Integrative medicine pairs regular medicine with complementary remedies like acupuncture, massage, supplements, and even hypnosis. The idea is to treat the whole person: your mind, body, and spirit.
An integrative treatment plan -- often used in cancer care -- should provide safe, effective, coordinated care between your regular doctors and people who offer complementary therapies. You might have trouble if you decide to try complementary treatments on your own. Here’s the scoop on the potential risks, plus how to be smart about integrative medicine.
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In an ideal world, you would live near a hospital or cancer center that offers integrative medicine. That would make it easy for you to get integrative care in one place.
Even if you don’t live near a major medical center, you still have options. Many health care systems are training staff and adding people who do acupuncture, art therapy, nutrition counseling and more. Plus, there are board-certified integrative medicine specialists around the country, some of whom are experts in cancer care. You can also choose from many traditional cancer doctors (called oncologists) who will help you find trusted complementary therapies for cancer.
How to Choose a Provider
Before you look for a complementary therapy, set some goals. Do you want to control nausea? Fight fatigue? Eat to keep cancer from coming back? Then tell your doctor. They can help you figure out which type of treatment will be best. The next step is to find a provider.
Ask for a referral. It’s tempting to take your friend’s suggestion, but it’s best to go through your doctor or regular care team. If they can’t give you a name, check with nearby hospitals, medical schools, or your insurance company.
Do your homework. Check out the education, training, and credentials of anyone you think you might want to work with.
Look for someone who knows the disease. A dietitian familiar with cancer will know which foods you should avoid during chemotherapy.
Coordinate your care: Make sure your practitioner is willing to work with your regular health care team, and vice versa. All parties should be in the loop on your treatments and how well they work for you.