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4-Pronged Approach To Integrative Oncology

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4-Pronged Approach To Integrative Oncology

Why Acceptance Of Alternative And Holistic Cancer Treatments Is Growing
Dr. Mark Stengler and Dr. Paul Anderson
Dr. Mark Stengler and Dr. Paul Anderson More by this author
Apr 10, 2018 at 11:45 AM

A study published in the mainstream Journal of Clinical Oncology looked at the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in Mayo Clinic patients with advanced cancer. They found that 88.2 percent had used at least one modality of CAM. The most commonly used therapy was vitamin and mineral preparations. Other research has shown that “between 54 percent and 77 percent of cancer patients receiving conventional therapy use CAMs,” and “up to 72 percent do not inform their treating physician.”

Our new book, Outside The Box Cancer Therapies, available now examines many of these options.

An astounding 30 to 50 percent of cancers can currently be prevented by avoiding risk factors and implementing existing evidence-based prevention strategies. Removing such factors as infections (by appropriate treatment) and toxins (by depuration, or cleansing, and detoxification) can be both treatment and prevention strategies for cancer. The cancer burden can also be reduced through early detection of cancer and management. Many cancers have a high chance of cure if diagnosed early and treated adequately.

Knowing the causes of cancer is important for the prevention and treatment of cancer. Your integrative doctor can help you identify causes from which you may be at risk. Testing techniques have advanced greatly, which allows you to have a much more in-depth risk assessment.

The following is a chart of root causes that we assess when patients come to our clinics for primary or integrative cancer care:





Research has clearly shown there is a strong desire by the American public for integrative oncology. Why would this be? One reason is the growing acceptance of alternative and holistic medicine. This may be due to the increasing number of studies validating naturopathic and holistic therapies, as well as the influence of European and Asian traditional therapies. Another is that many Americans have either experienced or know someone who has been through the journey of cancer. The American public has figured out that cancer affects one’s life on many different levels. As researchers have documented, “. . . cancer and its treatment have the capacity to affect not simply physical well-being, but also virtually every aspect of an individual’s life, including psychological, social, economic and existential health and function.”

Integrative oncology generally focuses on four main approaches:


Most cancer patients that we encounter have started conventional cancer therapy or have already received conventional cancer care. In some cases, they have already been treated and are looking for ways to enhance their recovery and optimize their health, as well as reduce the risk of recurrence. Using mainly natural, nontoxic therapies, the focus of the provider is to support the patient through their current cancer therapy. For example, this could include multiple types of interventions aimed at many body systems:

• Combating the side effects of fatigue from chemotherapy or radiation

• Helping tissue heal from surgery

• Easing anxiety and depression

• Improving digestive upset, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation

• Alleviating joint and muscle pain

• Immune support for cancer therapy and preventing/treating infections

• Reducing hot flashes and other hormonal symptoms from hormonal-blocking therapies

• Regimens for protecting against damage to internal organs, such as the liver and heart

• Healing skin burns and rashes

• Maintaining a healthy body weight and fat percentage (too high or too low is problematic)


An important goal of integrative oncology is to enhance the anticancer treatments that a patient is receiving. The use of natural agents and methods for a direct or indirect cancer effect is a neglected area in conventional oncology. Most traditional oncologists are simply unaware that these types of natural agents or methods exist. For example, the use of high-dose intravenous vitamin C has been shown in published studies to improve both quality and length of life. Several supplements, including mushroom extracts, have been shown in human studies to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation and improve the activity of immune cells that fight cancer.


A tremendous amount of metabolic waste products is produced through therapies such as chemotherapy and radiation. As a result, a person will be more prone to problems such as headaches, fatigue, skin rashes, digestive upset, poor memory and focus, joint and muscle pain, and several other possible symptoms. Conventional medicine does little to address the need for detoxification during and after these types of therapies. Integrative doctors recognize the critical importance of detoxification and cleansing for the patient to feel better, experience fewer side effects, and have a healthier immune system. Optimally, detoxification should start before a regimen of chemotherapy and radiation and should be maintained to some degree during treatment and especially afterward. 


Once a person has made it through their conventional therapies, there is more work to do from an integrative oncology approach. Now is the time to dig more deeply and try to address the root causes of why one may have developed cancer in the first place. For example, if one had very poor lifestyle habits such as poor diet and inconsistent exercise, these can be improved. Or if you were exposed to toxins that are known to be carcinogenic, then specific detoxification protocols can be implemented with the help of your integrative doctor. Or perhaps you are overweight, which increases the risk for a variety of cancers. Then now is the time to develop a program for shedding those extra pounds and maintaining a healthier weight. Your integrative doctor can use modern testing to find out what your body imbalances are. This could include tests for factors that damage the immune system and cell DNA, such as toxic metals (e.g., arsenic, lead, mercury, or nickel) or pesticides. You can also be tested for hormone balance, which is very important for hormone-related cancers such as breast and prostate. In addition, you can be assessed to see if you are deficient in various vitamins and minerals, many of which play a role in a healthy immune system and healthy DNA. Or perhaps you have a sleep problem, such as insomnia or sleep apnea, which is preventing you from having optimal immunity. Another core issue is gut health. The functioning of the digestive system and the important microbiome (gut bacteria) can be assessed and improved. And, of course, how you handle stress is very important for a healthy immune system.

Our new book, Outside The Box Cancer Therapies, available now, examines all of these approaches in more detail.

About Author
Dr. Mark Stengler and Dr. Paul Anderson
Mark Stengler, N.M.D., is a naturopathic medical doctor, best-selling author, TV host, and former advisor to the Yale University Complementary Medicine Outcomes Research Project. He is the author of such books as The Natu Continue reading