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Utilizing Integrative Oncology to Enhance Patient Outcomes and their Quality of Life

Integrative oncology involves using lifestyle-based integrative treatment (merging conventional and complementary medicine) approaches to improve the outcomes and quality of life of patients.

According to a survey, integrative oncology is defined as a patient-centered, evidence-informed field of cancer care that utilizes natural products, lifestyle modifications from various traditions, mind and body practices alongside conventional cancer therapies such as immunotherapy, chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation therapy.

In many cases, the term integrative is often confused with complementary or alternative, but these terms cannot be interchanged. Alternative practices are used in place of conventional treatments. They are not derived from western medicine. Complementary medicine, on the other hand, involves using supportive practices as interventional, additional approaches to conventional treatment. Integrative care includes a whole-systems approach that strategically and judiciously merges complementary and mainstream interventions.

About 30 – 50% of cancer patients use integrative and complementary medicine to mitigate the symptoms and improve the patients’ quality of life. Although using alternative medicine alone in place of conventional treatment has helped shorten survival rates, adding complementary medicine to conventional therapy doesn’t influence the mortality rate compared to using conventional treatment alone.

Experts advise cancer patients to be cautious when considering using antioxidants and dietary supplements before or during chemotherapy. Some of these products can cause drug to drug interactions, and they have the potential to affect patient survival negatively or increase their risk of recurrence.

The patient-reported measures would help researchers determine the quality of life and other holistic aspects of cancer care.

Interventions such as meditation, qi gong, tai chi, massage, yoga, or acupuncture are practices that may increase the quality of life patients and improve their psychological, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. In turn, such improvements can positively influence their clinical outcomes.

Integrative oncology helps to engage patients and their families by allowing them to participate in their own care – from prevention through to treatment and cancer survivorship. The integrative principle optimizes the promotion of health, and it also proactively helps to address the symptoms and adverse effects arising from cancer or its treatment.

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