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The following article was published in Your Health Magazine. Our mission is to empower people to live healthier.
Jeanne W. Shiffman, MD, DABFP
Complimentary Cancer Care
Steinmetz Integrative & Functional Medicine Center

Complimentary Cancer Care

Hearing a diagnosis of cancer may be one of the most frightening things that can happen in a doctor's office. The disease can be deadly, and even when it's not, the diagnosis very often means surgery and a long period of debilitating chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Many patients can benefit from complimentary medicine during or after cancer treatment. As one member of a team, the complimentary care provider has a variety of tools to help patients through the process. Complimentary medicine, drawing on herbs, vitamins, acupuncture and other tools as adjuncts to traditional treatments, can address a wide range of medical conditions and health concerns.

To better understand how complimentary medicine works in cancer care, consider a 44-year-old woman with two children who had a double mastectomy for breast cancer. Her vitamin D levels were checked and she was put on a supplement. She was also advised to use evening primrose oil to relieve the hot flashes she was getting from her treatment with tamoxifen, a drug that interferes with estrogen. Acupuncture was used to help relieve her pain and fatigue. The idea is that her treatment was tailored to her individual needs

Patients dealing with cancer who wish to add alternative medicine to their treatment regimen really should seek out a qualified provider. It is a vulnerable time for people, and anything that seems to promise a cure is tempting. Many patients read about various alternative approaches on the Internet and wind up wasting hundreds or thousands of dollars and many hours of time on things that won't be effective for their type of cancer. Often they don't tell their doctors they're doing this, leaving the patient without support and the doctor without important information.

Other patients err in the other direction, dismissing the whole idea of complimentary medicine. They endure the pain and nausea that frequently accompanies cancer treatment when there are methods they could use to reduce those effects.

A trained professional can identify the supplements, dietary choices and techniques, such as massage or yoga, that are most likely to help an individual patient, and which compliment the treatment the patient is undergoing. Each case is unique, and it is important for the provider and the patient to become a team, working together to find the best options.

Choosing a provider of complimentary medicine is not always easy. The American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine is a good resource, offering an array of general information and a directory of certified physicians around the country. It's a good place to start your search.

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