Integrative oncology is the process of bringing together diverse treatments (from Latin, integrare, to make whole) into a single treatment plan so that the person with cancer can become whole, complete and unimpaired. The root wholeness implies combining parts, uniting, and creating harmonious relationships between the parts.
The care of patients with cancer is not limited to treatments directed at the cancer itself. Surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy may be necessary to eradicate or control the malignant cells but the dis-ease of cancer affects the body and the person in many ways.
Prior lifestyle, cancer and cancer treatment profoundly affect the body’s appearance, function and overall health. Optimal recovery from cancer can motivate you to achieve a higher level of health than perhaps you enjoyed before you were ill. There is good quality research showing that exercise both prevents the development and/or the recurrence of cancer. Other research consistently shows a higher quality of life with exercise. Sometimes physical limits must be corrected before you can exercise and therapy is required.
The emotional impact of cancer can be enormous even if one’s prognosis is good. For some individuals family and supportive friends are all that is necessary to cope. For many others a counselor or “coach” is helpful. These may be clergy, licensed counselors or physicians or other practitioners who can help you return to a feeling of safety in the world and grow beyond simply surviving cancer to a life that is fully alive.
Integrative oncology focuses on the person who has the illness, not just the illness. Care should be coordinated and separate elements integrated into a whole treatment plan. Too often, either in conventional or complementary treatments, care is fractured into diverse pieces and there is no overall strategy that coordinates them. We strongly suggest that you develop an overall strategy for your recovery and survivorship based on a clear understanding of your own values. The challenge of cancer invites you to create a healthier, more complete and more satisfying life than you’ve ever had before.
Integrative Oncology Network
We started the Integrative Oncology Network (ION) to meet the needs of patients and families as they go through cancer treatment and its aftermath. This model was developed to integrate cancer care using the resources that already exist in the community. Professionals with skills in the various specialties necessary to help patients heal have come together in a network. Depending upon individual needs, a patient seeing one specialist may be easily referred to another for more complete care. There is established communication between specialists so that the referral source and the other practitioner can inform each other about the patient’s progress. If it seems that additional resources are needed—as indicated by the practitioner or the patient—then there is a system for assisting the patient find that help. As a physician knowledgeable about these different specialties I serve as the hub of the wheel, guiding patients to seek out the different treatments needed to restore health.
Specialties in the network include nutrition, personal trainers, exercise and movement specialists, physical therapy, psychology, acupuncture and Chinese medicine, energy medicine, imagery and hypnosis, body-work, meditation and others. These practitioners have their own offices in the local area and also see patients with problems unrelated to cancer. Links to their websites and contact information is available in the ION Providers link.
The following list of community resources has been compiled to help patients find practitioners that can help with specific problems relating to restoring healthy physical functioning and psychological support and growth. This list is not an endorsement of any specific therapy or provider. The list is not complete and does not include every qualified provider or discipline. These are individuals whom I have met or worked with and whom I respect. There are many other competent providers in the community I have yet to meet.