Survivorship and survivorship care increasingly takes on a more important role in the care of cancer patients. Over time we will continue to see an ever increasingly emphasize on survivorship as our medical interventions improve, expanding the number of cancer survivors. Today, cancer survivors are becoming a force, demanding increasing research dollars (although not as successful as we would like to see). Cancer survivors are also demanding better care outside of their direct surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Cancer survivors are demanding better life care that acknowledges their many new needs brought about from their treatments and change in status.

Integrative medicine interventions have been shown to lead to significant improvements in patient-reported outcomes in the areas of the treatment of chronic pain, depression and stress. This has recently been confirmed by a new report released by The Bravewell Collaborative. These findings are based on data collected from patients having participating in the Integrative Medicine Interventions Effectiveness Registry (PRIMIER), the first-ever patient registry on integrative medicine.

“This evidence-based research from PRIMIER will improve healthcare quality by pinpointing the most effective practices in integrative medicine,” said Donald I. Abrams, M.D., lead author and integrative oncologist at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California San Francisco.

The data generated by PRIMIER demonstrated that the use of integrative medicine yielded an increase in the Patient Activation Measure (PAM), which assesses to what degree patients believe they have the knowledge, skill, and confidence to take action to improve their health, and whether they are likely to maintain positive self-care actions over time. Over a six month period the percentage of patients with low levels of patient activation decreased from 29 percent to 17 percent, while those with higher levels of activation increased from 71 percent to 83 percent. Previous research has shown that higher scores on the PAM are strongly related to improvements in clinical outcomes as having less pain, an increase in utilization of prevention screenings, and a reduction in emergency room visit, all important measures of positive survivorship.

Survivorship is important and cancer survivors must demand excellent survivorship care which should include integrative medicine from their treating physicians and facilities.

Joel T. Nowak, M.A., M.S.W.