Perhaps the best way to start here is to give you an understanding of what Integrative Oncology is.
Integrative oncology is a patient-centered, evidence-informed field of cancer care that utilizes mind and body practices, natural products, and/or lifestyle modifications from different traditions alongside conventional cancer treatments. Integrative oncology aims to optimize health, quality of life, and clinical outcomes across the cancer care continuum and to empower people to prevent cancer and become active participants before, during, and beyond cancer treatment.¹
So let’s break this down. In its purest form Integrative oncology uses evidence-based complementary therapies with conventional cancer care. It is meant to work with standard of care allopathic cancer treatments i.e. surgery, chemotherapy and radiation not in place of them. Integrative oncology considers the whole person, mind, body and spirit providing a health protocol to work alongside the medical one.
It is estimated that between 60 to 80 percent of cancer patients use at least one form of integrative medicine following a cancer diagnosis². Frequently met with resistance from oncologists, cancer patients are often faced with a decision of hiding therapies from their doctors or eliminating them while in active treatment.
But, at least for breast cancer patients, the tide is changing. An expert panel from American Society of Clinical Oncology, ASCO, recently endorsed clinical practice guidelines for integrative therapies presented by the Society for Integrative Oncology, SIO.
“If patients are using these therapies in addition to effective scientifically proven cancer therapies and their doctors are aware of it, we’re comfortable with it,” said ASCO senior statesman Dr. Gary Lyman of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center…The only time it becomes an issue is when these are not disclosed or are used instead of conventional effective therapies.”³
Not all therapies were endorsed but the following have been:
- Music therapy, meditation, stress management, and yoga are recommended for anxiety/stress reduction.
- Meditation, relaxation, yoga, massage, and music therapy are recommended for depression/mood disorders.
- Meditation and yoga are recommended to improve quality of life.
- Acupressure and acupuncture in addition to anti-nausea medications are recommended for reducing chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.
It is noted that breast cancer was selected by SIO because it has the largest patient population and the largest amount of scientific data.
ASCO’s endorsement for these therapies is not only a positive step for breast cancer patients but for the area of Integrative Oncology as a whole.