A Model of an Integrative Approach to Breast Cancer Patients

Author: Cristina Rossi1, Claudia Maggiore1, Maria Maddalena Rossi1, Alessio Filippone1, Donatella Guarino1, Annalisa Di Micco1, Luana Forcina1, Stefano Magno1
1 Center for Integrative Oncology, Fondazione Policlinico Universitario A. Gemelli IRCCS, Rome, Italy.
Conference/Journal: Integr Cancer Ther
Date published: Jan-Dec 2021
Other: Volume ID: 20 , Pages: 15347354211040826 , Special Notes: doi: 10.1177/15347354211040826. , Word Count: 260

Breast cancer (BC) survivors have physical and psychological needs that require convincing responses by health care providers. The quality of life issue and clinical unmet needs are among the main reasons pushing a number of patients toward "natural" therapies that are often misleading and alternative to mainstream cancer care. Integrative Oncology (IO) tries to respond to many of those needs, by combining lifestyle counseling, body-mind activities, and complementary evidence-informed therapies with anticancer standard treatments.

In our model at Fondazione Policlinico Gemelli (FPG), every woman diagnosed with a BC waiting for surgery or candidate to neoadjuvant chemotherapy undergoes a preliminary psycho-oncological distress evaluation and a brief lifestyle interview. Anthropometric measurements, body composition analysis, and individual levels of physical activity are recorded. Patients are given evidence based recommendations about the advisable diet and physical activity in a prehabilitation setting. A physician provides patients with information about integrative care plans to treat symptoms related to the disease or its treatments. Therapeutic approaches include acupuncture, mindfulness-based protocols, qigong, massage therapy, and classes of music/art therapy.

Between September 2018 and February 2020, the Center for Integrative Oncology at FPG has carried out 1249 lifestyle counseling sessions, 1780 acupuncture treatments, 1340 physiotherapy sessions, 3261 psycho-oncological consultations, 218 herbal medicine counseling sessions. Moreover, 90 BC patients completed the mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) protocol and 970 patients participated in qigong, art therapy, and music therapy classes.

Our integrative approach aims to achieve a person-centered medicine by improving symptoms management, adherence to oncological protocols, and eventually overall quality of life.

Keywords: breast cancer; integrative oncology; lifestyles; personalized medicine; unmet needs.

PMID: 34670415 DOI: 10.1177/15347354211040826