The Integrative Cancer Therapies Landscape

“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.” – The Society of Integrative Oncology.

Let’s simplify this:

Up until now, Cancer treatments were limited to either Conventional or Alternative Therapies. So, a patient would either choose the conventional treatments like surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, etc. or opt for alternative treatments like Ayurveda, homeopathy, traditional Chinese medicine, etc. However, every patient has a unique set of symptoms and resistance to certain treatments. Therefore, it is necessary to take the symptoms, treatment response, and overall lifestyle of the patient into consideration before commencing the treatment.

Integrative Oncology or Integrative Cancer Therapies use parts of conventional treatments, alternative treatments, and merge it with mind-body practices and lifestyle modifications to create a treatment plan suited to the individual Cancer patient.

Therefore, rather than choosing between the different types of treatments available, the health care professional helps you create a treatment plan taking all available options into consideration. 

Choosing the right Integrative Cancer Therapy

Here are some tips to help you assess integrative Cancer therapies that can work for you:

  • Inherently health-promoting OR offer both benefits and risks
  • Ancient OR recent
  • No evidence OR case-based evidence OR formal evidence
  • Operate by known biochemical mechanisms OR unknown mechanisms (like prayer, energy healing, etc.)
  • Low-cost/free OR costly
  • Easily available OR difficult to obtain
  • Available online/ near your home OR involves long distance travel/ residential stays
  • Type of Cancer-specific OR treats all types of Cancer

You can also add more parameters which might be applicable to you. Remember, having clarity on what parameters to look out for can help you determine the right therapy for yourself.

Additional things that you should know

Therapies can be broadly classified into two types:

  • Science-based therapies
  • Science-informed therapies

While they sound familiar, science-based therapies have a solid science behind them with a worldwide acceptance of the benefits and risks of these therapies. On the other hand, science-informed therapies have some science behind them but not enough to be science-based.

When you move away from conventional therapies, you are likely to come across many experimental treatment options which are science-informed. Before making a decision of choosing a science-informed therapy, keep the following points in mind:

  • Usually, therapies that have a good profit potential get research funding. Hence, if a therapy does not have any evidence, it does not necessarily mean that it is not effective.
  • Some therapies work well when they are used along with some other therapies. However, research studies have been conducted for stand-alone therapies only. This evidence is not relevant to combination therapies.
  • Certain therapies can work well with people having specific genetic dispositions. Ensure that the study group covers patients with your genetic make-up.

Remember, your constitution (mind-body-spirit) is unique in the entire world. What works for someone else may or may not work for you. Keep an open mind, research well, and talk to a healthcare professional before making a decision.

Here is a quick tour of this field:

    1. 7 Healing Practices:
      • Eating well
      • Moving more
      • Managing stress
      • Sleeping well
      • Creating a healing environment
      • Sharing love and support
      • Exploring what matters now
    2. All therapies
    3. Live Healthily

References & More Information:

  1. Credit: Beyond Conventional Care Therapies
  2. Integrative Oncology Cancer Care
  3. Integrative Cancer Treatment, CTCA
  4. The Power of Integrative Cancer Care,
  5. Integrative Medicine,  
  6. 7 Healing Practices
  7. All Therapies
  8. Michael Lerner: Choices In Healing: Integrating the Best of Conventional and Complementary Approaches to Cancer
  9. SAGE Journals: Integrative Cancer Therapies Journal
  10. Hindawi Publishing Corporation : Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
  11. Ralph Moss, PhD: The Moss Reports
  12. Donald Abrams, MD: Integrative Cancer Care
  13. Ting Bao, MD: The Role of Integrative Therapy in Cancer Care
  14. LHC: Healing Circles
  15. Anticancer Fund: Anticancer Fund

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