What is integrative oncology and what role does it play in cancer treatment?
Dr. Singh is director of the Gynecologic Oncology Program and director of the Integrative Oncology and Cancer Prevention Program at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center.
Question: What is integrative oncology and what role does it play in cancer treatment?
Answer: Integrative oncology is an approach to cancer care which addresses the whole patient, making use of all health care professionals, disciplines and proven treatment approaches to achieve optimal health and healing. An integrative oncologist seeks to support the body's own healing abilities through techniques that encourage personal responsibility, empowerment and lifestyle choices that can improve cancer outcomes and overall quality of life. Integrative therapies can benefit people who are at risk for developing cancer, survivors, and others undergoing treatment.
Individuals interested in exploring integrative therapies should seek guidance from an integrative oncologist, to make sure any techniques are carefully reviewed and safely incorporated into a plan of cancer care. A consultation with an integrative oncology team will include a review of nutritional supplements and other alternative medicine options; a complete diet evaluation; and assessments of both physical activity and stress management methods. The doctor will also discuss what resources the patient may need to create a supportive and caring environment before, during and after treatment. Therapies may include meditation, acupuncture, nutritional supplements and dietary recommendations, and approaches to help patients fight or manage cancer and treatment-related side effects.
Certain therapies, such as acupuncture, are proven to provide relief for treatment-related side effects like pain, nausea, fatigue and anxiety. Spiritual therapies, meditation and breathing techniques can promote relaxation and stress reduction during and after treatment. Supplements and nutritional approaches may help with healing and fatigue, and a variety of other techniques offering preventive benefits may be recommended for people at risk for developing cancer. Ultimately, the best health outcomes are reached by treating the whole patient and not just the cancer.