Debra L. Barton, Karen S. Lyons, Marlene Girardo, Amy Hutson, Lillian M. Nail

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: The objectives were to compare patients with and without cancer who sought an integrative health (IH) consult and reasons for seeking a consult. Design: Descriptive cross-sectional study that employed a secondary analysis of an integrative health database supplemented by a retrospective medical record review. Setting/location: Integrative Medicine and Health program in a Southwestern United States academic medical center. Subjects: Eight hundred thirty-nine adults over the age of 18 seeking IH consultation. Results: The number of complementary therapies reported prior to consult were not significantly different between groups. The most reported complementary therapies used by cancer survivors were multivitamins, exercise, and turmeric. Patients without cancer reported significantly higher pain levels than cancer survivors. Cancer survivors reported significantly higher energy, sleep levels, overall health, spiritual wellbeing, and significantly better relationships compared to patients without cancer. Cancer survivors reported fatigue and cancer as the top reasons for IH consult. Conclusion: Participants without cancer reported higher levels of pain and lower levels of energy, sleep, overall health, spiritual wellbeing, and relationships compared to cancer survivors. However, cancer survivors still reported levels of unmanaged symptoms. Complementary therapy use prior to IMH consult was similar between groups; however, IMH providers recommended more treatments for patients without cancer. Our results highlight that more evidence is needed to guide IMH recommendations, especially for cancer survivors who may still be in treatment. Additionally, our results support evidence-based recommendations that all cancer survivors should be assessed for complementary therapy use and provided counseling by qualified providers on their advantages and limitations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3103-3112
Number of pages10
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Cancer
  • Complementary and alternative medicine
  • Integrative health
  • Physician referrals
  • Symptoms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology


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