Cancer is one of the top killers in North America. The world health organization predicts that cancer rates will double by 2050. Many people are turning to alternative medicine to support their conventional treatment. There are many natural "anti-cancer" therapies that you may have heard about from friends or read about on the Internet but how can you be sure this is right for you? You may be asking do they work and are they safe? Cancer is frightening enough as it is and going outside your conventional care to seek out alternative and natural therapies can be scary and overwhelming if you don't know what to expect or who to trust.
This article will address the emerging role of natural and integrative cancer treatment. The goal is to create a clearer understanding of the role of integrative cancer care, exploring benefits and safety and understanding whether it can it be combined with conventional treatments.
What Is Integrative Cancer Care?
The term integrative cancer care is really becoming a buzz phase in medicine. Still many people (and doctors) don’t really fully understand the true depth and application of the term “integrative,” especially how it pertains to cancer treatment. The modern use of the term originated from cancer treatment centers in the United States that started to combine the best of standard, conventional treatments and natural and complementary therapies. While this has been the standard of care in other countries around the world (i.e. Germany), this was a new concept to North America. In the last 15-20 years a number of centers throughout the United States have begun to set the standard of integrative cancer care. The Cancer Treatment Centers of America and The Block Centre (www.cancercenter.com, www.blockmd.com) are 2 of the most well known examples. In Canada, there still are not any large scale government funded centers, so the majority of integrative cancer care is being provided by Naturopathic Doctors (NDs) who work with local oncologists and other allied healthcare practitioners to address all aspects of a cancer patient. There are still some limitations in Canada since most oncologists and NDs do not work under the same roof but the hope is in the future we will be able to find a way to follow the model developed in America.
The idea behind an integrative approach is that since cancer is a multifactorial disease, affecting every aspect of a person, you need a multi-faceted treatment plan. The research now clearly shows that cancer patients have improved outcomes and reduced mortality when they use complementary techniques (such as fitness therapy, diet counseling, yoga, meditation etc.). Integrative cancer care combines the best of conventional treatments (i.e. new chemotherapy agents, surgical techniques etc.) supportive natural approaches (vitamins and nutrients) and mind-body-spirit practices.