The Consortium of Academic Health Centres for Integrative Medicine defines integrative medicine as “the practice of medicine that reaffirms the importance of the relationship between practitioner and patient, focuses on the whole person, is informed by evidence, and makes use of all appropriate therapeutic approaches, healthcare professionals, and disciplines to achieve optimal health and healing”.
Integrative oncology has been specifically described as both a science and a philosophy that focuses on the complex health of people with cancer and proposes an array of approaches to accompany the conventional therapies of surgery, chemotherapy, molecular therapeutics, and radiotherapy to facilitate health .
Therapies used in integrative oncology
Integrative Oncology uses the best evidence-based treatments (i.e. surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, acupuncture, massage, stress reduction, herbal/botanicals, etc.) with the following goals:
- Treating the cancer
- Preventing recurrence
- Reducing side effects and symptoms
Integrative Oncology encourages a healthy lifestyle to help the body in its innate abilities to fight and prevent cancer. This can be accomplished by learning strategies to reduce stress, increasing physical activity and healthy eating.
Practicing these lifestyle changes leads to beneficial “anti-cancer” effects:
- Strengthening the immune system
- Decreasing inflammation
- Reducing (free radical) oxidative damage to cells
- Decreasing hormonal stimulation of cancer cells
Treatments are selected using a customised approach for each person by taking into account various factors:
- Cancer type and stage
- Other medical conditions
- General health status
- Safety and efficacy of the treatment
- Cost and availability of treatment
- Social support
Selecting the most appropriate therapies for an individual is not simple, as there are many factors to consider. Coordinating the various therapies so that all of your healthcare practitioners are communicating and knowing what you are doing/taking/planning can be time-consuming, complicated and confusing. Our directory of health professional working in integrative oncology should be able to assist you at this time.
- Kligler B, Maizes V, Schachter S, et al. Core competencies in integrative medicine for medical school curricula: a proposal. Acad Med 2004; 79: 521– 31.
- Sagar SM. The integrative oncology supplement—a paradigm for both patient care and communication. Curr Oncol 2008; 15: 166 – 7.