News Release

Breast cancer patients embrace integrative health during treatment

National survey finds oncologists underestimate patient use of complementary and lifestyle therapies

Peer-Reviewed Publication

The Reis Group

WASHINGTON (June 3, 2021) - Nearly three-quarters of breast cancer patients (73%) report using at least one type of complementary medicine after cancer diagnosis, while oncologists believe that less than half (43%) of patients are using these approaches during cancer care. These and other findings from a national survey of oncologists and breast cancer patients were released in conjunction with the 2021 ASCO Annual Meeting. The study found that doctors report discussing integrative health with only about half of patients, leading patients to seek information outside the clinic.

"Cancer is a complex disease that affects every component of a patient's life. While conventional medicine is effective for curing disease, it can fall short in helping patients heal," said Wayne Jonas, MD, report co-author and executive director for Integrative Health Programs at the Samueli Foundation. "Patients are turning to these therapies to looking for hope and to improve their quality of life and wellbeing after diagnosis, but they are looking for more guidance from their oncologists."

A national survey of 115 clinical oncologists who treat breast cancer was conducted in late 2020 alongside a similar survey of 164 breast cancer patients who had been diagnosed within two years of the survey. The poll was conducted by IQVIA, a global provider of advanced analytics, technology solutions, and clinical research services to the life sciences industry, to understand awareness, usage, and attitudes toward the use of complementary and lifestyle therapies in addition to medical treatment.

In the study, the researchers found that two-thirds of oncologists (66%) and patients (65%) believe using complementary and lifestyle therapies improve patients' quality of life. Many patients (60%) also believe these treatments lead to better health outcomes. Interestingly, patient use of tai chi/chi gong or acupuncture had the strongest correlation with positive impact on quality of life among the 12 modalities tested.

The survey also gauged patients' and physicians' awareness of complementary and lifestyle therapies and sources of information for patients. Most oncologists reported familiarity with at least one therapy. These physicians saw nutrition consultation, support groups, psycho-oncology support, and exercise consultation as the most important integrative services. However, they gave relatively low marks to spiritual services and meditation or mindfulness--two approaches that patients see as important. Patients also recall their care teams providing fewer recommendations about these two modalities than the others.

While oncologists and patients agree that an oncologist, oncology nurse, or patient navigator is a good source of information for complementary medicine and lifestyle therapies, patients have a slight preference to hear directly from the oncologists.

"Many oncologists are generally supportive of integrating complementary and lifestyle therapies with conventional medical treatment, but the education and guidance given to patients varies widely," said Terri Crudup, Senior Principal of Primary Intelligence at IQVIA. "Oncologists and the institutions at which they practice should look for methods to educate and expose patients to a variety of safe and effective complementary and lifestyle therapies to find the ones that will help their patients most."


About Samueli Foundation:

Samueli Foundation's Integrative Health Programs are dedicated to the promotion of personal health and well-being with the support of health teams dedicated to all proven approaches, including conventional, complementary and self-care. Dr. Wayne Jonas, the former director of the NIH Office of Alternative Medicine and the former director of a World Health Organization Center for Traditional Medicine, is clinical professor of Family Medicine at the Uniformed Services University and at Georgetown University School of Medicine.

About IQVIA:

IQVIA (NYSE:IQV) is a leading global provider of advanced analytics, technology solutions, and clinical research services to the life sciences industry. IQVIA creates intelligent connections across all aspects of healthcare through its analytics, transformative technology, big data resources and extensive domain expertise. IQVIA Connected Intelligence™ delivers powerful insights with speed and agility -- enabling customers to accelerate the clinical development and commercialization of innovative medical treatments that improve healthcare outcomes for patients. With approximately 72,000 employees, IQVIA conducts operations in more than 100 countries.

IQVIA is a global leader in protecting individual patient privacy. The company uses a wide variety of privacy-enhancing technologies and safeguards to protect individual privacy while generating and analyzing information on a scale that helps healthcare stakeholders identify disease patterns and correlate with the precise treatment path and therapy needed for better outcomes. IQVIA's insights and execution capabilities help biotech, medical device and pharmaceutical companies, medical researchers, government agencies, payers and other healthcare stakeholders tap into a deeper understanding of diseases, human behaviors, and scientific advances in an effort to advance their path toward cures. To learn more, visit

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