Integrative Cancer Therapies, Vol. 3, No. 3, 208-213 (2004)
DOI: 10.1177/1534735404267749


An Approach to Teaching Physicians about Complementary Medicine in the Treatment of Cancer
Eran Ben-Arye, MD
Complementary and Traditional Medicine Unit, Department of Family Medicine, Bruce Rappaport Faculty of Medicine, Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel, and Clalit Health Services, Haifa and Western Galilee district, Israel, eranben@netvision.net.il

Moshe Frenkel, MD

Complementary and Traditional Medicine Unit, Department of Family Medicine, Bruce Rappaport Faculty of Medicine, Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel, and Clalit Health Services, Haifa and Western Galilee district, Israel, Department of Family Medicine, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas, mafrenke@utmb.edu

In recent years, complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) has become popular with the general public. Many cancer patients use CAM, usually without their physicians’ knowledge. The importance of discussing CAM with cancer patients is increasingly acknowledged. Unfortunately, there is little information available about teaching and increasing physicians’ knowledge about these therapies. In a preliminary trial addressing this lack of information, a course about the role of CAM in the treatment of cancer was designed and administered to primary care physicians. The course evolved as a response to an interest that was acknowledged among practicing family physicians and residents. The course involved family physicians, patients, and CAM practitioners. The main focus of the course was to enhance physicians’ understanding and attentiveness to patients’ reasons for using CAM, as well as education about the variety of CAM practices patients are using. The course consisted of biweekly meetings in which practitioners and patients brought their experience and practice. The course outcome was evaluated with an analysis of precourse and postcourse questionnaires. After completing the course, the participants reported that they were more open and able to talk about CAM with their patients and that they felt more prepared to treat patients with cancer, in general. This introductory course appears to be a first step in bridging some of the gaps between the popularity of CAM among cancer patients and primary care physicians’ knowledge related to CAM in cancer care.


Key Words: alternative medicine • integrative medicine • cancer care • patient-doctor communication • family medicine • medical education

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