Document Type


Publication Date



Maine Medical Center, Medical Education, Maine Medical Center Research Institute, Center for Outcomes Research & Evaluation

MeSH Headings

Early Detection of Cancer, Maine, Naturopathy, Attitude of Health Personnel


Purpose: Research suggests that patients receiving care from both CAM providers and MDs or DOs experience higher rates of breast and cervical cancer screening than those receiving care from MD/DOs alone. We explored practices of cancer screening and prevention among naturopathic doctors (NDs) in Maine to identify opportunities for collaboration between MD/DOs and NDs, and to improve access to cancer screening and prevention.

Methods: We conducted semi-structured interviews with 16 out of Maine’s 37 licensed NDs, eliciting practices of cancer screening and prevention as well as experiences collaborating with MD/DOs. Transcribed interviews underwent inductive-deductive coding and were analyzed for content and themes via the constant comparative method.

Results: Cancer screening practices varied among NDs, but no participants were opposed to cancer screening. Most participants believed their primary role was in cancer prevention rather than screening. All were accustomed to working with MD/DOs, referring patients to them when needed. Many NDs reported acting as a bridge to obtaining cancer screening and other medical care for patients who would otherwise avoid MD/DOs. Generally, naturopathic principles are consistent with routine cancer screening though participants suggested that patient preference and individual risk may impact the forcefulness of their recommendations. Despite an overall willingness to recommend cancer screening, participants referred to several barriers to screening and to working with MD/DOs including perceived prejudicial attitudes from MD/DOs and concerns over cost and insurance coverage for cancer screening.

Conclusion: Licensed naturopathic doctors assist people in providing individualized care plans founded in nutrition and lifestyle, and providing healthcare to some who may feel disconnected to conventional medical providers. Our findings suggest that, with support, NDs can help to ensure appropriate cancer screening, particularly among patients who avoid conventional medicine. Encouraging better communication between NDs and MD/DOs has potential to improve access to cancer screening and prevention.


2020 Costas T. Lambrew Research Retreat