Integrative cancer care combines the best and most appropriate treatments for you from different medical approaches to enhance your quality of life and/or clinical outcomes.
An integrative approach to cancer…
- Combines conventional, self, and complementary care into an integrated whole.
- Improves treatment outcomes, makes your body less supportive of cancer, manages side effects, reduces the risk of recurrence, and, whenever possible, prevents or decreases the risk of adverse long-term and late effects of cancer and its treatment.
- Puts you, the person with cancer, at the center as an active participant in your cancer care.
- Is grounded in evidence or best practices in patient care.
- Is anchored in health and healing, focusing where possible on enhancing your innate capacity to heal physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Conventional care is the care you’ll receive from conventionally trained physicians (also called allopathic or Western medicine physicians) and most hospitals. Conventional approaches include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and other treatments.
Self care, also called lifestyle medicine, includes your practices and behaviors regarding diet, exercise, relaxation, and more.
Complementary care adds to or “complements” conventional care and includes supplements and other natural products, mind-body approaches such as yoga or psychosocial therapy, energy therapies, special diets, and more.
How can integrative cancer care support your healing?
An integrative cancer care approach can improve your quality of life, increase your resilience, and/or prevent or delay recurrence, and potentially extend your life. Conventional, complementary and self care may affect your cancer experience or impact cancer directly in several ways.
Improving treatment outcomes
Improving treatment outcomes involves promoting survival, reducing metastases, slowing or reversing tumor growth, or reducing tumor markers. Conventional treatments offer the best option for cure or remission for many types of cancer. Wise use of complementary and self care may enhance the effectiveness of conventional treatments. They may also provide support when conventional treatments are not a good choice—such as when potential harms outweigh the expected benefits—or are not available.
Optimizing your body terrain
All three approaches—conventional care, self care, and complementary care—can contribute to creating an environment within your body that is less supportive of cancer development, growth, or spread. Integrative, naturopathic, and functional medicine physicians and professionals tend to emphasize and help you balance your body terrain. Conventional medicine places less emphasis here. You can be an active player in this area, as self care is central to optimizing your body terrain.
Managing side effects and promoting wellness
Side effects commonly experienced with conventional treatment can often be reduced or even avoided with complementary and self-care approaches. Complementary therapies are also less likely than conventional therapies to cause side effects when used for treating anxiety, vomiting, sleep disruption, and other common situations. Complementary and self-care approaches can enhance your overall quality of life and general well-being.
Reducing cancer risk
Conventional, complementary and self care can work together to reduce your risk of cancer, recurrence, or a secondary cancer. Complementary and integrative cancer care tend to place more ongoing emphasis and effort here than conventional care.
As described below, evidence for each of these benefits is evaluated in each of the 7 Healing Practices and reviews of complementary therapies.
Healing: Complementary and self care can support your mental, emotional, and spiritual levels of healing, typically more so than conventional care.
Grounded hope: If conventional options are limited for your type or stage of cancer, complementary and self care can offer additional avenues for healing and potentially extend and expand your life.
What can CancerChoices offer you?
Our work at CancerChoices is grounded in decades of experience guiding people in intimate cancer retreats and through leadership, practice, and in-depth study in the field of integrative cancer care. To help you make informed choices about your own cancer care, we offer you…
Guidance on an integrative approach to help you live better and longer with cancer. Explore these sections further to learn about the three components of integrative care: conventional, self and complementary care. And practical information on how to put these into practice.
Some key pages within this section:
A review of existing evidence for the healing role of self-care practices and complementary therapies to help you make informed choices beyond conventional care. Each of the medical benefits described above is evaluated for each of the 7 Healing Practices and complementary therapies.
Insights on healing and living with the pain and suffering—as well as the transformative potential—of a cancer diagnosis. This includes stories of fellow survivors and links to trusted partners to explore further.