Increasingly cancer services are incorporating integrative oncology services to enhance the holistic care of patients and meet patient expectations. Integrating evidence based complementary medicine (CM) into mainstream cancer care can provide viable options for relief of symptoms that may not be relieved by conventional treatments.(1-3) .In 2014 the Chris O'Brien Lifehouse comprehensive cancer centre opened with a mission to incorporate an integrative oncology (IO) service and provide access to non-biologically based CM. The IO service provides an example of a viable model of integrating CM into a conventional cancer hospital.
Between January 2015 and April 2017, 1,506 patients attended the IO service. The majority were female (66%) and between 51-70 years (51%). Occasions of service per month ranged from 450-700 in the past year. Over 60% of patients attended more than once. The IO service offers comprehensive medical specialist consultation, exercise physiologist and programs, individual therapies such as acupuncture, massage, reflexology and group classes in yoga, meditation and qi gong. Patients are referred via medical specialist or self-refer . The service is managed by the Supportive Care Medical Specialist who has acted as a ‘door opener’ to other conventional physicians and nursing staff: a position highlighted as significant to integration in other studies of integrative oncology centres (4, 5). Research, ongoing education, regular multidisciplinary team meetings and unique program development is proving key to improving integration.
The IO service at the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse is, to our knowledge, the most comprehensive on offer in Australia. The high use and demand by cancer patients for CM are met by the service in a safe, evidence based manner. The service facilitates dialogue between specialists and patients over their CM use. Lifehouse is proving to be a robust program model for future supportive care cancer services.