Find Your Path to Optimal Health - Healing Oriented Medicine For All Stages of Cancer Care
Monday, February 24, 2014
Integrative medicine is a healing oriented medicine that
takes into account all aspects of a person, and draws from both
conventional medicine and complementary approaches to find
the most effective, least invasive path to healing for each
person. As far as cancer, integrative medicine can help at all
stages--by optimizing overall health to prevent cancers from
arising, by relieving side effects of the cancer or
treatments, and by helping to prevent recurrences of
cancer. A patient's treatment plan will probably include
conventional cancer care like chemotherapy, surgery or radiation,
but also addresses evidence-based complementary therapies like
nutrition, supplements, acupuncture, massage and mind-body
therapies like yoga or meditation.
As far as prevention, there are many factors that
contribute to the development of cancer. Some are within our
control and others, like our genes, are not. However, research
is showing that gene expression is greatly influenced by
multiple factors, including the foods we eat, toxins we are exposed
to, and stress hormones. So even if a person has a strong
family history of cancer, there are many things that person can do
to influence gene expression and the chances of getting cancer. The
American Cancer Society estimates that 1/3 of cancers could be
prevented through healthy nutrition and healthy weight. Another 1/3
could be prevented by not smoking. Integrative medicine focuses on
helping people make healthy changes in nutrition and physical
activity, as well as addressing mental, emotional, social and
spiritual aspects that influence health.
During treatment for cancer, integrative medicine
offers ways of helping with side effects of the treatment or
- Acupuncture can be very helpful for pain,
neuropathy, nausea from chemotherapy, dry mouth from radiation,
stress and anxiety, insomnia, and fatigue. Typical treatment
involves needles placed just under the skin on the arms and legs,
including a point on the inner arm that is especially useful for
nausea. The needles are left in place for 20-30 minutes. Most
patients experience deep relaxation during the treatment and have a
sense of well being after acupuncture.
- Yoga has been shown in clinical studies with
cancer patients to lower stress hormones and improve sleep,
fatigue, quality of life, and physical functioning.
- Research on meditation in cancer patients
shows that it can help with stress, quality of life, fatigue,
anxiety, and depression. Mindfulness meditation, which cultivates
non-judgmental awareness of the present moment, is the type of
meditation that has been most studied. Classes in meditation and
yoga are available in Appleton and Oshkosh through Affinity Health
System, The Y and yoga studios throughout the valley.
- Herbal medicines and supplements can interact
with conventional treatments so should be used only with your
- Aromatherapy can help with nausea and
After cancer treatments are finished, people are
often interested in what they can do to help prevent a recurrence.
This can be a good time to re-evaluate life goals, lifestyle habits
and make healthy changes, which can have a big impact on risk of
recurrence as well as quality of life. As far as physical activity,
the World Health Organization estimates that exercise in breast
cancer survivors can reduce a woman's risk of recurrence by 26-40%.
Healthy nutrition is also essential. In addition, it is important
to address stress, emotional health, relationships, and make
changes in order to live in accordance with one's life goals,
passions, and purpose.
Dr. Jennifer Norden, HOPE Medical Advisory