Integrative oncology is evidence-based specialty that uses complementary modalities in conjunction with traditional medical therapies to enhance its efficacy, improve symptom control, alleviate patient distress and reduce suffering. Many of these therapies are used to improve coping and to help patients adhere to their medical treatment program. (Sagan, Stephen -Society of Integrative Oncology State of the Art).
Complementary medicine is distinct from alternative medicine. Alternative medicine is usually unproven and rarely based on credible science and potentially harmful especially when they used in place of traditional therapies. It is well documented that a vast number of our patients use complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) yet many of the patients do not tell their physicians.
Integrative oncology seeks with use of evidence-based data to educate the public, physicians, and patients about integrative therapies with focus on their scientific validity, clinical benefits, toxicities, and limitations.
- Natural Health Products (Botanicals, vitamins and minerals)
- Energy Therapies: Manipulation of an energy field around the patient
- Examples: Therapeutic touch, Reiki and polarity therapy
- Mind-Body Therapies-aim to use the reciprocal relationship between the body and the mind to help patients relax, reduce stress and relieve symptoms associated with cancer and cancer treatments
- Examples: Hypnosis, relaxation therapy, aromatherapy, massage therapy, music and art therapy
The role of an Integrative Oncologist is to:
- Work with patients to design integrative treatment plans that use dietary strategies, mind body therapies, and selected CAM therapies during and after conventional cancer treatment.
- Advise patients about possible risks and benefits of CAM cancer treatments using evidence based data.
- Develop strategies for increasing the efficacy and reducing side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
- Educate patients and those at risk for cancer about nutritional and other lifestyle strategies to reduce risk of recurrence and incidence.
- Help patients get the best palliative care and assist with end of life issues.