World Cancer Day

Date: 08-02-2021


World Cancer Day | An Integrative Medicine Approach to Cancer

The care of cancer patients is a major priority at the National Institute of Integrative Medicine. NIIM also offers many of the additional therapies that are available in leading overseas cancer clinics, such as Germany and Switzerland, where integrative medicine is best placed for comprehensive cancer care.

The basic principles of Integrative Medicine (IM) combine conventional medicine with evidence-based complementary medicines, therapies and lifestyle interventions for the treatment and prevention of disease, offering the best of ‘all’ medicine.

Cancer doesn’t just happen to a site in the body, it happens to the whole person. It is not something separate from the patient, to simply be removed. It is not enough to just diagnose cancer – we need to understand why the cancer has developed. IM always begins with an enquiry into the lifestyle of the whole person which invariably is contributing to ill-health. This will take into account their lifestyle, mind, body and spirit. It empowers the patient to be an active participant in prevention and treatment of cancer, and their health and wellbeing beyond.

It is emphasised that patients may need to adapt to changes and develop a more healthy routine. IM interventions become an important addition to conventional cancer treatments, working alongside medicine to improve the patient’s health and may help mitigate side-effects of chemotherapy/radiation such as fatigue, sleep issues etc.

The IM approach encompass many aspects such as:

Mind-body Medicine – looks at how the mind influences the body. It has been proven by extensive scientific research that there is a direct link between the role of the mind and the cause of disease. Stress, depression, fear and tension are all understood to compromise immunity and influence hormones that can be precursors to illnesses such as cancer.

Diet – includes adopting a nutritious and healthy eating regime, by changing unhealthy eating habits, such as reducing or eliminating processed carbohydrates. And, eating more ‘anti-cancer’ foods, such as cruciferous vegetables, mushrooms, berries, tea, turmeric, dark chocolate, prebiotics, probiotics – to name a few.

Exercise – improves a cancer patient’s fatigue and wellbeing.

Natural Supplements – a range of evidence-based vitamins and herbal medicines can be utilised to promote overall wellbeing and quality of life.

Pain Management – can include acupuncture, herbal medicine and new emerging therapy such as medicinal cannabis.

Sleep – is crucial to allow our bodies to heal, particularly our immune and hormonal systems which are extra important for cancer patients. Factors such as stressors, chemotherapy, hospital admissions, pain etc. all impact on the cancer patient’s sleep patterns. Options such as relaxation therapies, dietary, herbal and medicinal cannabis can be explored to assist in this important area.

Adjunct Therapies – alongside current treatments may include acupuncture, massage, yoga, tai chi etc. all have good evidence to be supportive for cancer patients.

Additional Treatments – may also help protect from the toxicity of chemo and radio-therapy, including intravenous vitamin therapies particularly vitamin C, hyperthermia and hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

There is an essential role for evidence-based IM options to be incorporated into any cancer care plan. An integrative practitioner can support patients in navigating the complex world of treatment decisions and planning, a task that is more challenging when patients are chronically ill.

The Integrative Medicine (IM) approach provides the best of ‘all’ medicine.


Kotsirilos V, Sali A, Vitetta L., A guide to Evidence-Based Integrative and Complementary Medicine, 2011, Elsevier Australia.

O’Brien K, Sali A., A Clinician’s Guide to Integrative Oncology, 2017, Springer USA