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Naturopathic Oncology: What Is It and How Do Patients Benefit                                                                                                - by Dr. Jody E. Noe, MS, ND


The current model of healthcare is changing when it comes to cancer treatment and healing. Hospitals and facilities are striving for a new standard of care. The Integrative Care Model, an approach that consists of conventional medicine, as well as complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) modalities, is being explored both in research and clinical applications. Care team members collaborate by sharing essential details and collectively determining the best conventional and complementary therapies for an individual’s treatment.


This concept also involves “Patient Empowered Medicine,” which is an innovative approach that offers patients the power of choice by giving them the information and tools needed to actively participate in their care. Patients are considered central to the process and encouraged to be fully engaged in decisions concerning their health. Integrative Care Model “Integrative” means to make a whole by bringing all parts together, to unify. Those involved with integrative medicine treat the whole person--mind, body and spirit--which is also the fundamental premise of naturopathic medical education and practice.


The application of this concept of medicine, uncommon in the current model, centers around patient education and empowerment. Docere, or ‘doctor as teacher’ is one of the fundamental philosophical tenets of naturopathic medicine. An integrative approach to treatment in cancer care may include: nutrition; medical herbalism; counseling; and, physical therapies. All of these are specific to the patient’s diagnosis and chosen in accordance with their current conventional treatment. Outcomes of the Integrative Model Integrative partnerships between conventional medical doctors (MDs) and licensed naturopathic doctors (NDs), acupuncturists, and other healthcare workers are becoming more available. Such cooperation ensures that the most effective range of therapies is available, while also increasing patient involvement and satisfaction with their healthcare provider relationships. Integrative strategies are utilized for helping those cancer patients who are undergoing active treatments to fight their cancer, as well as reducing or preventing side effects from the chemo/radiation therapies. The integrative model continues even after the patient has completed their conventional treatments in order to ensure restorative and ongoing wellness. Integrative Care Model and Cancer Treatment The assimilation of naturopathic cancer treatment protocols is specific to the patient and the type of cancer diagnosis, and in alignment with the current conventional treatment. As previously mentioned, this specificity is not only to assist the patient’s own ability to ward off the cancer, but also to enhance the effect of the conventional treatment while simultaneously reducing any potential side effects. In this model the oncologist works collaboratively with patients and CAM practitioners as part of the standard of care. The many treatments offered can include: Chemotherapy, Radiation, SurgeryNaturopathic MedicineAcupuncturePhysical Therapy/Occupational TherapyNutritionPastoral/Spiritual CarePNI (psychoneuroimmunology) Fundamentals of Cancer Integrative Strategies Cancer is not a single disease. It is a group of many diseases all characterized by uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells. For cancer to occur, it requires multiple mutations over time: rapid reproduction or hyperplasia; abnormal architecture or dysplasia; changes within the cell (carcinoma in situ); loss of intracellular communication (invasive cancer); or, loss of cell adhesion (metastasis). Cancer treatment using an integrative approach involves employing several naturopathic strategies toward the goal of eradicating this disease. The nutritional recommendations (both dietary and supplemental), medical herbalism, counseling (that encompasses spiritual as well as practical issues) and physical therapies are first line interventions incorporated to optimize patient outcomes in cancer treatment. Naturopathic cancer therapeutics are designed for each specific patient and their particular type of cancer diagnosis, and then used in alignment with the conventional treatment protocols. By significantly reducing side effects while enhancing the ability to destroy the cancer, the patient can experience higher quality of life during conventional treatment, as well as improved prognosis and reoccurrence rates. Patient Empowered Medicine How can a medical model empower patients? With a simple promise… Each individual’s healing needs are the focus of a team-centered approach that delivers compassionate and integrative care for mind, body and spirit combined with thorough, clear information about all treatment options. This occurs in a context that honors and respects the patient and their choices and decisions, thereby enabling and empowering individuals. Hospitals and treatment facilities are increasingly seeing the benefits of agreements between each patient and his/her care team. Additionally, they recognize that creating a healing environment with a more home-like atmosphere, compassionate staff and patient focused treatments helps patients guide their own healing process and healthfulness even long after their medical treatment or hospital stay has ended.


Dr. Dr. Jody E. Noé MS, ND joined the University of Bridgeport College of Naturopathic Medicine in 2006 as a full-time faculty member, teaching in academic and clinical settings. Noé holds a Bachelor’s degree and Master of Science from Old Dominion University, and a Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University. She currently has a private naturopathic medicine practice in Rhode Island lectures nationally on the topics of herbal medicine and integrative naturopathic cancer treatment. For more information, visit Works Cited1. CURRENT Medical Diagnosis & Treatment 2009. Stephen J. McPhee, Maxine A. Papadakis, Eds. Ralph Gonzales, Roni Zeiger, Online Eds.2. Webster’s Dictionary3. Frenkal, Moshe and Lorenzo Cohen. 2008. Incorporating Complimentary Integrative Medicine in a Comprehensive Cancer Center. Hematol Oncol Clin N Am 22:727-736. Elsevier Saunders, Publ.4. Remen, N. Rachel. 2008. Practicing a Medicine of the Whole Person: An opportunity for Healing. Hematol Oncol Clin N Am 22:767-773. Elsevier Saunders, Publ.


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