This page features relevant news, information and resources on integrative oncology as well as the broader topics of complementary alternative medicine and disease prevention.
Integrative oncology is a combination of traditional and complementary alternative medicine that treats cancer from a holistic perspective. It views the patient in the context of their lifestyle and physical environment. It may review such factors as genetics, diet and nutrition, as well as potential environmental exposures -- to cigarette smoke, asbestos, pesticides, animal hormones, heavy metals and other toxins. According to the World Health Organization, environmental factors contribute to the majority of diseases and chronic conditions. Integrative oncology seeks to boost the patient's natural immune system in developing treatment plans. Integrative therapies may complement traditional chemotherapy and radiation, ameliorate side effects, or offer alternatives when traditional treatments are not fully effective, or cannot be used for other reasons.
An Introduction to Integrative Oncology
Drawbacks of Traditional Cancer Treatments
By their nature, chemotherapy and radiation often have serious side effects and can impact the body's natural immune system. Chemotherapy is typically a systemic treatment accompanied by systemic side effects, which include nausea and vomiting. Bombarding cancer cells with radiation can also impact surrounding tissue and organs. Despite their drawbacks, they are still important treatments that have proven effective in treating a variety of cancers. However, there is obvious room for improvement, not just in diminishing the impact of side effects, but in improving the overall effectiveness of treatment through a more holistic approach.
Toward a Complementary Approach to Cancer Treatment
Integrative oncology, like integrative medicine, seeks to improve outcomes through a holistic view to treatment that encompasses body, mind and spirit. In considering the body, the integrative oncology practice team seeks to mobilize the body's own immune system, and the patient in the fight. The team often works to improve the digestive system so the body can best metabolize food and nutrients. They may advise an organic diet that avoids fruits and vegetables grown with pesticides, and avoiding dairy or meat products with animal hormones. In a similar way, they may focus on building bone health, since the blood cells which carry oxygen throughout the body originate in the marrow.
They also are concerned about how patients think and feel about what is happening. Emotions influence the endocrine system which stimulates hormones that may help or hinder treatment. Does the person have a fatalistic attitude, or do they visualize themselves as conquering "the invaders"? As active participants, patients can give themselves the best chance of success. With a multidisciplinary approach, the integrative practice works from a broader understanding to help set patients on the road to wellness. It may integrate diverse therapies from acupuncture to guided imagery for managing natural immune response, pain and patient outlook.
As the practice of integrative oncology progresses, patients and doctors are already discovering real reason for renewed hope. While holistic medicine has its detractors (and imposters), the larger medical community is embracing the wisdom -- and role of complementary medicine -- as evidenced in new research, conferences and everyday practice. As alternative therapies become more integrated with standard practice at leading medical and cancer centers, its role will likely expand and build.
The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center ® at Hackensack University Medical Center represents one of the first hospital-based programs whose specific mission is to identify, control and ultimately prevent toxic exposures in the environment that threaten our children's health. The first mini-article below describes the role and importance of integrative oncology in treating children with cancer. We also suggest you lear about related topics, such as diet, disease prevention and greener living. Please browse the links below for further information, research studies and resources.
John Theurer Cancer Center
The Whole Child Center
National Institutes of Health:
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
NCCAM "Caner and CAM"
National Cancer Institute
Society for Integrative Oncology
Integrative Oncology (Donald Abrams, MD and Andrew Weil, MD):
Health Care Without Harm - An international coalition of more than 430 organizations in 52 countries, working to transform the health care industry worldwide, without compromising patient safety or care, so that it is ecologically sustainable and no longer a source of harm to public health and the environment.
Scams and Fraudulent Medical Treatment Awareness
Food and Drug Administration
Federal Trade Commission
News and Opinion
National Institute of Health 10th Anniversary Symposium on Complementary and Alternative Medicine, December 8, 2009, Bethesda, MD
Losing a Winnable War: We Can Conquer Childhood Cancer Deirdre Imus, (Huffington Post)