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Beyond Treatment: How Integrative Oncology Empowers Cancer Patients

Read Time: 3 minutes

Left to right: massage therapist giving a massage, patient looking at nutrition flyer, staff demonstrating exercise, music therapist holding guitar, acupuncture specialist working on a patient

Cancer care is changing.

Alongside surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, a new approach is gaining ground: integrative oncology. This patient-centered field combines conventional treatments with personalized options to improve treatment outcomes.

“Traditionally, cancer care has focused on surgery, chemo, and radiation,” says Neeraj Agarwal, FASCO, MD, Presidential Endowed Chair of Cancer Research and director of the Center of Investigational Therapeutics at Huntsman Cancer Institute. “With immunotherapy gaining traction, many see it as a fourth pillar. But I believe wellness and integrative health deserve a place at the table too, for their potential to significantly improve patients' lives.”

Huntsman Cancer Institute is a prime example of this shift and has become a leader in integrative oncology. The combination of a research-driven cancer center with a top-tier Wellness and Integrative Health Center makes them pioneers in this field. We offer evidence-based wellness services like acupuncture, massage therapy, music therapy, exercise therapy, and nutrition counseling to manage side effects and improve patient outcomes.

“It's not just about the treatment,” says Douglas Sborov, MD, MS, director of the Multiple Myeloma Program at Huntsman Cancer Institute. “The Wellness Center empowers patients to live better lives. I recommend it to most of my patients, and those who participate report significant improvements in quality of life.”

“It's not just about the treatment. The Wellness Center empowers patients to live better lives.”

—Douglas Sborov, MD, MS

The importance of whole-person care is gaining recognition. Last year, the American Society of Clinical Oncology and The Society for Integrative Oncology endorsed using integrative therapies for managing common cancer-related symptoms like pain, anxiety, and depression. Their recommendations are based on strong research and include services all offered by the Wellness Center.

Huntsman Cancer Institute doctors value the Wellness Center as a resource for their patients. “For men with prostate cancer, testosterone suppression can cause fatigue, anxiety, and decreased muscle mass, I refer them to the POWER program for personalized exercise plans and acupuncture to manage these side effects,” Agarwal adds.

Sborov also emphasizes the importance of nutrition. 

“We're learning more about how diet impacts overall health during and after cancer treatment. The Wellness Center's plant-based diet program is innovative and not widely available at other places.”

While recommendations like diet and exercise may seem obvious today, they're a recent addition to oncology. This evolution is driven by research into how wellness and integrative medicine can improve patient outcomes. Huntsman Cancer Institute is at the forefront of this research, with studies on exercise, massage therapy, and music therapy. The goal is to expand the reach of integrative oncology and improve cancer care for everyone.

Cancer touches all of us.