Approximately 83 percent of people with cancer use at least one complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) modality (11).
Using my experience as a health and wellness expert, I have compiled a list of what cancer patients say about the choices they make regarding cancer treatment:
- To be proactive, to take control, to take charge of decisions that affect my care, my health, my experience, my results and outcomes.
- To participate in my own care and my own decisions rather than giving power to make all decisions away to my care providers.
- To feel a sense of empowerment rather than be disenfranchised and disempowered.
- To decrease and manage my fear, stress and anxiety and to support, increase and improve my peace of mind.
- To ask my care providers to work with me as a team and to show respect for my values, my feelings and my choices in all decisions.
- I choose to reject an approach based solely on a 'war on cancer' that only targets my cancer tumor cells and neglects the whole person and the environment.
- I choose a comprehensive care approach using a wide range of therapies, tools and resources from many traditions and many points of view.
- I choose individualized and targeted care which views me and my cancer as unique and in which decisions and choices are based on a careful analysis of the traits and characteristics of my cancer cells and my unique physiology, genetics and risk factors rather than a generic one size fits all approach.
- I choose humane, caring and compassionate whole person patient centered care for my body, mind and spirit.
- I choose safe and non toxic therapies whenever possible.
- To actively manage and reduce both short term and long term toxic side effects from conventional cancer treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormones and other drugs used by oncologists, radiologists and surgeons.
- To manage and reduce my pain with safe and non-toxic therapies.
- To enhance and improve the therapeutic benefit and effect of my treatments.
- To enhance and improve my survival.
- To use therapies that prevent further cancers and recurrences or that may increase and extend my disease free time to recurrence.
- To enhance and improve the quality of my life during and after cancer treatment.
- To support and strengthen my sense of well-being.
- To feel a sense of hope over hopelessness and despair.
- To include a plan and a goal for health and wellness in my cancer journey.
- To clearly recognize that absence of disease is not the same as rebuilding, nourishing and sustaining health and healthy function.
- To protect, support and stimulate all systems including my immune system, digestive system, heart, liver, kidneys, brain, skin and bone marrow affected by my treatments.
- To protect my cells, tissues and organs from damage during my treatment.
- To grow and develop effective coping strategies for myself.
- To address the continuous small and large traumatic experiences that cancer patients undergo as part of every stage of my cancer journey.
- To develop and cultivate positive, supportive healing relationships with my care providers, my team.
- To utilize integrative cancer care and alternative treatments when the conventional oncology treatment offered to me is perceived as worse than the disease itself.
- To utilize integrative cancer care when there are no conventional oncology treatments that offer me a therapeutic benefit.
- To utilize integrative oncology care when the known risks of conventional oncology treatments are greater than the known benefits of those treatments.
- To utilize integrative cancer and alternatives to conventional care and to use integrative cancer care without conventional oncology treatments when there are no effective conventional cancer treatments recommended or available to me.
- To meet the diagnosis and experience of cancer as an opportunity to find meaning, to grow, to develop and to transform emotionally, psychologically and spiritually.
- I have fundamental confidence in the value and benefits of integrative cancer treatments that address the whole person and have my health, recovery, survival, quality of life and peace of mind (not just absence of disease) as both a short term and a long term goal.
Choosing an integrative cancer care approach makes a significant difference for each unique individual cancer patient. In this model, the patient is a fully empowered participant in making decisions and choices related to their cancer treatment, cancer recovery and cancer survivorship in concert with their team of care providers.
This is the goal of evidence based, compassionate person centered health care: combining the best of science and nature, modern knowledge and ancient healing wisdom, in order to transform disease, restore healthy function, wholeness and quality of life to each unique individual patient.
Rather than a model focused primarily on disease management, this is a model which also includes health, healing and the whole person as well as the internal and external environments of each unique individual to form a matrix in which the continuum of health and disease can be more fully met and understood.
When a health care model includes not only disease management, but also restored health and function, different choices are made by both patients and care providers.
Even if the disease is not eradicated and recovery is not possible, healing and wholeness may still unfold. Even in terminal illness, when compassionate care becomes the primary care, the patient can achieve integration of the experience and a capacity to face the end of life and make peace with what is so.
1. Block KI, Gyllenhaal C, Tripathy D, Freels S, Mead MN, Block PB, Steinmann WC, Newman RA, Shoham J. Survival Impact of Integrative Cancer Care in Advanced Metastatic Breast Cancer. Breast J. 2009 May 12. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 19470134
2. Frattaroli J, Weidner G, Dnistrian AM, Kemp C, Daubenmier JJ, Marlin RO, Crutchfield L, Yglecias L, Carroll PR, Ornish D. Clinical events in prostate cancer lifestyle trial: results from two years of follow-up. Urology. 2008 Dec;72(6):1319-23. Epub 2008 Jul 7. PubMed PMID: 18602144.
3. Molassiotis A, Fernadez-Ortega P, Pud D, Ozden G, Scott JA, Panteli V, Margulies A, Browall M, Magri M, Selvekerova S, Madsen E, Milovics L, Bruyns I, Gudmundsdottir G, Hummerston S, Ahmad AM, Platin N, Kearney N, Patiraki E. Use of complementary and alternative medicine in cancer patients: a European survey. Ann Oncol. 2005 Apr;16(4):655-63. Epub 2005 Feb 2. PubMed PMID: 15699021.
4. Mulkins AL, Verhoef MJ. Supporting the transformative process: experiences of cancer patients receiving integrative care. Integr Cancer Ther. 2004 Sep;3(3):230-7. PubMed PMID: 15312264. 5. Nahleh Z, Tabbara IA. Complementary and alternative medicine in breast cancer patients. Palliat
5. Support Care. 2003 Sep;1(3):267-73. Review. PubMed PMID: 16594427.Support Care. 2003 Sep;1(3):267-73. Review. PubMed PMID: 16594427. 6. Ornish D, Lin J, Daubenmier J, Weidner G, Epel E, Kemp C, Magbanua MJ, Marlin R, Yglecias L,
6. Carroll PR, Blackburn EH. Increased telomerase activity and comprehensive lifestyle changes: a pilot study. Lancet Oncol. 2008 Nov;9(11):1048-57. Epub 2008 Sep 15. Erratum in: Lancet Oncol. 2008 Dec;9(12):1124. PubMed PMID: 18799354.
7. Ornish, D., M. J. Magbanua, G. Weidner, V. Weinberg, C. Kemp, C. Green, M.D. Mattie, R. Marlin, J. Simko, K. Shinohara, C. M. Haqq, and P. R. Carroll. 2008a. Changes in prostate gene expression in men undergoing an intensive nutrition and lifestyle intervention. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 105 (24):8369-74.
8. Pud D, Kaner E, Morag A, Ben-Ami S, Yaffe A. Use of complementary and alternative medicine among cancer patients in Israel. Eur J Oncol Nurs. 2005 Jun;9(2):124-30. PubMed PMID: 15944105.
9. Verhoef MJ, Balneaves LG, Boon HS, Vroegindewey A. Reasons for and characteristics associated with complementary and alternative medicine use among adult cancer patients: a systematic review. Integr Cancer Ther. 2005 Dec;4(4):274-86. Review. PubMed PMID: 16282504.
10. Verhoef MJ, Mulkins A, Boon H. Integrative health care: how can we determine whether patients benefit? J Altern Complement Med. 2005;11 Suppl 1:S57-65. PubMed PMID: 16332188.
11. Richardson MA, Mâsse LC, Nanny K, Sanders C. Discrepant views of oncologists and cancer patients on complementary/alternative medicine. Support Care Cancer. 2004 Nov;12(11):797-804.
12. Ruth E. Patterson, Marian L. Neuhouser, Monique M. Hedderson, Stephen M. Schwartz, Leanna J. Standish, Deborah J. Bowen, Lynn M. Marshall. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. August 2002, 8(4): 477-485. doi:10.1089/107555302760253676.