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Understanding Integrative Oncology: A Holistic Approach to Cancer Care

A Holistic Approach to Cancer Care

Integrative oncology combines conventional Western medicine with complementary and alternative treatments that have been researched and proven effective in healing. It’s a holistic approach designed to support cancer patients through their journey by addressing not just the disease, but the whole person. Let’s discuss how this can impact a person’s quality of life and treatment outcomes.

What is Integrative Oncology?

“Integrative oncology is a practice where we use lifestyle medicine like dietary modifications, stress reduction, exercise, supplements, and mind-body practices,” says Stacy D’Andre, M.D., a Mayo Clinic medical and integrative oncologist. “We combine all of these practices to help our cancer patients improve quality of life and, hopefully, improve treatment outcomes as well.”

This approach can help people with cancer manage symptoms and side effects, including fatigue, nausea, pain, anxiety, and other challenges that often accompany cancer and its treatment.

Building Healthy Habits with Integrative Oncology

One of the key components of integrative oncology is adopting healthy habits to better cope with the stress of living with cancer. What does a healthy lifestyle look like during cancer treatment? According to Dr. D’Andre, it involves a balanced diet, regular exercise, stress management, and good sleep hygiene. Here are some fundamental recommendations:

  • Eat a balanced diet: This means eating more fruits and vegetables, choosing whole grains, and incorporating lean proteins. It’s also important to limit processed and red meats.
  • Exercise regularly: Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week.
  • Practice good sleep hygiene: Strive for at least seven hours of sleep each night.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: Work to achieve and keep a healthy body weight.
  • Limit alcohol and avoid smoking: If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation, and if you smoke, it’s crucial to quit.
  • Protect your skin from the sun: Use sunscreen, wear protective clothing, and limit exposure to harmful UV rays.

Are you already practicing some of these habits? Which ones could you focus on more?

Integrative Oncology Throughout the Cancer Journey

Integrative oncology can be helpful at each stage of a cancer journey. Receiving a diagnosis and deciding on treatment options can be incredibly stressful. Moreover, cancer treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation often bring their own set of challenging side effects.

Integrative oncologists can guide cancer patients through practices that relieve side effects, support lifestyle changes, and provide complementary therapies to help manage symptoms. These professionals also work with patients post-treatment, helping them cope with lingering symptoms and adjust their lifestyle for optimal recovery.

Integrative oncology is not only for those actively undergoing treatment. When curative treatment is not an option, integrative oncologists can still offer support as part of palliative care, helping patients manage symptoms and improve their quality of life. Isn’t it comforting to know that there’s an approach focused on easing the burden, no matter where you are on the cancer journey?

A Personalized Approach to Integrative Oncology

One of the best aspects of integrative oncology is its personalized nature. Each patient receives tailored recommendations based on their individual needs. Let’s explore some of the evidence-based integrative practices that integrative oncologists might suggest:

  • Acupuncture and Acupressure: Acupuncture involves inserting tiny needles into specific points on the skin, which can help relieve chemotherapy-induced nausea and certain types of pain. Acupressure, a related technique, uses gentle pressure to achieve similar benefits.
  • Aromatherapy: This practice uses fragrant oils to promote relaxation and stress relief. The oils can be used during massage or diffused into the air. Aromatherapy can help with nausea, pain, and stress.
  • Exercise: Regular physical activity can help manage symptoms, improve sleep, and relieve stress. It has been shown to increase overall quality of life for cancer patients.
  • Massage: This involves kneading the skin, muscles, and tendons to relieve tension and promote relaxation. Studies suggest that massage can help reduce pain, anxiety, fatigue, and stress.
  • Meditation: Meditation and deep-breathing exercises can help cancer patients manage anxiety and stress while improving mood.
  • Music Therapy: Music therapy sessions might include listening to music, singing, or playing instruments. This practice can help relieve pain, control nausea, and reduce anxiety.
  • Relaxation Techniques: These methods focus on calming the mind and relaxing muscles. Techniques like progressive muscle relaxation and visualization can help with anxiety and fatigue.
  • Tai Chi and Yoga: Both of these activities focus on gentle movements and deep breathing. They can reduce stress, improve sleep, and increase overall well-being.

Which of these integrative practices do you find most intriguing? Would you like to try any of them as part of your cancer care?

The Growing Acceptance of Integrative Oncology

Although integrative oncology is a relatively new field, it’s rapidly gaining acceptance in the medical community. According to Dr. D’Andre, integrative medicine is now being used at many cancer centers, with a significant patient demand for these complementary approaches.

“The great thing about this type of practice is that it really empowers the patient,” Dr. D’Andre explains. “They’re the ones doing the work—working on their diet, doing the exercise—we’re just guiding them. These are things they can do and control to improve their health and outcomes.” Doesn’t that sound empowering?

If your healthcare team doesn’t have an integrative oncologist on staff, it’s worth asking if there’s an integrative medicine program in your area. You might find new ways to manage symptoms, reduce stress, and improve your overall quality of life during and after cancer treatment.

In closing, integrative oncology in Redmond WA offers a holistic approach to cancer care, focusing on the whole person, not just the disease. By incorporating lifestyle changes, complementary therapies, and mind-body practices, integrative oncologists aim to support cancer patients through their journey, providing a more compassionate and individualized approach to care. What do you think about this approach? Would you consider incorporating integrative practices into your cancer care?

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