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Oncotarget. 2017 Aug 30;8(46):81485-81491. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.20594. eCollection 2017 Oct 6.

Healing touch in radiation therapy: is the benefit tangible?

Author information

Département de Radiothérapie, Institut de Cancérologie de la Loire-Lucien Neuwirth, Saint-Priest-en-Jarez, France.
Département Interdisciplinaire des Soins de Supports, Institut de Cancérologie de la Loire-Lucien Neuwirth, Saint-Priest-en-Jarez, France.



Cancer patients tend to use more and more complementary or alternative medicine concomitantly to radiotherapy. A large part of these patients have recourse to Mind and Body practice, mainly with biofield healers or magnetizers, without any level of evidence. The aim of the present study was to report epidemiologic data on biofield healers in radiation therapy patients, and to assess the possible objective and subjective benefits.

Materials and Methods:

A retrospective study was conducted in a French cancer institute. All consecutive breast or prostate cancer patients undergoing a curative radiotherapy during 2015 were screened (n = 806). Healer consultation procedure, frequency, and remuneration were collected. Patient's self-evaluation of healer's impact on treatment tolerance was reported. Tolerance (fatigue, pain) was assessed through visual analogic scale (0 to 10). Analgesic consumption was evaluated. Toxicities were described according to NTCAEv4.0.


500 patients were included (350 women and 150 men). A total of 256 patients (51.2%) consulted a healer during their radiation treatment, with a majority of women (58%, p < 0.01). Most of patients had weekly (n = 209, 41.8%) or daily (n = 84, 16.8%) appointments with their healer. Regarding the self-reported tolerance, > 80% of the patients described a "good" or "very good" impact of the healer on their treatment. Healers were mainly voluntary (75.8%). Regarding the clinical efficacy, no difference was observed in prostate and in breast cancer patients (toxicity, antalgic consumption, pain).


This study reveals that the majority of patients treated by radiotherapy consults a healer and reports a benefit on subjective tolerance, without objective tolerance amelioration.


breast cancer; complementary and alternative medicine (CAM); prostate cancer; radiation therapy; supportive care

Conflict of interest statement

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflicts of interest related to this work.

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