The aim of palliative care is to improve quality of life for patients with serious illnesses by treating their symptoms, often in situations where all the possible causative therapeutic options have been exhausted. In many palliative care settings, complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is used for this purpose. In fact, this is putting it mildly; my impression is that CAM seems to have flooded palliative care. The question is therefore whether this approach is based on sufficiently good evidence.
This review was aimed at evaluating the available evidence on the use of CAM in hospice and palliative care and to summarize their potential benefits. The researchers conducted thorough literature searches and located 4682 studies of which 17 were identified for further evaluation. The therapies considered included:
- aromatherapy massage,
- music therapy,
Many studies demonstrated a short-term benefit in symptom improvement from baseline with CAM, although a significant benefit was not found between groups.
The authors concluded that CAM may provide a limited short-term benefit in patients with symptom burden. Additional studies are needed to clarify the potential value of CAM in the hospice or palliative setting.
When reading research articles in CAM, I often have to ask myself: ARE THEY TAKING THE MIKEY?
??? “Many studies demonstrated a short-term benefit in symptom improvement from baseline with CAM, although a significant benefit was not found between groups.” ???
Controlled clinical trials are only about comparing the outcomes between the experimental and the control groups (and not about assessing improvements from baseline which can be [and often is] unrelated to any effect caused by the treatment per se). Therefore, within-group changes are irrelevant and should not even deserve a mention in the abstract. Thus the only finding worth reporting in the abstract is this:
No significant benefit was found.
It follows that the above conclusions are totally out of line with the data.
They should, according to what the researchers report in their abstract, read something like this:
CAM HAS NO PROVEN BENEFIT IN PALLIATIVE CARE. ITS USE IN THIS AREA IS THEREFORE HIGHLY PROBLEMATIC.