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The benefits of integrative oncology

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If you’re receiving treatment for cancer, you may be wondering what additional therapies are available to help you manage your symptoms and pain. Integrative oncology is an approach that supplements your standard treatment with complementary, evidence-based therapies to support you throughout treatment and beyond.

This practice incorporates lifestyle changes like dietary modifications, movement, stress reduction strategies, and mindfulness to improve quality of life. Integrative therapies can help reduce the severity of cancer-related symptoms including pain, nausea, fatigue, anxiety, and sleep issues. We explore the different types of integrative practices and if they’re right for you, below.

What therapies are included in integrative oncology? 

Integrative oncology encompasses a wide range of practices designed to work in tandem with your conventional cancer treatments and lifestyle habits. These therapies include:

  1. Nutrition and dietary changes: Tailored nutrition plans can help you maintain strength and energy, manage side effects, and improve your overall well-being. A registered dietitian specializing in oncology can guide the types of foods to include to help you reach your goals.
  2. Physical activity: Whether it’s yoga, tai chi, or gentle aerobics, exercise can boost your mood, reduce fatigue, and enhance your physical function. Make sure to talk to your doctor or integrative oncologist before starting any new exercise regimen. 
  3. Mind-body practices: Relaxing techniques like meditation, reiki, and aromatherapy can help reduce stress, depression, and anxiety and promote better sleep.
  4. Acupuncture: This traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) technique can help you with nausea and reduce pain. It involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body to balance energy flow.
  5. Massage therapy: Massages can relieve muscle tension, reduce pain, and combat fatigue while promoting relaxation.

Remember, strategies that work for one person may not work for another. Some might find acupuncture most effective, while others benefit more from massage or meditation. The results can vary based on your unique needs, preferences, and goals.

How to find an integrative oncologist

Integrative oncology is a relatively new, but fast-growing field. To find an integrative oncologist, ask your primary oncologist or local cancer centers for recommendations. You can also search the directories provided by Cancer Choices to find a practitioner near you.

Are integrative therapies covered by insurance?

Insurance coverage for integrative oncology services can vary widely, so it’s crucial to clarify what your plan includes. Many private and public health plans cover a specific number of integrative visits annually (like acupuncture or massage therapy), so refer to your policy plan or their website.

If you have any questions, call your health insurance. The American Cancer Society has a list of questions you may want to ask the representative to help you navigate referrals, coverage, and deductibles. This way, you can make informed decisions about incorporating integrative oncology into your treatment plan without unexpected financial surprises.

If you have additional questions about integrative oncology or you’d like to speak with someone, can connect with an Outcomes4Me oncology nurse practitioner at no charge through the Outcomes4Me app, using the “Ask Outcomes4Me” button.

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