Integrative Oncology at GenesisCare
It’s been an incredible ride over the last 20-years being part of the growing community of cancer care professionals who have helped to develop the field of integrative oncology. In early 2000’s, a small group of academic and private practice oncology care providers came together and founded the Society for Integrative Oncology. The mission was and continues to be the fostering of research on complementary therapies and lifestyle variables to improve treatment tolerance, side effects and cancer outcomes. Many of us knew that our patients were already self-employing various methods to address these issues, but the data on efficacy and safety was scant. Fast forward to today, dedicated integrative oncology and integrative medicine programs have been established in many of the large academic cancer centers to small cancer programs across the globe.
Integrative oncology is based on the premise that when complementary therapies and anticancer lifestyle approaches are combined with conventional oncology treatments (e.g., surgery, radiation therapy, systemic therapy, etc.), our patients will get through and recover from these therapeutic interventions more easily and have better outcomes. Not to be confused with integrative oncology are “alternative” medicines/therapies, which are not well-studied and thus unproven. Integrative oncology, on the other hand, promotes the use of evidence-informed therapies that are supported by peer-reviewed published data in combination with (not instead of) state of the art oncological care. This often includes aspects of traditional medicine therapies, such as:
- Anxiety and stress: acupuncture, adaptogenic botanicals (e.g., ashwagandha, rhodiola, schisandra), breathing exercises, meditation, Yoga
- Hormonal therapy related hot flashes: acupuncture, guided imagery
- Pain: acupuncture, massage, anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving botanicals (e.g., cannabinoids, curcumin)
- Sleeping problems: adaptogenic botanicals, breathing exercises, meditation, Yoga
Lifestyle counseling and modifications are also a key component to integrative oncology. It is well-established that exercise, stress reduction, nutrition and sleep are important in overall health (including numerous cancer outcomes) and quality of life, but these often don’t get as much attention in conventional oncology interactions with patients. Oncology providers are often very busy and focus most of our time on the day-to-day management pertaining to our specialties. This is where a referral to an integrative oncology provider can be helpful.
At GenesisCare, I am helping to build a network of integrative oncology champions and vetted community partners (e.g., dietitians/nutritionists, acupuncturists, naturopathic doctors, massage therapists, physical therapists, exercise trainers, etc.) to offer a holistic approach to the care of our patients. Unlike many one-size-fits all programs, it’s important to base personalized lifestyle recommendations on modifiable lifestyle variables using a combination of quantifiable metrics that we can assess at baseline and over time. In my practice, this often includes functional medicine lab testing (e.g., insulin resistance, systemic inflammation, nutrient deficiencies, cortisol levels, gut health assessment, etc.), and patient tracking of their own physical activity, heart rate variability, body composition and sleep. Our patients want to feel empowered in their cancer care, and this helps give them a greater sense of being in control of their health outcomes.
As a global leader in oncology services, GenesisCare, provides compassionate, timely and state of the art treatments for thousands of cancer patients across Australia, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. As a GenesisCare provider, I’m excited to help expand integrative oncology access to our cancer patients and survivors who want an integrative oncology approach in their cancer care and survivorship.
Brian D. Lawenda, M.D.
Chair, Clinical Management Committee, U.S. West Division
Radiation and Integrative Oncologist, Kennewick, Washington
Co-Author of Empowered Against Cancer: Science-Based Strategies to Optimize Your Treatments and Thrive – A Practical Guide
Founder of the online integrative oncology education program: IOEProgram.com