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If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer, life suddenly changes. You want to know that your doctors are exploring all available options so you have the best chance to fight your cancer. Unfortunately, today's health care system often leaves doctors feeling rushed and patients feeling as if they are nothing more than their disease.
Western medicine has become focused on "the body" as a singular object, thereby treating a disease or symptom in isolation. Your oncologist may be busy planning your conventional treatments, such as surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy. But, you may feel that you need much more. You may need relief from nausea brought on by treatments. You may need help with fatigue so you can continue to do the things you enjoy. You may need help with anxiety so you can sleep better. You may also need the emotional strength to keep fighting.
You know that you are more than just your cancer; you are a whole person—body, soul and spirit. So, how do you find treatment that addresses all of you, not just your disease? How do you find a practice and a place willing to fight your cancer on all fronts? Integrative medicine, also called holistic or whole person medicine, promises more time, more attention, and a more comprehensive approach to healing.
Integrative medicine (IM) is a holistic, human-centered approach to health care that has begun to leave its mark on many of the nation's hospitals. Both doctors and patients alike are beginning to embrace the philosophy of integrative medicine and its “whole-person” approach to healing.
Integrative medicine is a healing-oriented medicine that combines evidence-based conventional treatments and complementary therapies to address the medical, psychological, social and spiritual aspects of health and illness. Integrative medicine brings together a full range of proven therapies, with the patient's optimal health and healing at the center. It stresses not just the treatment of disease, but the promotion of health and prevention of illness.
Integrative medicine may be valuable to those who are not ill, but wish to enhance their well-being and help prevent health-related problems. However, for people who are living with a chronic or life-threatening illness like cancer, integrative medicine may improve the physical, emotional and spiritual dimensions of their lives.
Integrative medicine views individuals in their completeness, looking at the person who has the disease, rather than the disease the person has. It uses complementary therapies in conjunction with mainstream medical treatments. For cancer patients, that means treating not just the cancer in the body (i.e., the tumor), but also helping them manage the symptoms of cancer and its treatment. Complementary therapies have been used to promote wellness, support the immune system, help alleviate stress, reduce pain and anxiety and promote a feeling of well-being.
Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is a broad range of healing practices that are not presently considered to be part of mainstream Western (conventional) medicine. The terms "complementary" and "alternative" are often used interchangeably, when in fact there are very important distinctions between the two. Complementary medicine is used together with conventional medicine (such as in integrative medicine). Alternative medicine is used in place of conventional medicine.
Conventional, also called traditional, medicine includes treatments such as surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and immunotherapy.
Complementary practices may include:
If you are interested in integrative medicine for your cancer care, there are a few things you should know before selecting an integrative medicine provider:
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