Integrative Medicine & Breast Cancer
Naturopathic Doctors (NDs) are quickly becoming recognized as vitally important in the treatment of cancer. Cancer Treatment Centers of America now employs NDs as part of their cancer treatment team and praises their remarkable results.
Oncology is one of the few areas in which NDs are becoming board certified. Naturopathic oncologists work in both hospital oncology settings and in private practices. One of the most common questions I receive when telling people of my profession is this: “As a naturopathic doctor, what is your role in the treatment of breast cancer?” Hopefully I can answer that here.
Based on current research, the best medical approach for patients with cancer is to utilize both standard medical care from your oncologist and medicine that supports your body’s natural defenses and recovery systems, otherwise known as naturopathic medicine. Although surgery, radiation and chemotherapy are our only known cures for cancer, they can have certain side effects that naturopathic medicine can successfully manage. In addition, once conventional therapy is over, naturopathic medicine can be utilized to help prevent a recurrence.
One of the most important aspects of my job is to develop a plan to optimize your immune system’s functioning, as well as address certain aspects of your physiology and biochemistry that may have set up an environment for a cancer to develop. In addition, I also ensure that the rest of your body is working optimally by supporting you in the following ways: pre and post biopsy and surgery to minimize side effects and boost recovery time, reducing the side effects and possibly increasing the efficacy of radiotherapy and chemotherapy, and helping you to better deal with the mental-emotional aspects of breast cancer. This combination of naturopathic medicine and conventional treatment helps women fight cancer more effectively and increases their well-being.
One question I am asked frequently is “can you work with my oncologist?” The answer is, “yes, I would love to!” When I first started working with cancer in 2009, many oncologists were still unsure about the role that naturopathic medicine could play in cancer care. These days, due to the vast amount of research currently available on naturopathic supportive therapies, many oncologists recognize the value of following a naturopathic supportive protocol while undergoing conventional therapy and are in full support of it.
What does this mean for a woman diagnosed with breast cancer?
A diagnosis of breast cancer can be a very emotional time for a woman. Ultimately, I find myself in the role as a trusted advocate, and my patients know that I am looking out for them. During this difficult time, it is always best to talk with an oncologist and see what they recommend for treatment. Generally, I will support the recommendations of the oncologist and help my patients make the most informed decisions.
Although I do see patients who have decided to forgo conventional treatment for personal reasons, this is not something I recommend. In fact, despite what you may read on the internet, naturopathic medicine is not a treatment or a cure for cancer. I see, by far, the best outcomes when patients follow a conventional treatment protocol while seeing us for naturopathic support. To read more about this, please see our FAQs page on integrative cancer support on our website: walnutcreeknaturopathic.com/FAQ/.
If, after making sure the patient understands their conventional options, they still choose to only utilize naturopathic medicine, we will have them sign a waiver that states they understand that naturopathic medicine is not a treatment or a cure for cancer, and at that time I can support them with the best naturopathic care that I can.
It is never too soon after receiving a breast cancer diagnosis to begin a naturopathic supportive program. In my practice, a breast cancer program starts with a basic dietary and lifestyle plan, along with a nutraceutical regimen that is based on the stage and type of breast cancer that a woman has, her particular biochemistry and physiology, as well as where she is in her standard cancer treatment. A physical exam may also be included in the consultation, and recent blood work, and other pertinent tests and information will also be required. Due to my background in psychology, I also focus on addressing common mental-emotional issues associated with breast cancer, such as stress, anxiety, depression, and grief, as well as other important mental emotional factors that can have a major impact on survival rates as well as on a patient’s quality of life.
Once a patient has begun her standard cancer treatment, I will adjust the program accordingly to help support the side effects of surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. The program will continue to be adjusted as necessary based on what is needed while we work together.
Here are some of the ways I work with women with breast cancer:
- I can help explain in great detail the standard breast cancer treatment you will receive from your oncologist and treat the many side effects associated with it.
- I prescribe therapies that research shows may improve the efficacy of the standard breast cancer treatment you are receiving from your oncologist.
- I create individualized programs that boost your immune system, as well as other crucial organs and systems in your body that are essential supporting your conventional therapy to help you overcome breast cancer.
- I design programs and prescribe therapies specifically formulated that may help reduce the risk of breast cancer spreading, including pre-post biopsy and surgery protocols.
- I prescribe nutraceuticals and therapies that may minimize the side effects of commonly prescribed hormonal drug therapies and other prescription drugs that you may be taking.
- I prescribe various forms of holistic “mind body medicine” to treat stress, depression, anxiety, grief and other challenges that accompany breast cancer treatment. These are often overlooked or minimized by most medical doctors, despite the strong correlation between good mental health and higher survival rates.
In addition to providing supportive breast cancer treatment, I can also help you to reduce your chances of getting breast cancer in the first place. A Naturopathic Doctor’s greatest strength is in disease prevention! For patients with significant risk factors for breast cancer, I prescribe treatment programs that can address and mitigate many of these factors.
If you have any questions about breast cancer for yourself or a friend, you may contact our team at Walnut Creek Naturopathic at 925-939-0300.
Thank you and be well!