What is Integrative Oncology?

Integrative Oncology combines conventional oncology with evidenced-based complementary therapies. The main goal of Integrative Oncology is to reduce side effects of oncological treatments and to improve patient’s quality of life. In addition, patients should be empowered with the ability to cope with the cancer disease and to develop lasting and individual strategies to strengthen his physical and mental fitness and to facilitate healthy lifestyle changes.

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Dr. Stegall’s comments: This article cites a study showing that over 70% of cancer patients seek therapies which complement the conventional cancer treatments they are receiving. Patients realize that there is another side to cancer treatment than they are typically receiving. They know that nutrition, supplementation, exercise, stress management, and relationships are important. They know that other treatments such as IV vitamin C, Poly-MVA, lymph drainage therapy, pulsed electromagnetic field therapy, phototherapy, and nutraceuticals play a valuable role.

Integrative oncology combines conventional, CAM therapies

Many oncologists may not frequently advise their cancer patients to control their breathing, meditate or eat more fruits and vegetables to manage cancer symptoms and adverse effects of cancer treatment. Yet, these are a few of the integrative medicine modalities slowly being adopted by oncologists and other health care professionals as part of an all-encompassing approach to cancer treatment.

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Dr. Stegall’s comments: While I am always glad to hear about major cancer treatment centers looking into integrative approaches to cancer treatment, I cringe when I see the term integrative reduced to conventional therapies with a little yoga or massage thrown in. This approach should be termed “integrative medicine lite,” because it fails to embrace the  many other therapies we use in integrative oncology. Integrative oncology is much more complex than this article suggests.

Integrative Oncology: Complementary Therapies in Cancer Care

In addition to standard treatments, complementary therapies are increasingly being used by cancer patients in an effort to alleviate cancer symptoms and those associated with cancer treatment as well as improving their overall wellbeing and quality of life. More than 40% of breast cancer patients in the USA reported using complementary therapies,[1] and the numbers are comparable to complementary and alternative medicine use by European cancer patients[2].

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Dr. Stegall’s comments: Most patients who seek to incorporate complementary therapies into their cancer treatment regimen do so on their own, without guidance from a physician. The reason for this is that most physicians are not knowledgeable about these complementary therapies, and are ill-equipped to provide specific recommendations for their use. Even worse, many oncologists are critical of these therapies if patients ask about them. This is why patients need an integrative oncologist who is trained in both conventional medicine and alternative medicine and understands how to use all of the tools in our tool kit in the best way for each patient.