With any approach to medicine, the most gentle and least invasive therapy should always be a first priority. Patient care and quality should be one of the most important concerns, regardless of the disease or treatment goal. Naturopathic integrative care principles help ensure that firstly, we do no harm. With a diagnosis of cancer, the most aggressive conventional treatments (chemotherapy, radiation, surgery) are often seen as the only choice. Rather than resorting as a last ditch attempt, alongside standard treatment therapies, natural and integrative cancer care should be a first resort, not a last.
I continue to see it all too often, cancer patients who seek integrative or naturopathic cancer care after all conventional standard care options have been exhausted and no longer work. I applaud patients who take responsibility for their own health and medical care, however all too often, the delay to begin integrative care is hugely held up due to lack of support from those around them. Granted, there are now many medical oncologists who are extremely supportive and open to integrative cancer care, there are still far too many who are not. Rather than objectively reviewing and assessing the validity and evidence in support of the many integrative cancer therapies, there is far too much personal and biased dismissal by oncologists about its effectiveness, safety, and use. Far too many patients are left with the impression that there is no evidence to support cancer therapy beyond what is already being done. The end result is that many cancer patients delay or lose out on the many benefits this validated cancer care approach has to offer.
For many cancer patients, having to deal with the side effects of conventional cancer treatment is an experience that can be extremely debilitating. For those engaged in an integrative cancer approach, many natural and less aggressive medicines can reduce these effects or help avoid them altogether. By supporting your immune system, energy, and processes within your body, those who chose an integrative approach first, tend to feel better, have a better responses to conventional treatment, and have better short and long term outcomes in relation to their cancer.
I am not suggesting that patients avoid or delay chemotherapy, surgery or radiation, but rather incorporate both conventional and evidenced based natural therapies together from day one. Rather than having to try and deal with a compromised immune system, interrupt conventional treatments due to severe side effects or low immune counts, boosting and supporting these vital components of health in advance really does improve treatments in every way. And furthermore, if integrative and natural treatments are reliably able to safely and effectively support your health in advance, many patients are improperly informed and end up having to address the acute and often emergent health implications of these problems too late. Naturopathic and integrative cancer medicine can work wonders for many, and although valuable at any point in cancer care, trying to help a completely depleted patient recover is a much more difficult effort for both doctor and patient.
Before engaging in a formal integrative cancer medical approach, or beginning even simple ‘natural’ support during active conventional treatment, it’s absolutely critical that you are under the care of a qualified, experienced naturopathic integrative cancer doctor. Share your intent and involvement in an integrative approach with your oncologist. If questions arise, your naturopathic doctor can easily provide standards of evidence supporting various interventions and treatments. There really is no situation where integrative cancer care shouldn’t be a first resort and not the last.