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Open Access Research article

Positive patient experiences in an Australian integrative oncology centre

Bonnie J Furzer12*, Anna S Petterson24, Kemi E Wright1, Karen E Wallman1, Timothy R Ackland1 and David JL Joske123

Author Affiliations

1 The University of Western Australia, M408, 35 Stirling Hwy, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia

2 SolarisCare Foundation Collaborative Research Team, PO Box 7144, Shenton Park, WA 6008, Australia

3 Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, Haematology Care Centre, Ground Floor – E Block, Hospital Ave, Nedlands, WA 6009, Australia

4 Edith Cowan University, 270 Joondalup Drive, Joondalup, WA 6027, Australia

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2014, 14:158  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-14-158

Published: 14 May 2014



The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of cancer patients’ utilising complementary and integrative therapies (CIT) within integrative oncology centres across Western Australia.


Across four locations 135 patients accessed CIT services whilst undergoing outpatient medical treatment for cancer. Of the 135 patients, 66 (61 ± 12 y; female n = 45; male n = 21) agreed to complete a personal accounts questionnaire consisting of open-ended questions designed to explore patients’ perceptions of CIT. All results were transcribed into nVivo (v9) and using thematic analysis, key themes were identified.


Of the 66 participants, 100% indicated they would “recommend complementary therapies to other patients” and 92% stated “CIT would play a significant role in their future lifestyle”. A mean score of 8 ± 1 indicated an improvement in participants’ perception of wellbeing following a CIT session. Three central themes were identified: empowerment, support and relaxation. Fourteen sub-themes were identified, with all themes clustered into a framework of multifaceted views held by cancer patients in relation to wellbeing, role of significant others and control.


Exploration of patients’ experiences reveals uniformly positive results. One of the key merits of the environment created within the centres is patients are able to work through their cancer journey with an increased sense of empowerment, without placing them in opposition to conventional medical treatment. In order to effectively target integrative support services it is crucial to explore the experiences of patients in their own words and use those forms of expression to drive service delivery.

Cancer; Patient experiences; Complementary therapy; Supportive services; Survivorship; Quality of life