Mixing chalk and cheese: the challenge for integrating complementary therapies into radiation oncology


  • Stephen M Sagar BSc (Hons) (Engl), MBBS (Engl), MRCP, FRCR, FRCPC

    Professor, Associate Member, Corresponding author
    1. Department of Medicine, Juravinski Cancer Centre, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
    • McMaster University, Department of Oncology, Division of Radiation Oncology, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
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E-mail: stephen.sagar@jcc.hhsc.ca



The supportive care of cancer patients receiving radiotherapy is an important responsibility for the radiation oncologist. A knowledgeable and empathic practitioner can gain the patients' trust to ensure that they receive appropriate management using evidence-based interventions that are relatively safe.


To summarise the evidence-based complementary interventions that can be used in radiation therapy.


A narrative review.


There is good scientific evidence for both the effectiveness and ineffectiveness of specific complementary therapies used by radiation oncology patients.


Many radiation oncology programmes do not include supervised programmes for complementary therapies, despite patients' requirement for credible knowledge, and despite multiple clinical trials that have shown the utility for some interventions. It is important that the radiation oncologist can discriminate between effectiveness and ineffectiveness using knowledge transfer from appropriate clinical trials. Radiation oncology programmes should follow the evidence and implement techniques and therapies that reduce patient symptoms and contribute to their rehabilitation. As evidence builds for the effectiveness of certain complementary therapies, we are left with the challenge of integrating them into standard practice.