Integrative oncology: Addressing the global challenges of cancer prevention and treatment

CA Cancer J Clin. 2021 Nov 9. doi: 10.3322/caac.21706. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

The increase in cancer incidence and mortality is challenging current cancer care delivery globally, disproportionally affecting low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) when it comes to receiving evidence-based cancer prevention, treatment, and palliative and survivorship care. Patients in LMICs often rely on traditional, complementary, and integrative medicine (TCIM) that is more familiar, less costly, and widely available. However, spheres of influence and tensions between conventional medicine and TCIM can further disrupt efforts in evidence-based cancer care. Integrative oncology provides a framework to research and integrate safe, effective TCIM alongside conventional cancer treatment and can help bridge health care gaps in delivering evidence-informed, patient-centered care. This growing field uses lifestyle modifications, mind and body therapies (eg, acupuncture, massage, meditation, and yoga), and natural products to improve symptom management and quality of life among patients with cancer. On the basis of this review of the global challenges of cancer control and the current status of integrative oncology, the authors recommend: 1) educating and integrating TCIM providers into the cancer control workforce to promote risk reduction and culturally salient healthy life styles; 2) developing and testing TCIM interventions to address cancer symptoms or treatment-related adverse effects (eg, pain, insomnia, fatigue); and 3) disseminating and implementing evidence-based TCIM interventions as part of comprehensive palliative and survivorship care so patients from all cultures can live with or beyond cancer with respect, dignity, and vitality. With conventional medicine and TCIM united under a cohesive framework, integrative oncology may provide citizens of the world with access to safe, effective, evidence-informed, and culturally sensitive cancer care.

Keywords: alternative; and integrative medicine; cancer prevention; complementary; global health; health policy; survivorship.

Publication types

  • Review