Let's Talk About Cancer Survivorship
Cancer is a leading cause of death and suffering worldwide, with nearly 20 million new diagnoses and 10 million deaths in 2020.
Modifiable lifestyle factors – poor nutrition, sedentary lifestyle, excess weight, metabolic risk, tobacco exposure, and alcohol use – contribute significantly to cancer incidence and mortality.
Improvements in cancer screening and treatment have led to increased survival, but cancer survivorship is often accompanied by comorbidities and treatment-related symptoms. Fatigue, pain, anxiety, depression, neuropathy, sleep disturbance, and cognitive impairment are common and require clinical intervention. Integrative oncology has demonstrated success in addressing many of these concerns and has the potential to transform cancer care.
The Society for Integrative Oncology (SIO) has defined Integrative Oncology as: “…a patient-centered, evidence-informed field of cancer care that utilises mind and body practices, natural products, and/or lifestyle modifications from different traditions alongside conventional cancer treatments. Integrative oncology aims to optimise health, quality of life, and clinical outcomes across the cancer care continuum and to empower people to prevent cancer and become active participants before, during, and beyond cancer treatment.”
Integrative oncology is practised in conjunction with conventional cancer care, not as an “alternative”. The use of alternative cancer treatments instead of standard cancer therapy has been associated with poorer outcomes, including greater mortality.
The National Institute of Health’s Center for Complementary and Integrative Health replaced the term “alternative” in its name with “integrative.” Professional organisations, scientific journals and government agencies have since followed suit.
The integrative approach includes interventions that often have fewer side effects than pharmaceuticals, and can improve overall health.
Integrative oncology includes traditional healing practices for which there is an evidence base. In some world regions, traditional practices exist alongside standard allopathic therapies and are readily accessible to people with cancer.
I believe that a co-ordinated approach based on individualised care brings significant positive outcomes.
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