The Wellness Library

Integrative Cancer Care: Enhancing Healing and Well-Being 

by | Jun 21, 2023 | Cancer Care, Most Popular, Wellness

Minneapolis Integrative Medicine Center interior

An Overwhelming Need for Care

As a naturopathic doctor, I am witness to the overwhelming need for holistic cancer care. In the United States alone, approximately 2 million people will be diagnosed with cancer this year. It is no surprise that the demand for complementary and alternative medicine among cancer patients ranges from 22% to 91%. Responding to this demand, the profession of naturopathic oncology has flourished, with 115 board-certified Fellows of the American Board of Naturopathic Oncology. This growth is driven by the desire for integrative cancer treatments and the growing body of research supporting the safety and effectiveness of natural and supportive therapies. 

In response to the increasing need for holistic cancer care, Minneapolis Integrative Medicine Center proudly offers naturopathic treatments to help support our patients. We understand that experiencing cancer treatment can be difficult, and want to be a pillar of support for those looking to receive sincere and dedicated supplemental care alongside their conventional treatments.

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What is Naturopathic Oncology?

This field of care focuses on creating supplemental cancer therapy that is holistic in nature. It identifies modifications that can make treatment more manageable for the patient, alongside their regular conventional cancer treatments. It looks at all aspects of a patient’s needs and health, such as:

  • Past medical history and family history
  • Lifestyle choices
  • Allergies
  • Environmental factors
  • Diet
  • Current and previous conventional treatments
  • Lab assessments
  • And more!

Naturopathic oncology results in a more effective and more manageable experience for the patient—while also helping to prevent future complications. It puts emphasis on the patient’s needs and concerns, and helps empower them through their health journey. As a result, naturopathic oncology helps create an amazing collaboration between conventional treatment methods and supportive therapies.

Cultivating Collaboration

Throughout my medical training, I have learned the importance of collaboration and mutual respect among healthcare providers. Naturopathic doctors like myself are not seeking to replace the crucial role of medical oncologists in cancer treatment. In fact, we actively support advanced training for Naturopathic Doctors in Oncology through organizations like OncANP. Those who successfully complete this training earn the esteemed status of Fellow by the American Board of Naturopathic Oncology (FABNO), signifying their commitment to the highest standards of the profession. 

Naturopathic doctors hold conventional treatments in high regard, recognizing their integral role in controlling cancer progression and achieving remission. The strength of naturopathic medicine lies in its team-based approach! By collaborating with cancer specialists, we can effectively manage and alleviate the adverse effects of chemotherapy and radiation. Leveraging the diverse expertise of our colleagues, we tailor treatment plans to meet the unique needs of each patient. 

RELATED: Breast Cancer + Environmental Toxicity: Could What You’re Exposed to Impact Your Risk?

The Patient-Centered Process

Blending naturopathic oncology strategies with conventional methods requires focus on the needs of the patient. Additionally, strategizing effective lifestyle modifications requires doctors who truly listen and care for patients’ concerns and needs. At MIMC, we utilize a comprehensive process that allows us to account for all aspects of a patient’s cancer treatment in order to formulate their supplemental therapies:

  • Firstly, before a patient’s initial visit, our team requests copies of essential information to ensure a full assessment during the new patient intake. We review notes from their medical oncologist, past laboratory studies, and details of their conventional treatment—including their chemotherapy infusion schedule, if applicable. 
  • During the first visit, we prioritize getting to know our patients on a personal level. This crucial encounter spans 90 minutes, allowing us to delve deeply into their past and current health history. We understand that this process can be emotional and overwhelming, which is why we encourage patients to bring along their support network for their initial appointment. 
  • Uncovering the root cause of illness requires an in-depth intake. We evaluate environmental factors—including occupation and work environment—recognizing that certain exposures may contribute to cancer development or affect treatment outcomes. By understanding these factors, we can provide tailored recommendations to minimize potential risks.

RELATED: How Your Body’s Microbiome Can Impact Your Breast Health

Patient care at Minneapolis Integrative Medicine Center

Naturopathic Methods in Cancer Care

Lifestyle choices play a significant role in cancer treatment, prevention, and management. We delve into diet, sleep habits, smoking, alcohol consumption, and drug use—recognizing their impact on overall health and treatment outcomes. Our goal is to empower patients with evidence-based guidance on making positive changes that support their healing process. Some common considerations include:

  • Allergies, whether related to medications, dietary factors, or environmental triggers, are always accounted for. By identifying and addressing allergens, we aim to optimize cancer treatment outcomes and minimize potential adverse reactions. 
  • Relevant family history is a crucial aspect of our assessment, as genetic factors can influence cancer risk and treatment response. We consider familial patterns and potential hereditary conditions to guide our personalized treatment plans. 
  • Comorbid conditions, if present, are thoroughly evaluated to understand their potential impact on the disease trajectory and treatment options. By taking into account the patient’s overall health, we can develop a comprehensive plan that considers their specific needs and ensures the best possible outcomes. 

After gathering all the necessary information, we collaborate with the medical oncologist to ensure alignment and consensus regarding the cancer treatment plan. Once the entire care team is in agreement, we maintain regular communication with the patient and begin implementing the recommended strategies of naturopathic oncology.

Establishing Goals and Treatment Options

At Minneapolis Integrative Medicine Center, our primary goal is to enhance the quality of life for our patients throughout their cancer journey. We are dedicated to managing treatment side effects, expediting recovery, and preventing recurrence, all while providing education and support to empower our patients. 

Our treatment plans are rooted in evidence-based naturopathic oncology practices, and incorporate various aspects of lifestyle modifications. We understand the impact of diet on overall health and cancer outcomes, and therefore offer personalized diet recommendations. For example, we may suggest reducing dairy product consumption to minimize exposure to environmental estrogens, which can support hormonal balance and reduce the risk of cancer progression. 

RELATED: Cancer and the Gut

Provider preparing for an infusion therapy service

In addition to dietary guidance, we utilize IV therapy when appropriate. IV therapy can effectively alleviate chemotherapy-related fatigue, replenish antioxidant stores, and enhance tumor sensitivity to chemotherapy. By tailoring treatment options to each patient’s unique needs, we aim to optimize the efficacy of their cancer treatment while minimizing the burden of side effects. 

To ensure the success of certain treatments, adherence to specific schedules may be necessary. For instance, we may recommend discontinuing antioxidant supplements one week prior to radiation therapy to maximize their effectiveness. These carefully planned interventions are designed to work synergistically with conventional treatments, promoting positive outcomes and enhancing the overall therapeutic response. 

Throughout the treatment process, we provide continuous education and support to our patients. We believe that empowering individuals with knowledge about their condition and treatment options enable them to make informed decisions and actively participate in their own healing journey.

Our team is committed to being a reliable resource, answering questions, addressing concerns, and offering guidance at every step of the way. By integrating these elements into our practice, we strive to optimize treatment outcomes, improve quality of life, and foster a sense of empowerment in our patients as they navigate the challenges of cancer care. 

Achieving Positive Outcomes

At Minneapolis Integrative Medicine Center, we proudly offer naturopathic support for cancer treatment as a part of our comprehensive range of supportive therapies. Our approach focuses on harnessing natural, non-toxic techniques to bolster the body’s self-healing process. We deeply understand the risks and benefits associated with conventional treatments like chemotherapy and radiation, and acknowledge the uniqueness of each patient and their treatment journey. That is why we want to take a holistic approach by incorporating naturopathic oncology into our therapeutic treatments.

What truly sets MIMC apart is our unwavering dedication to actively listen to your concerns and symptoms, ensuring that your voice is heard and your needs are met.

By fostering a team-based approach to cancer care, we cultivate inter-professional trust and collaboration that promotes effective communication among all members of your healthcare team. At Minneapolis Integrative Medicine Center, we are here to support you every step of the way on your path to healing and well-being.

Big thank you to Dr. Ruch for sharing your expertise in integrative cancer care. We are lucky to have you on the team!


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