Naturopath Kathy Chavez, NDIntegrative Oncology is a holistic approach to cancer care using safe, research-supported conventional and complementary treatments to address the mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical needs of the cancer patient. Despite a growing body of evidence in the scientific literature supporting the effectiveness of this integrative approach, many oncologists are unfamiliar with this research. Like-wise, many aficionados of natural medicine are suspicious of and hesitant to use conventional treatments. Using conventional and complimentary treatments together improves cancer outcomes and quality of life. 

Conventional and Complementary Therapies
Conventional treatments for cancer recommended by oncologists are usually surgery, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, biologic therapies, and radiation. Conventional recommendations vary depending on the cancer type and extent of the disease. 

Complementary care includes many therapies not conventionally recommended by your doctor. These include mind-body medicine, massage therapy, physical therapy, exercise, energy medicine, acupuncture, nutrition, nutritional supplements, botanical medicines, and homeopathy.

Ensure Safety
Patients often assume that if a therapy is complimentary or natural that it is safe. This is not true. Natural therapies have pharmacological effects, which is why they are effective. This is also why they are not always safe. Vitamins, minerals, botanical medicines, and even foods can stimulate different types of cancer cells to grow, can interfere with many drugs and chemotherapy agents, they can protect cancer cells from radiation, and alter blood clotting and anesthesia with surgery. This is why it is very important to make sure all treatments work well together. 

The vast array of information on cancer therapies and purported therapies can be overwhelming, especially in the internet age. Fortunately there is an enormous amount of research on both conventional and complimentary therapies used in cancer care. Understanding what has been studied and the expected results is invaluable in choosing therapies to manage cancer. Indeed, providing this information is the main role of an 
Integrative Oncology provider. A good understanding of research can also help to identify purported treatments or miracle cures that are not supported by evidence or traditional use. Ineffective treatments are at best a waste of money and effort and at worst can be harmful.

Cancer Treatments
The conventional treatments recommended by the patients' oncologist are the most aggressive, best chance of destroying or controlling the cancer. There are many complementary therapies, usually vitamins and botanical medicines, that have been studied and shown to help specific conventional treatments work better. Many complementary therapies have also been shown to have anti-cancer effects. While these effects are not as extreme as the effects of conventional treatments, they should be utilized when safe and well tolerated. 

Reducing Side Effects of Cancer Care
While conventional cancer treatments are the most effective approach to managing cancer, they also have many negative side effects that can greatly diminish quality of life and even cause the patient to have to discontinue treatment until they recover. Common side effects are fatigue, low blood cell counts, nausea and vomiting, taste changes, loss of appetite, mouth sores, diarrhea or constipation, numbness and tingling in fingers and toes, rashes, and bone pain. There are many conventional and complimentary treatments that can reduce or prevent these side effects. As soon as an oncology treatment is chosen, the predictable side effects of that treatment should be addressed in a proactive manner to reduce or prevent their occurrence. 

Support Wellness 
The healthier a cancer patient is, the better they will tolerate treatments and fight their cancer. At the time of a cancer diagnosis, many people are not optimally healthy. Many people suffer from anxiety, sleep disturbances, poor dietary habits, chronic diarrhea or constipation, obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, lack of physical activity, draining and unsupportive relationships, and stress. Often the stress that comes with a cancer diagnosis can worsen some of these health concerns further burdening the body's resources.

Addressing these issues will allow the body to focus on destroying the cancer.  I have had many patients report that their cancer diagnosis initiated many changes in their life. They started eating better, increased physical activity, quit jobs they hated, broke off relationships with negative friends, started taking time to care for themselves. As a result, they report feeling better after their diagnosis then before. While this is not always the case, increasing wellness will always have benefits.

Address Risk Factors
Most cancers have predictable risk factors. Some risk factors like our inherited genes and family history cannot be changed. Fortunately, many risk factors like sleep habits, physical activity, diet, nutritional deficiencies, and exposure to toxins like cigarette smoke, alcohol, solvents, and pesticides are risk factors that can be identified and reduced. Even after a cancer diagnosis, it is very important to change any of these contributing factors to reduce any further insults to your body and genes.

Schedule a consult with The Raby Institute Naturopathic Doctor Kathy Chavez, ND today. Call (312) 276-1212 for more information.

"Dr. Raby is warm, genuine, extremely personable and listens well."
- Raby Institute patient