WS7: Counselling cancer patients on complementary and alternative medicine

Lea Knez, University Clinic Golnik, Slovenia
Samo Rožman, Oncology Institute Ljubljana, Sloevnia


Cancer patients often embark on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) with unrealistic expectations and negligence of any detrimental effect. Choosing alternative medicine over conventional cancer treatment was associated with a higher hazard for death and using CAM alongside conventional cancer treatments may adversely affect their safety and efficacy. As many CAM products resemble drugs, clinical pharmacists are often approached by cancer patients in search of advice regarding their use. Considering the complexity of the underlying oncologic disease and its treatment as well as the lack of reliable data on CAM products, counselling cancer patients on CAM use poses a great challenge for clinical pharmacists.

Target audience:

The aim of the workshop is to empower clinical pharmacists in counselling cancer patients regarding CAM use.

Learning Objectives:

On completion of the workshop participant will be able to
• Explain the differences between complementary and alternative medicine
• Assess the reasons why cancer patients embark on CAM therapies
• Assess the risks of CAM use in cancer patients accounting for the patient's disease and cancer treatment

Content and Structure:

• Brief introduction with definition of CAM, extent of CAM use among cancer patients and known implications on CAM use on cancer outcomes.
• Small group (up to 6 participants) reflections on reasons for cancer patients considering CAM therapies and the possible risks of CAM use in cancer patients. These reflections will be shared in a facilitated discussion.
• Small group work on three cases of cancer patients seeking for CAM advice. Basic fact sheets on the underlying disease and on the questioned CAM product will be provided. Participants will have to draw key points to be addressed in patient counselling including the feasibility on patients’ expectations from CAM use and their possible adverse effects on patients’ disease and cancer treatment. These points will be shared in a facilitated discussion.

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