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Integrative oncology for breast cancer patients: introduction of an expert-based model

Gustav J Dobos13*, Petra Voiss12, Ilka Schwidde2, Kyung-Eun Choi1, Anna Paul1, Barbara Kirschbaum1, Felix J Saha1 and Sherko Kuemmel2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Internal and Integrative Medicine, Kliniken Essen-Mitte, academic teaching hospital of the University of Duisburg-Essen, Am Deimelsberg 34 a, 45276 Essen, Germany

2 Department of Senology/ Breast Center, Kliniken Essen-Mitte, Evang. Huyssens Stiftung/Knappschaft GmbH, Henricistr. 92, 45136, Essen, Germany

3 Chair of Complementary and Integrative Medicine, Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach-Foundation, University of Duisburg-Essen, Kliniken Essen-Mitte, Knappschafts-Krankenhaus, Am Deimelsberg 34 a, 45276 Essen, Germany

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BMC Cancer 2012, 12:539  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-12-539

Published: 21 November 2012



Malignant breast neoplasms are among the most frequent forms of cancer in the Western world. Conventional treatment of breast cancer may include surgery, hormonal therapy, chemotherapy, radiation and/or immunotherapy, all of which are often accompanied by severe side effects. Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments have been shown to be effective in alleviating those symptoms. Furthermore, with patient survival rates increasing, oncologists, psychologists and other therapists have to become more sensitive to the needs of cancer survivors that go beyond than the mere alleviation of symptoms. Many CAM methods are geared to treat the patient in a holistic manner and thus are also concerned with the patient’s psychological and spiritual needs.


The use of certain CAM methods may become problematic when, as frequently occurs, patients use them indiscriminately and without informing their oncologists. Herbal medicines and dietary supplements, especially, may interfere with primary cancer treatments or have other detrimental effects. Thus, expertise in this highly specialized field of integrative medicine should be available to patients so that they can be advised about the benefits and negative effects of such preparations and practices.

Being a beneficial combination of conventional and CAM care, integrative oncology makes possible the holistic approach to cancer care. The concept of integrative oncology for breast cancer is jointly practiced by the Department of Internal and Integrative Medicine, Kliniken Essen-Mitte, academic teaching hospital of the University of Duisburg-Essen, and the Breast Center at Kliniken Essen-Mitte in Germany. This model is introduced here; its scope is reviewed, and its possible implications for the practice of integrative medicine are discussed.


Evidence-based integrative care is crucial to the field of oncology in establishing state-of-the-art care for breast cancer patients.

Integrative oncology; Integrative medicine; Complementary and alternative medicine; Holistic care