By Dan Labriola ND
Because there is more to dealing with cancer than just killing cancer cells.
In today’s world there are many important services available beyond conventional oncology that address a broad range of issues facing cancer survivors.
Supportive care is showing up increasingly in cancer centers as a result of positive patient response, new evidence that these services deliver real deliver benefit and requirements for cancer centers to offer them as part of their accreditation. At the treatment level there are licensed naturopathic physicians, MDs, DOs, nurses, physician assistants, social workers, acupuncturists, massage therapists, chiropractors, dietitians and others providing herbal medicine, nutrition, diet, lifestyle, rehabilitation, weight loss, psycho-oncology, and counseling to name just a few. In addition, there are non-treatment supportive services ranging from financial counseling to art and music therapy.
The potential benefits for these services frequently outweigh the risks by supporting improved quality of life, better outcomes and reduced adverse effects from treatment. Consider services that your cancer center offers or refers to. Done correctly, supportive treatments are very safe but applied incorrectly they can interfere with treatment, worsen side effects or create new problems so choosing a provider who is well known by your oncology doctor or institution helps ensure you use someone who is knowledgeable. In conventional medicine board certifications guarantee that the doctor received training and was evaluated in a particular specialty. In complementary and alternative medicine, however, there are some good certifications while others are nothing more than meaningless letters after their name. The best strategy is to depend on a referral from your cancer doctor.
There are also support organizations that provide a broad range of terrific services including educational classes, support groups, financial counseling and support, 24 hour telephone support line and more and they are mostly free. The patient navigator or social worker at your doctor’s office can help you find the right service or you can check out their websites. They include Cancer Lifeline (cancerlifeline.org), Gilda’s Club (gildasclubseattle.org), Komen for the Cure (komenpugetsound.org), Team Survivor Northwest (teamsurvivornw.org), American Cancer Society (cancer.org), NW Hope and Healing (nwhopeandhealing.org) and more. By way of full disclosure I serve on the board of directors of Cancer Lifeline, medical advisory committees for Gilda’s and Komen, and have been on the speaker’s bureau and leadership council for American Cancer Society.
Cancer prevention is an important element of survivorship. The American Cancer Society estimates that one-third of cancer deaths are a result of diet, overweight, obesity and lack of physical activity and therefore preventable. Controlling cancer risks with a healthy and satisfying diet, exercise and other strategies will certainly improve your quality of life and may help avoid a recurrence.
Cancer care and survival have improved greatly and you will have the best experience and outcome by choosing the providers, institutions and treatments that are uniquely suited to you.