MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

The aim of this “multicenter cross-sectional study” was to analyze a cohort of breast (BC) and gynecological cancers (GC) patients regarding their interest in, perception of, and demand for integrative therapeutic health approaches.

The BC and GC patients were surveyed at their first integrative clinic visit using validated standardized questionnaires. Treatment goals and potential differences between the two groups were evaluated.

A total of 340 patients (272 BC, 68 GC) participated in the study. The overall interest in IM was 95.3% and correlated with older age, recent chemotherapy, and higher education. A total of 89.4% were using integrative methods at the time of enrolment, primarily exercise therapy (57.5%), and vitamin supplementation (51.4%). The major short-term goal of the BC patients was a side-effects reduction of conventional therapy (70.4%); the major long-term goal was the delay of a potential tumor progression (69.3%). In the GC group, major short-term and long-term goals were slowing tumor progression (73.1% and 79.1%) and prolonging survival (70.1% and 80.6%). GC patients were significantly more impaired by the side-effects of conventional treatment than BC patients [pain (p = 0.006), obstipation (< 0.005)].

The authors concluded that these data demonstrate a high overall interest in and use of IM in BC and GC patients. This supports the need for specialized IM counseling and the implementation of integrative treatments into conventional oncological treatment regimes in both patient groups. Primary tumor site, cancer diagnosis, treatment phase, and side effects had a relevant impact on the demand for IM in our study population.

This paper is, in my mind, an excellent example of pseudo-research:

  1. The ‘study’ turns out to be little more than a survey.
  2. The sample is small and not representative; therefore the findings cannot be generalized and are meaningless.
  3. The patients surveyed are those who decided to attend clinics of integrative medicine.
  4. These patients had used alternative therapies before and are evidently in favor of alternative medicine.
  5. The most frequently used alternative therapies (exercise, vitamins, trace elements, massage, lymph drainage) are arguably conventional treatments in Germany where the survey was conducted.

I have repeatedly commented on the plethora of useless surveys in so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). But this one might beat them all in its uselessness. The fact that close to 100% of patients attending clinics of integrative medicine are interested in SCAM and use some form of SCAM says it all, I think.

Why do people waste their time on such pseudo-research?

The best answer to this question is that it can be used for promotion. I found the paper by reading what seems to be a press release entitled: “Eine Studie bestätigt Patientenwunsch nach naturheilkundlicher Unterstützung”. This translates into “a study confirms the wish of patients for naturopathic support”. Needless to explain that the survey did not even remotely show this to be true.

What will they think of next?

I suggest a survey run in a BC clinic which amazingly discovers that nearly 100% of all patients are female.

 

 

6 Responses to Demand for integrative medicine among female cancer patients: a new and truly remarkable survey

  • Dear Edzard,
    Your assessment of the study shows that you have no idea about the practice and only “swirl”(germ.:”schwurbeln”) in theory: Reality is, that 100% of cancer patients in large outpatient clinics and in daily practice demand IM!

    • firstly, it is not true that 100% of cancer patients in large outpatient clinics and in daily practice demand IM.
      secondly, this has little to do with the paper and does not invalidate my criticism of it.

  • Exercise is not ´´alternative ´´ it is evidence-based.

  • What intrigues me most is this 4.7% of women who apparently are NOT interested in SCAM. Why then were they visiting these integrative clinics? Did they arrive there by accident?

    And about the other 95.3%: together with their described medical conditions, this interest in SCAM to me says that these women are still lured by SCAM’s false promises, i.e. that it may help them survive their cancer or at least ease their suffering – both of which it doesn’t.

  • “Conclusion: (i) Our data demonstrate a high overall interest in and use of IM in BC and GC patients.”

    Fair enough:
    “The aim of this multicenter cross-sectional study was to analyze a cohort of breast (BC) and gynecological cancer (GC) patients regarding their interest in, perception of and demand for integrative therapeutic health approaches.”
    Job done.

    And the same outcome would probably have been obtained if the survey had asked “would you be interested in having your hair re-styled, a manicure, a glass of whiskey, or whisky …?”
    Folks have interests in all sorts of things – not always for rational reasons.

    Cancer patients are emotional and particularly vulnerable.
    That is why it behoves those dealing with them to have integrity and be honest about the effects of treatments offered.

    But then the authors go on to consider a question they had not even asked:

    “Conclusion (ii) (Finding a ‘high level of interest in IM)…supports the need for specialized IM counseling and the implementation of integrative treatments into conventional oncological treatment regimes in both patient groups.”

    Whattt!!!
    How on earth do they arrive at that conclusion?
    100% non sequitur.
    A serious logical fallacy.

    Authors Donata Grimm , Sofia Mathes, Linn Woelber, Caroline Van Aken, Barbara Schmalfeldt, Volkmar Mueller, Marion Kiechle, Christine Brambs , Daniela Paepke are failures.
    They obviously do not understand one of the most basic precepts of science – that conclusions should be derived from evidence. And they ain’t gone none for the premise that leads to conclusion (ii).

    What is worse, is that the editors of Arch Gynecol Obstet bothered to publish such nonsense.

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