Integrative medicine offers cancer patients holistic support as part of their care

Author: Ken Weizer, N.D., naturopathic physician, Providence Integrative Medicine Program

Receiving a cancer diagnosis and then making decisions about treatment is stressful, especially when a person also may be managing symptoms of the disease. Treatments can cause a host of side effects and complications.  

Providence Integrative Medicine Program works collaboratively with care teams throughout Providence to offer patients non-pharmaceutical interventions to help support a patient’s physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health through different evidence-based modalities. Patients who receive integrative medicine services can experience reduced distress and pain, and often make lifestyle changes that help them improve their health.

Personal experience inspires career change
While working as a filmmaker in Los Angeles 34 years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer and immediately plunged into what I call the “cancer dance.” It was a stressful time of decision-making, high emotions and fear. It changed my perspective on life, and shortly after I decided to change my career trajectory so I could support others dealing with illness.

As a naturopathic doctor, I focus on helping patients manage their symptoms, reduce pain and optimize their health through diet, exercise, stress reduction and evidence-based natural medicines. I work collaboratively with my integrative medicine colleagues and my patients’ care teams to ensure they have access to modalities such as acupuncture, massage, chiropractic care and appropriate supplements.

Patients benefit from the integration of our services at Providence Cancer Institute where integrative medicine practitioners, oncologists and their care teams work collaboratively to provide the best treatments and supportive care.

Minimizing side effects of cancer
People receiving cancer treatment can experience various stressors along with side effects that include fatigue, pain, nausea, diarrhea, constipation or other health issues that might persist. They may be in shock and experiencing an existential crisis coupled with fear as they navigate appointments, procedures and difficult decisions. Our role is to help mitigate the associated physical and emotional impacts of the disease itself, as well as the treatment.

I like to think of integrative medicine as a “slower kind of medicine.” Practices such as massage and acupuncture give patients permission to rest and relax. We allow ample time during office appointments to get to know our patients, centering our practice on whole-person care that is especially important when advising on lifestyle and dietary changes.

Patients also are supported after their cancer treatment when lingering effects such as neuropathy might continue to affect their quality of life. They may opt to learn new health management skills to feel better and reduce the recurrence of cancer. I believe patients appreciate our commitment to them and our holistic focus. It truly reflects the Mission of Providence.

Managing patient expectations
One of the challenges of integrative medicine is helping patients who come to us with unconventional remedies found on the internet or recommended by friends and family and/or skepticism of conventional medicine and treatment. In these situations, we explain it’s not necessary to pit one approach against the other. Integrative medicine works in partnership with oncology; it is not a cure. Open conversations with patients help them move forward with more confidence in their conventional treatment, knowing they are receiving a full gamut of care and support.

This is one of many ways Providence Cancer Institute is unique. Patients benefit from mutual trust between oncologists and integrative medicine practitioners and our respect for the complementary care we are able to deliver.

Referring patients for services
Providence Integrative Medicine Program helps patients achieve optimal health, whether they have a cancer diagnosis or some other health concern. There are two clinics in the Portland area, and health care providers can refer a patient to either clinic. Patients also can make an appointment without a referral.

Learn more about Providence Integrative Medicine Program at our two locations.

About the Author

The Pulse content team focuses on bringing you the latest in clinical news from our world-class medical providers and physician leaders.

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