Integrative Therapy and Cancer Treatment: How they Work Together

Integrative therapies are not often thought of as life-saving medical treatments but nutrition, exercise, stress reduction, mindfulness, aromatherapy, and acupuncture and dietary supplements can not only improve treatment response but lead to higher remission rates. What’s more, they

Health & Wellnesshelp patients undergoing oncology treatment to manage common side effects and complete the full course of prescribed oncology treatment. Studies have shown enhancement of prescribed oncology treatments with multiple integrative therapies.

Exercise is one of the most studied integrative therapies. Multiple studies demonstrate the benefits of aerobic exercise for cancer prevention and remission. Recent interest in mind/body exercise such as yoga and tai chi indicate they reduce side effects such as pain, insomnia, anxiety, depression and peripheral neuropathy.

Which Diet Is Best?

We now know that all chronic illnesses from heart disease to diabetes to cancer have a common underlying etiology: inflammation at the cellular level. Improper nutrition is a root cause of cellular inflammation. Studies show that anti-inflammatory diets such as a Mediterranean diet can turn off cellular inflammation.

Previous standard recommendation to eat high sugar and high fat foods to maintain weight with cancer treatment is bad advice. Science also tells us that maintaining a healthy body weight is important for cancer prevention and maintenance of remission. Dietary changes are the most difficult lifestyle habit to change.

Be Mindful

Many new and exciting studies have been published about the multiple health benefits of mindfulness practice for as little as 10 minutes a day! Mindfulness practice is a fairly foreign concept in our culture.  Integrative practitioners can help guide you to implement this low cost, no side effect and highly beneficial therapy to improve or maintain your health. Similarly, acupuncture is an integrative treatment tool that is highly beneficial with no side effects and does not interfere with the patient’s current pharmacologic treatment.  Pain, nausea, dry mouth, hot flashes and fatigue are five benefits of acupuncture as utilized for oncology patients that have strong clinical trials to support these benefits.  The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) recognizes acupuncture as an effective tool for supportive cancer care.

Integrative physicians keep up-to-date regarding studies for supplements risks, side effects and benefits.  We work with the oncology team and can help determine the therapies that will be most effective for each patient and create a plan.

By Dr. Dawn Flickema

Integrative Medicine Physician at Avera Integrative Medicine