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3 Facts You Didn’t Know About Integrative Oncology

A pair of hands slicing a cucumber next to a sink. Other fresh produce is around the hands, including red peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, mushrooms, basil and broccoli.

When it comes to fighting cancer, there is power in working together. For example, multimodal treatment plans combine different treatments to benefit patients. A combination of treatments and practices working together may have a greater impact.

Integrative medicine follows a similar concept. It combines conventional Western medicine with well-studied alternative treatments. One example of this practice is integrative oncology, which focuses on a multifaceted approach to cancer care and prevention.

Integrative oncology combines modern cancer treatments with lifestyle practices. These may include diet and nutrition, stress management and exercise to help patients improve their quality of life. This approach centers around treating the entire person, physically and emotionally.

1. Healthy Habits Are the Foundation of Integrative Oncology

Integrative oncologists play a key role in helping people develop healthy lifestyle habits. Research suggests that up to 50% of cancers could be prevented by making healthy lifestyle choices.

Healthy habits can help cancer patients manage the stress of fighting a serious disease like mesothelioma. It may also help patients manage symptoms and side effects of treatments. Healthy habits may even have the potential to improve a patient’s prognosis.

Lifestyle and Treatment Options Patients May Consider

Many people can benefit from these healthy habits, and they may be easy for some to implement. Examples include:

  • Healthy diet choices: Good nutrition during and after cancer treatment can contribute to longer lifespans, improve response to treatment and reduce the recurrence of cancer.
  • Sleep hygiene: Many patients fighting cancer struggle to get a good night’s sleep. Developing good sleep hygiene habits can help patients combat insomnia and get adequate, restful sleep.
  • Exercise and movement: Studies have shown that staying active can improve overall health and reduce fatigue. A doctor or care team can help create an exercise plan to fit a patient’s individual needs.
  • Stress management: Cancer has major effects on a person’s life, including increased stress, and cancer patients often experience anxiety related to their diagnosis. A patient’s oncology team can help them explore different techniques for managing stress, such as therapy.
  • Alternative and complementary treatments: Patients may want to explore alternative treatments to complement their conventional treatments. Their doctor can help them understand more about these treatments. Options include acupuncture and other Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), massage therapy, herbal supplements, meditation, medical cannabis and emotional support.

2. Integrative Oncology Is Gaining Popularity

Although integrative oncology is a relatively new field, it is gaining popularity. Both patient and professional interests have been growing over the last couple of decades. Clinical research has shown this approach has benefits for symptom management and overall quality of life, so more cancer centers have started bringing it into practice.

Integrative oncology centers on the patient, giving them an active role in their own treatment. It also can create an inclusive environment, combining both conventional treatments and evidence-based alternative therapies. This may lead to more options and better outcomes for patients.

 3. Integrative Oncology Can Help Patients at Every Stage of Cancer

From diagnosis to treatment and beyond, every step of someone’s cancer journey can be difficult. The illness itself often causes unpleasant symptoms, including pain, anxiety and fatigue. Conventional treatments like surgery and chemotherapy may also come with unpleasant side effects. Integrative oncology can help patients manage their illness with individualized treatment plans.

Integrative oncology can help patients during cancer treatment. It can also be part of a palliative care plan. Some therapies may help patients even once their treatment has ended.

Integrative oncology gives patients more options in their treatment. Patients may find empowerment in playing a more active role in their care. They also may find additional comfort and relief from the stress, fatigue and discomfort of battling cancer.