Integrative Oncology as a concept which highlights the complementary benefits and divorces the fallacies of “alternative” cancer treatment is getting more exposure and gaining momentum within mainstream oncologic societies. This is critical so that oncologists within mainstream medicine gain appreciation for what can be done to improve cancer patients’ journeys through therapy.
Cancer treatment can often be brutal in terms of side effects and quality of life reduction. We are getting better and moving closer to “kinder gentler” personalized biological therapies, but that day is not here yet. Meanwhile, we can still focus more on the whole patient than is the current practice in most settings. Here is an excerpt from a recent American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting.
I invite you to consider the following and read the source article on the ASCO website. This next quote sums up the huge impact of a system gone astray, partly because patients have had no one to turn to with respect to improving their well being as much as possible during and after cancer treatment:
“So-called alternative therapies are costly and harmful and, most importantly, they do not work and they create problems of their own,” she said. “Quackery, and people who push it, often use the term integrative medicine deliberately to confuse patients, and they do a good job of this because in the United States we spend over $40 billion a year on quack cancer products.”
The point is that the term “alternative” has much more of a connotation of “shady” or “quackery” than adding beneficial aspects to cancer care. There ARE hidden gems of “alternative” treatments which are either undergoing research trials or at least plausible to consider in the absence of clear harm. But unfortunately, the term has been irrevocably poisoned when used indiscriminately.
The following short video from Barrie Cassileth PhD, of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, introduces the session that was held at ASCO:
Integrative Gynecologic Oncology is a subset of Integrative Oncology and focuses on the best complementary and natural support for women undergoing mainstream cancer therapy for gynecologic cancers. As such there are some specific modalities, including hormonal issues that are not part of treatment decision-making for all cancer patients. The key point however, is that this is an evolving field which is taking back the full spectrum of care that every cancer patient deserves. Specifically, as the ASCO presentation highlights, the focus is on scientifically proven or plausible modalities and not on what is known as “woo” or “pseudo-science”. This is not, and never should have been, an alternative to optimal integrative oncology care.