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Understanding Integrative Cancer Medicine  

Integrative cancer medicine explores the importance of the milieu or biological terrain in which the cancer and the mutations that led to it are able to grow, in order the make our biological terrain less hospitable to cancer growth.

Indeed, the general public often senses the truth of this approach. As a result, they are seeking out alternatives, and this is why many people are turning to integrative alternatives, including naturopathic medicine and acupuncture. It’s also why many health food stores sell significant amounts of nutritional and herbal supplements.

Practitioners of integrative cancer medicine often are licensed medical, osteopathic or naturopathic physicians, and embrace the concept of partnering with their patients. Being a partner has responsibilities, for both patient and practitioner. For the patient, it means making the needed lifestyle changes so that our bodies and immune systems can do what they innately know how to do, which is to heal or improve, albeit with some professional assistance.

There is often no cure for a more advanced cancer. The goal with such patients is to prevent the cancer from spreading and leading to further suffering or death, and to improve a patient’s quality of life. This can mean improving sleep, decreasing pain, lowering anxiety and depression and increasing energy.

Integrative cancer physicians, as part of their process of developing an effective program for their patients, do a comprehensive patient evaluation. Often, this involves asking questions about energy, sleep, digestion, symptoms that the patient is experiencing from modern oncology therapies, sleep patterns and emotional state. As to the latter, both depression and anxiety can significantly affect how our immune systems respond to infections, inflammation, and cancer cell growth.

In addition, the integrative practitioner also evaluates through laboratory testing that goes far beyond those done by most oncologists, how well the patient’s biochemistry and physiology is functioning. More specifically, there are blood and other biomarker tests that can determine a number of important factors as to how well a patient with a cancer diagnosis does with whatever therapies they undergo. These tests include measuring:


* The amount of inflammation that is present


* The person’s hormonal status


* Detoxification capacities: how well the person is able to detoxify heavy metals, chemicals, and chronic infections, all of which often can lead to the type of mutations we see in many patients with cancer. Indeed, most cancer today is not inherited, but rather is acquired, due to the accumulation of such chronic exposures.


* Vitamin D blood levels. Vitamin D plays a crucial role in the prevention and treatment of many cancers.


* How well a person’s blood is clotting inside the body. Many cancers are able to secrete chemicals that enable the cancer to hide from immune system cells by causing the blood inside our blood vessels to clot too easily, leading to small areas in our tissues where cancers can hide.


* Levels of acidity that have built up in our tissues. This hyperacidity leads to less than optimal oxygenation of many tissues. Most of us have tissues that are too acidic, which can prevent oxygen from reaching areas of cancer in the body. It is very difficult for a cancer to grow where the tissue is well- oxygenated.


* Tumor markers. These are proteins that many cancers secrete into the blood, and when elevated, may be used to determine how successful a treatment program is.



All of these tests play a significant role in the opportunity of a patient to recover, improve and/or live a better quality of life even in the presence of a cancer.

Based upon these results, the integrative cancer physician is able to prescribe food, nutritional supplements, herbs and sometimes IV therapies like Vitamin C, which help balance and treat the bioterrain in a cancer patient, thereby strengthening the patient’s capacity to respond to effective and well-chosen therapies.

Concerning modern oncology cancer therapies, there can be times when surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapies and targeted oral therapies can be effective, if and when they are prescribed correctly and in right sequence. The integrative cancer physician will often prescribe a robust holistic program that can helps the patient who undergoes these therapies by minimizing side effects and enhancing the therapy’s effectiveness. QCBN

By Robert Zieve, M.D.

Robert Zieve, M.D. is the Medical Director of Partners in Integrative Cancer Therapies in Prescott, Arizona. The website is Office phone number is 928-445-2900.



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