Research indicates that anywhere from 75-90% of North Americans engage in some form of natural or integrative medical care. Whether it’s simply taking a daily multi vitamin or aggressively supporting treatment using intravenous nutrients, a good proportion of people support themselves with some form of ‘healthy’ medicine at some point in their life. For cancer patients specifically, the question as to whether combining natural medicine alongside conventional treatment is safe, certainly trumps the list. Based on decades of clinical experience, and continued scientific validation, the question as to whether it’s safe to combine integrative care (what is integrative cancer care) alongside conventional cancer treatment can robustly be answered with a confident ‘yes’. 


What can integrative cancer care do for me?

Naturopathic and integrative cancer care doctors are in the business to improve peoples’ health. For patients who have been diagnosed with cancer, it’s incredibly important to support and maximize ones health. Standard of care cancer treatments (chemotherapy, radiation, surgery), although effective, can also quickly degrade a person’s overall health. By supporting and potentiating a cancer patients overall wellbeing, it creates a situation where conventional cancer treatments can be better tolerated (managing chemotherapy side effects without drugs), and helps ensure better quality of life and long term outcomes can be optimized and vastly improved. Not only will a patient feel better and tolerate standard treatments better, integrative cancer care can also improve cancer treatment outcomes. The ultimate goal here is to work alongside conventional cancer treatment and not to replace the benefits that standard care has to offer. 


How safe is it to combine integrative and conventional cancer care? 

Many integrative cancer care treatments can be employed alongside conventional standard cancer care. Depending on the exact standard treatment being given (specific chemotherapeutic, radiotherapy or otherwise), very precise, and safe integrative treatments can then be employed. High dose intravenous vitamin C is one treatment that is stirring a lot of positive interest throughout both integrative and conventional cancer medicine. Although it’s been used for many years in integrative medicine, oncologists are just now beginning to understand and appreciate the value it offers when it comes to cancer treatment. In this 2018 research review, the safety and benefit of combining intravenous vitamin C are clearly outlined. A review conducted in 2012 on Integrative Oncology programs, clearly states the benefit of this essential cancer care approach. A massive bank of studies have been performed (and continue to be conducted) as to the many beneficial possibilities of using specific integrative medical botanicals and nutrients in combination with various chemotherapies. The direction of evidence, although not yet fully clear cut, is showing growing evidence of proof that not only are these natural medicines safe in combination with standard drugs and treatments, but that they often have the ability to further sensitize cancer cells to conventional treatments. As well, given we already understand the many pathways involved in the growth and spread of cancers, research is already proving that certain nutrient and drug combinations work better together than others.  


What are the side effects of combining integrative and conventional cancer care?

Any medical intervention can come with its own unique set of side effects or adverse symptoms. When it comes to combining integrative and conventional cancer treatments together, here at Cornerstone Naturopathic Inc., we know how precise we need to be in terms of managing our cancer patients’ care. For one, it’s well appreciated that we have an extremely vast knowledge base on any potential or real interaction with cancer drugs. As such, it takes medical dedication and commitment to safely maneuver integrative treatment supports when patients are actively receiving conventional care. In all medical fields, there’s an understanding of how long a drug is active in the body, when its concentration peaks, how long it takes for the body to eliminate it, and exactly how the body deals with it (also known as pharmacokinetics and T 1/2 times). Case by case, we can safely time integrative medicine alongside conventional chemotherapeutic drugs, or time them safely between standard treatments if we determine that there may be potential for varying medicines to interact. So bottom line here is that, newly emerged, unique, or dangerous side effects aren’t a concern when it comes to combining the best of both approaches of medicine. 

There’s no question that those who engage in integrative cancer care tend toward better outcomes (in many ways) versus those who only pursue conventional care. Sometimes integrative medical intervention simply means addressing minor changes in lifestyle (better sleep, diet, or stress management), whereas other times it may mean a more rigorous approach to aggressive additional care. Whatever integrative cancer care adjuncts are best suited for you, one thing is for sure, it’s clear that working under the supervision of an experienced integrative cancer care doctor can be done both effectively, and most of all, safely.