10:35am Saturday 25 January 2020

Making informed decisions about complementary medicine

Patients and health professionals are benefiting from a new research program — the Complementary Medicine Education and Outcomes Program (CAMEO) — which is the first of its kind in Canada. The program supports cancer patients and health professionals in making informed decisions about how to safely integrate evidence-based complementary medicine with conventional cancer care.

Len Gross, a retired mortgage loans and insurance manager and survivor of prostate cancer, explored the use of complementary medicine during his treatment, as he was doubtful that a well balanced diet alone could keep you healthy through cancer treatment. “I have heard that there may be complementary medicines that can help patients cope more easily with their disease,” Len expresses, “On the other hand, I have heard that taking too many complementary medicines can be harmful, so it was something I wanted to investigate.”

Researchers at the BC Cancer Agency and the University of British Columbia’s (UBC) School of Nursing, have documented the need for a program that addresses the need for credible information on complementary care.

“We know that a majority of cancer patients are either using or considering using complementary medicine at some point during their illness, but they find it very difficult to sort through the options,” says Dr. Lynda Balneaves, the study’s principal investigator and Associate Professor of Nursing at UBC. “There are a number of resources currently available, but patients tell us they want credible information from within the conventional cancer care system. CAMEO is a response to this grassroots need.”

“We also want to support health professionals by strengthening their ability to address the questions they get from patients about complementary medicine,” says Tracy Truant, co-investigator and Regional Professional Practice Leader in Nursing at the BC Cancer Agency, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority.

Led by Dr. Balneaves, Truant, and the University of Calgary’s Dr. Marja Verhoef, CAMEO offers a variety of education and decision support strategies focusing on complementary medicine for cancer patients and their families as well as health professionals. The program provides education seminars and material, decision support, clinical tools, and decision aids.

“There is a need for an independent body to research the claims made by the various suppliers of complementary medicines” says Len. “CAMEO provides patients with a place to go to receive unbiased information.”

The CAMEO program now offers group education to patients and family members at the BC Cancer Agency’s Vancouver Centre who are struggling with making decisions about complementary medicine. One-on-one decision support for patients and support persons is also provided. The CAMEO program will not offer clinical recommendations or endorse specific therapies — instead its focus is to support patients in making their own decisions by facilitating access to evidence-based information, and tools to guide their decision making.

Patients and families will be able to take part in CAMEO program either through a recommendation by a health professional at the BC Cancer Agency or by contacting the program directly. For more information, please visit www.bccancer.bc.ca/cameo.

Rather than evaluate the clinical outcomes of specific complementary therapies, which has been the current emphasis in research, the CAMEO program evaluates the impact of the education and decision support interventions used to support patients and their families, and health professionals

The CAMEO program is supported through a $1 million grant from the Lotte and John Hecht Memorial Foundation, as well as the Canadian Breast Cancer Research Alliance and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

The BC Cancer Agency, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority, is committed to reducing the incidence of cancer, reducing the mortality from cancer, and improving the quality of life of those living with cancer. It provides a comprehensive cancer control program for the people of British Columbia by working with community partners to deliver a range of oncology services, including prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment, research, education, supportive care, rehabilitation and palliative care. The BC Cancer Foundation raises funds to support research and enhancements to patient care at the BC Cancer Agency.



For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact:

Hannah Rose
BC Cancer Agency
Tel: 604.877.6000, ex 4813
Media Pager: 604.641.5167
Toll-free: 1.800.663.3333, ex 4813

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