Expert recommendations

Experts recognize the value of love and support in promoting wellness in general and reducing cancer. Learn more about the approaches and meanings of recommendations.

Recommendations from medical groups

2020 survivorship care guidelines recommend psychosocial support for people with neuropathic pain or chronic pain syndromes.

The 2009 guidelines for complementary therapies and botanicals recognize the value of social support by giving a Grade 1A rating to support groups and supportive/expressive therapy as part of a multidisciplinary approach to reduce anxiety, mood disturbance, chronic pain and improve quality of life. This is the strongest level of recommendation, meaning that in a review of quality evidence, the benefits outweigh the risks and the therapy can be applied to most patients in most circumstances without reservation.

Integrative programs, protocols and approaches 

These published programs from integrative experts advocate Sharing Love and Support as a central part of your anticancer approach:

Lise Alschuler, ND, FABNO, and Karolyn Gazella

Alschuler LN, Gazella KA. The Definitive Guide to Thriving after Cancer: A Five-Step Integrative Plan to Reduce the Risk of Recurrence and Build Lifelong Health. Berkeley, California: Ten Speed Press. 2013.

Approaches are described for certain cancer types, or along with certain conventional therapy treatments, or for particular conditions such as insulin resistance.

These experts list social support as one of the five guidelines for cancer patients to find love, laughter and joy. “Seek out social support. Don’t underestimate the dangers of isolation.” Recommended for all cancer types.

Keith Block, MD

Block KI. Life over Cancer: The Block Center Program for Integrative Cancer Care. New York: Bantam Dell. 2009.

The integrative Block Program has recommendations to people who are at different places along the cancer continuum:

  • Those who’ve been recently diagnosed
  • Those in treatment
  • Those who’ve concluded treatment and need to remain vigilant to prevent recurrence

Dr. Block’s integrative cancer treatment program teaches patients to individualize their mind-and-spirit care plan, including mobilizing social support. Recommended for all cancer types.

Lorenzo Cohen, PhD, and Alison Jefferies, MEd

Cohen L, Jefferies A. Anticancer Living: Transform Your Life and Health with the Mix of Six. New York: Viking. 2018.

This book introduces the concept of the Mix of Six, which is identical to six of our 7 Healing Practices ›

Dr. Cohen and Ms. Jefferies explain that while each plays an inde­pendent role, the synergy created by all six factors can radically transform health, delay or prevent many cancers, support conventional treatments, and significantly improve quality of life.

Jeremy Geffen, MD

The late, renowned integrative oncologist Jeremy Geffen, MD, developed a healing program based on what he calls The Seven Levels of Healing. It is a program of body, mind, heart, and spirit for healing and transforming the whole person.

Dr. Geffen described “Seven Levels of Healing” with “Connection with Others” near the top of the list.

Jeremy Geffen, MD, presents The Seven Levels of Healing at Cancer as a Turning Point Conference in Seattle, Washington in 2006.

Barbara MacDonald, ND, LAc

MacDonald B. The Breast Cancer Companion—A Complementary Care Manual: Third Edition. Self-published. 2016.

Naturopathic physician Barbara MacDonald provides information about breast cancer, its conventional treatment, and natural approaches to enhancing treatment, managing side effects, reducing risk of recurrence, and healthy living after cancer treatment is completed.

Neil McKinney, BSc, ND

McKinney N. Naturopathic Oncology, Fourth Edition. Victoria, BC, Canada: Liaison Press. 2020.

This book includes descriptions and uses of many natural and complementary protocols for cancer in general and for specific cancers. It also includes information on integrative support during conventional cancer treatment.

Ornish Diet and Lifestyle Modification Program (for prostate cancer)

Ornish Lifestyle Medicine ›

Cardiologist Dean Ornish, MD, adapted his Lifestyle Medicine program for reversing heart disease for men with prostate cancer. A critical facet of that program is what Dr. Ornish calls “love and support.” Dr. Ornish says the heart of healing is “connection”, which includes increasing love and intimacy in our lives, group support, improving communication skills and fluent listening.

CancerChoices advisor, physician, and researcher Dean Ornish, MD, explains how intimacy heals.

Traditional medicine

Traditional Chinese medical systems value the importance of connection with others and sharing love to support healing and wellness. Communitywide social healing rituals, passed down from generation to generation, are an example of how healing practices are embedded within the culture.1Liping, Du. Localised communities and mass healing practice: the case of Guangxi, China. Anthropology Open Journal. 2017; 2(2): 45-53.

Learn more about tradition medicine and how to find practitioners in this handbook.

Resources on Chinese medicine and social support

Expert commentary

The value of social support

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS: Some of the CancerChoices staff have worked on hundreds of week-long residential retreats for people with cancer. These retreats have made strikingly clear that being in community and support with others in similar circumstances—as well as going home and revving up social support systems—contributes to long-term, life-changing benefits. Mounting evidence supports this observation—see How can Sharing Love and Support help me? What the research says ›

We consider sharing love and support to be one of the key lifestyle factors that makes a difference in the lives of most people with cancer and those who care for them. We believe that a fully integrated cancer care plan must include social support.

CancerChoices Senior Clinical Consultant Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS, introduces the healing power of sharing love and support.

Cultural isolation considerations

From CancerChoices staff: Even those who have a personal support network can feel socially isolated if they are not within the same culture as their healthcare team. When a person living with cancer and their care professionals are not fluent in each other’s language, this can be a bigger challenge. Immigrants or those with impaired hearing may need translators and interpreters to feel connected to and supported by their team. Others who don’t fit the typical profile of a cancer patient, such as young adults or someone with a rare type of cancer, may feel the medical system and medical support structures don’t meet their needs. Finding a group of others “like me” can reduce feelings of isolation.2Rajagopal L, Liamputtong P, McBride KA. The lived experience of Australian women living with breast cancer: a meta-synthesis. Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention. 2019 Nov 1;20(11):3233-3249.

Author, clinical professor and CancerChoices advisor Rachel Naomi Remen, MD, shares the healing power of generous listening.
Commonweal co-founder Michael Lerner and CancerChoices advisor Brian Bouch, MD, discuss the healing power of love.

Keep reading

Authors

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS

Senior Clinical Consultant
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Laura Pole is senior clinical consultant for CancerChoices. Laura is an oncology clinical nurse specialist who has been providing integrative oncology clinical care, navigation, consultation, and education services for over 40 years. She is the co-creator and co-coordinator of the Integrative Oncology Navigation Training at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, DC. Laura also manages the “Media Watch Cancer News That You Can Use” listserv for Smith Center/Commonweal. In her role as a palliative care educator and consultant, Laura has served as statewide Respecting Choices Faculty for the Virginia POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment) Collaborative as well as provided statewide professional education on palliative and end-of-life care for the Virginia Association for Hospices and Palliative Care.

For CancerChoices, Laura curates content and research, networks with clinical and organizational partners, brings awareness and education of integrative oncology at professional and patient conferences and programs, and translates research into information relevant to the patient experience as well as clinical practice.

Laura sees her work with CancerChoices as a perfect alignment of all her passions, knowledge and skills in integrative oncology care. She is honored to serve you.

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS Senior Clinical Consultant

Nancy Hepp, MS

Lead Researcher and Program Manager
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Ms. Hepp is a researcher and communicator who has been writing and editing educational content on varied health topics for more than 20 years. She serves as lead researcher, program manager, and writer for CancerChoices. Her graduate work in research and cognitive psychology, her master’s degree in instructional design, and her certificate in web design have all guided her in writing and presenting information for a wide variety of audiences and uses. Nancy’s service as faculty development coordinator in the Department of Family Medicine at Wright State University also provided experience in medical research, plus insights into medical education and medical care from the professional’s perspective.

Nancy Hepp, MS Lead Researcher and Program Manager

Last update: May 14, 2022

CancerChoices provides information about integrative in cancer care, a patient-centered approach combining the best of conventional care, self care and evidence-informed complementary care in an integrated plan cancer care. We review complementaryin cancer care, complementary care involves the use of therapies intended to enhance or add to standard conventional treatments; examples include supplements, mind-body approaches such as yoga or psychosocial therapy, and acupuncture therapies and self-care lifestyle actions and behaviors that may impact cancer outcomes; examples include eating health-promoting foods, limiting alcohol, increasing physical activity, and managing stress practices to help patients and professionals explore and integrate the best combination of conventionalthe cancer care offered by conventionally trained physicians and most hospitals; examples are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy and complementary therapies and practices for each person.

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