Exploring an Integrative Patient-Tailored Complementary Medicine Approach for Chemotherapy-Induced Taste Disorders

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Context:Chemotherapy-induced taste disorder (CITD) is a common adverse effect among patients with cancer, with no effective known treatment.Objectives:Exploring the impact of a patient-tailored complementary and integrative medicine (CIM) treatment program on CITD-related severity.Design:Prospective study on patients’ chart.Setting:Integrative oncology program operating within the Clalit Healthcare Oncology Service in northern Israel.Patients:Patients were referred by their oncology healthcare practitioner to a consultation with a CIM-trained integrative physician (IP). A patient-tailored CIM treatment program was designed, addressing quality of life (QOL)-related concerns which were evaluated using the Edmonton symptom assessment scale (ESAS) and the measure yourself concerns and well-being (MYCAW) questionnaires.Results:A total of 626 patients were referred to the IP consultation, with CITD-related symptoms identified in 43, 34 of them returning for follow-up. The majority of patients treated with CIM reported a reduction in symptom severity (n = 29), with only three reporting no change, 2 an “unclear effect” and none a worsening of CITD-related symptoms. Acupuncture and herbal medicine (sage, carob, and wheatgrass juice, as mouthwash or applied to the oral mucosa) were the most frequently CIM modalities used. Assessment was considered optimal for 18 of the 29 patients who reported an improvement in ESAS scores for fatigue, drowsiness and depression. We conclude that a patient-tailored CIM program is a potentially effective and safe therapeutic option for CITD-related symptoms. Further research is needed in order to explore the impact of CIM treatments on taste and appetite-related concerns during chemotherapy.

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