Integrative medicine and the oncology patient: options and benefits

Support Care Cancer. 2018 Jul;26(7):2267-2273. doi: 10.1007/s00520-017-4007-y. Epub 2018 Feb 2.


Cancer is a major public health problem, and cancer patients and survivors face many physical and emotional challenges after the initial diagnosis, through treatment, and in the post-treatment period. Different integrative medicine (IM) modalities can be used to mitigate some of the physical issues that originate from the cancer itself or the treatment and to promote well-being and emotional health. Here, we discuss how an IM Department can function in a hospital system, particularly with regard to oncology patients, the modalities appropriate for oncology patients, how these modalities can benefit this patient population, and the role of IM in cancer survivorship. A dedicated IM Department that works with oncologists provides support and care for the whole person. These different modalities work together to reduce pain, anxiety, and chemotherapy-induced nausea and peripheral neuropathy, while promoting immune function and improving sleep, range of motion, and an overall sense of well-being. However, each modality has different contraindications for the oncology patient, and proper training is required for safe and effective care. We illustrate how IM can be a valuable component of the care of the oncology patient.

Keywords: Acupuncture; Cancer; Integrative medicine; Naturopathic oncology; Oncology massage; Oncology patients.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Integrative Medicine / methods*
  • Medical Oncology / methods*
  • Neoplasms / therapy*