This systematic review adds to the growing literature on integrative therapies for patients with breast cancer and other cancer populations. The latest results are published online and in print in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, a publication of the American Cancer Society.

The researchers evaluated more than 80 different therapies and developed grades of evidence. Based on those findings, the Society for Integrative Oncology makes the following recommendations:

  • Use of music therapy, meditation, stress management and yoga for anxiety and stress reduction
  • Use of meditation, relaxation, yoga, massage and music therapy for depression and mood disorders
  • Use of meditation and yoga to improve quality of life
  • Use of acupressure and acupuncture for reducing chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting
  • A lack of strong evidence supporting the use of ingested dietary supplements or botanical natural products as part of supportive care and/or to manage breast cancer treatment-related side effects

“Studies show that up to 80 percent of people with a history of cancer use one or more complementary and integrative therapies, but until recently, evidence supporting the use of many of these therapies had been limited,” said Heather Greenlee, ND, PhD, assistant professor of Epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, and past president of SIO. “Our goal is to provide clinicians and patients with practical information and tools to make informed decisions on whether and how to use a specific integrative therapy for a specific clinical application during and after breast cancer treatment,” Greenlee continues.

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Dr. Stegall’s Comments: It is not surprising that sound therapy, mind-body medicine, and acupuncture were shown to be beneficial. These therapies have been around for thousands of years, and over that time their effectiveness has been evident. However, it is nice to see that scientific studies validate their usefulness. In the case of dietary supplements, the scientific community has not come around on their use yet. This is mostly because there are so many supplements, and some are obviously better than others. Performing adequate studies on specific supplements is difficult to do, and for that reason, I do not expect to see supplements recommended by most clinicians. Although they are not strong enough on their own to treat cancer, I do feel that supplements play an important role in an integrative treatment approach.