What is Naturopathic Oncology?
More and more, people are coming to understand the value of an integrative approach to cancer care.
Simply put, naturopathic oncology refers to the application of the art and science of naturopathic medicine to the field of cancer care and treatment.
It doesn't fight against established conventional cancer treatments and protocols, it supports them.
While people can approach their cancer treatments from an 'all-in' perspective (relying solely on either conventional or naturopathic medicine) we often see the benefit of incorporating both in the treatment of the disease.
Cancer isn't a simple condition.
The research, understanding, and treatments for cancer are constantly evolving. It takes more than just a passing involvement with a cancer case here and there to stay up to date with the most current understanding and best practices of care. Further, it's critical that people with cancer have the ability to identify naturopathic doctors who truly have an in-depth understanding of cancer to integrate into their care team.
In 2004, the Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians (OncANP) was founded with the idea of helping to protect the public. Eventually, by 2006, the American Board of Naturopathic Oncology (ABNO) began designating Naturopathic Oncologists as a board-certified specialty. These board recognized naturopathic physicians are given the title of FABNO - Fellow of the American Board of Naturopathic Oncology.
The OncANP as a specialty organization protects the public by identifying practitioners who really dedicate themselves to the care of people with cancer. Further, having board-certified naturopathic oncologists to turn to gives people with cancer access to responsible options for care that leverage the full power of naturopathic medicine blended with the understanding and appreciation for conventional standards of care.
In order to qualify for board certification in naturopathic oncology, a naturopathic doctor must:
Complete a 2-year naturopathic oncology residency OR
Must be in practice for at least 5 years with 2400 oncology patient contact hours AND
Submit cases for review by designated examiners AND
Must pass a board certification exam.
The advanced training and experience doctors attain as they work to qualify for board certification provides valuable insight into the best ways to integrate naturopathic care into the cancer continuum.
As the Founding President of the OncANP, Dr. Rubin continued to form the values and shape how specialization of naturopathic doctors in oncology looks in the world. Because of that, FABNO status represents the pinnacle of naturopathic cancer care in America.
We are proud to have three FABNO physicians on staff at Naturopathic Specialists. LLC:
Dan Rubin. ND. FABNO. (Founding President of The OncANP)
Lise Alschuler. ND. FABNO. (Past President of the OncANP)
Melissa Coats. ND. FABNO.
Additionally, we're committed to furthering the ideals of naturopathic cancer care by supporting a residency program. Dr. Adam Kozin has joined the NS team as our current oncology resident.
Together, we continue to build appreciation, and credibility of naturopathic oncology both locally in the Phoenix Metropolitan area, nationally in all fifty states, as well as around the world. To date, we have worked with patients in 19 different countries around the world.
Our Reputation in the Cancer Community
We're proud to have contributed to the positive perception of naturopathic medicine in both the medical community and in the minds of the public.
By sharing our own experience, along with clinically supported, and evidence-based information, we've been able to show that naturopathic methodologies are helpful in:
Improving the quality of life during cancer treatment.
Speeding recovery from intensive conventional protocols.
Helping to manage side effects from both the disease and its corresponding treatments.
Decreasing traditional treatment breaks, or dose reductions due to side effects.
Increasing the effectiveness of conventional treatments.
Aiding the body, with a focus on preventing recurrence of the disease.
Conventional cancer treatments can be hard on an already strained body, and before a person can even receive them, their doctor needs to believe that the treatment will do more good than harm.
Our naturopathic oncologists have the education, and the experience needed to understand and integrate supportive treatments for people with cancer, which may help to maximize their response to conventional treatment.
Working seamlessly with a conventional medical team is crucial to avoid wasted time and problems where the treatments themselves can reduce or negate the efficacy of certain treatments. Our doctors excel at understanding not only what to recommend to a patient seeking naturopathic options, but also what not to recommend.
This knowledge has proven highly beneficial for the individuals we serve, as well as to the other medical providers who we comanage patients with.
Some of the cancer centers we have experience working together with:
Our team of oncology specialists has assisted people from over 19 different countries
Cancer Treatment Centers of America
Virginia G Piper Cancer Center
Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center
Phoenix Children's Hospital
Palo Verde Cancer Specialists
Ironwood Cancer & Research Centers
Southwest Oncology Centers
Many other cancer centers nationwide
The connections we've made have supplied us with a powerhouse of medical professionals whom we both refer to, and who also look to us when their patients want to leverage the power of naturopathic cancer care.
This gives our patients the benefit of not only a naturopathic option but if needed, a well-connected network to some of the most forward thinking and adept minds in the field of conventional oncology care.
Our Principles Guide Our Approach
At Naturopathic Specialists, we've developed a reputation for integrity, and ethics, along with intelligence of care by holding fast to the principles at the foundation of naturopathic medicine:
First, Do No Harm
The Healing Power of Nature
Identify and Treat the Causes
Doctor as Teacher
Treat the Whole Person
These principles have guided our personal philosophy, as you can tell from our motto:
"Personalized Medicine, Personalized Care"
We view each patient as an individual, not as a diagnosis.
When we see our patients, the disease isn't the first thing. Most important to us, and more important to the healing process is to see them as 'people with cancer' instead of 'cancer patients'.
It might seem like a small thing, but to us, and to the people we help, the difference is huge.
By taking the emphasis off the disease, seeing a person first instead of just a diagnosis, we're able to approach individual patient care in a unique way.
Cancer develops for a different collection of reasons in each person. We look for those reasons through the use of targeted testing, as well as our depth of knowledge of the physiology of cancer. By understanding not just the intricacies of the disease, but also how it's interacting with a person's body, we're able to generate the appropriate treatment plan to decrease the opportunity for cancer to survive in their body.
No approach is as comprehensive in supporting the body, whether in a healthy or a diseased state as naturopathic medicine.
If you're going through cancer treatment, are in remission from the disease, or want to do all you can to avoid giving cancer a foothold in your life, the best cancer specific naturopathic doctor you can find is a board-certified naturopathic oncologist.
How We Approach Treatment
Each person's experience with cancer is different, but we can generally break down our approach to cancer care into four categories:
Support In Survivorship
Your battle with cancer may have left your body depleted, fatigued, surgerized, and changed. Your sleep cycle, exercise, diet, and even your relationships with people may be different. You may not feel like yourself in your own skin.
One of the first things to acknowledge as a cancer survivor is that it's okay to not feel great.
That's why aftercare is enormously important; not only to help you recover from the impact of the disease and its treatment but to limit the chance of recurrence.
With the right help, we believe you can not only recover, but you can make positive changes to feel even better than your old self before your battle began.
How we can help: The first step in any treatment plan is to understand why a person is experiencing their symptoms. Sometimes this means running specific labs depending on the individual's history and treatment paradigm.
Some complaints are associated with particular disease types or treatment complications, others could be associated with any type of serious illness.
Sleep Issues: We understand that restful sleep after cancer treatment can be hard to find. At the same time, sleep is incredibly important in survivorship. It's been estimated that an astounding 90% of our healing happens while we sleep. Our doctors are experts at listening to your body's signals to uncover the reasons your sleep may still be disturbed even after you finish treatment, and maximize your ability to find restful sleep again.
Fatigue: Some cancer treatments can affect your body's ability to produce enough of the energy that it needs to keep you feeling yourself. This kind of fatigue isn't something you can sleep off. You could likely benefit from a physician's targeted advice and treatment plan to restore your body's ability to produce and manage its energy.
Exercise: It's important to keep your body moving. There are several beneficial components to exercise in survivorship, but we want to make sure you're going about it safely, and with your specific case in mind.
Hormonal Issues: Many cancer treatments involve changing the hormones in your body. Modulating the hormones that your body produces may produce significant effects that you'll now have to face in survivorship. We want to make sure you not only understand your treatments while you're going through active cancer care; but what effects your treatments will have both now and in the long-run. Naturopathic interventions can make a huge difference in the support and restoration of your body even after conventional treatment ends.
Intimacy after Cancer: There are several reasons: hormonal, emotional, and physical, that could change the way a person with cancer...or their partner may approach intimacy. This could manifest in changes in both physical intimacies, as well as the relationships with people you've been close with like family or friends. A huge aspect of life after cancer involves the people we spend our lives with. Our doctors can help to address not only the physical changes but also the unseen scars that cancer can leave in peoples lives.
Emotional Health: Our emotions play a huge role in our health and overall prognosis. Our doctors are able to help people understand and accept what happened in their lives, and we're still here to support you and provide encouragement at a time when you likely need it the most. A battle with cancer can seem overwhelming but when that battle is 'won', people can be left feeling more alone and vulnerable than ever before. If you've made it through a battle with cancer, that's awesome! But we appreciate, and we hope you understand, that you need support even now.
Help to Understand Your Situation: One of the most important things about survivorship is trying to understand how to avoid recurrence of the disease. Even after a 'victory' over cancer, people can be left with a constant fear that cancer will come back. Any change in your health now comes with the question: 'Is it cancer coming back?' Our doctors want to ensure that you understand your situation and the landscape of your relationship with the disease. Cancer may be a part of your life for as long as you live, but with the right lifestyle and other naturopathic interventions, we can assist you to do everything you can to help you come out on top.
Support For Caregivers
When a person is diagnosed with cancer, it's important that they're able to identify and rely on people for support.
Whether you're actively involved in making health care decisions, providing transportation to doctor's appointments, preparing meals, helping with chores, or providing an emotional support for the person with cancer, you're taking the role of a caregiver.
It's important to remember that you need and deserve support as a caregiver. Ask about our Caregiver Coupon, and be sure to build up your own support community. We also have support groups that we refer to and other resources we can help you with.
If you're stepping into a caregiver role, make sure you go in prepared.
How Could Being a Caregiver Impact My Health?
There are millions of caregivers in the United States, so if you're helping to fill that role for someone, you're not alone. Sadly, many caregivers notice a negative impact on their health as they try and support one of their loved ones through their own illness.
A group of caregivers was surveyed and many had developed similar health concerns:
- Energy and Sleep Problems (87%)
- Stress and/or Panic Attacks (70%)
- Increased severity of Aches and Pains (60%)
- Headaches (41%)
- Weight Gain/Loss (38%)
The development of health problems is a warning sign that something is out of balance. If you notice a development of symptomatology, take it as an indication that you need to provide a little more care to yourself as the caregiver!
Consider looking into therapies that will help you reduce stress, sleep better, enhance your immune system, and remember to get appropriate exercise and the emotional support you need.
What Therapies Does NS Offer That Might Help Caregivers?
For caretakers, we're specifically interested in:
- Improving your vitality
- Aiding in stress reduction
- Improving the quality of your sleep
- Enhancing your immune function
- Supporting you physically and emotionally.
Some treatments that caretakers appreciate:
Acupuncture - A quick and painless treatment that only lasts about 30 minutes. The best part is you can nap through it if you are tired and need some additional stress relief.
Most people feel a great sense of relaxation and restored vitality with acupuncture treatments. Acupuncture has been studied to help with anxiety, headaches, pain and inflammation and a host of other symptoms.
Hydrotherapy - The application of (hot and cold) wet towels to the abdomen, chest, and back and in some cases, the use of sine wave electrical stimulation.
Hydrotherapy can benefit several organ systems in the body. Most notably, hydrotherapy can:
- Increase circulation of the blood and lymph
- Increase nutrition to cells
- Increase the removal of toxins from the body (detoxication)
- Speed healing and recovery
- Relieve pain
- Increase white blood cell counts
- Decrease inflammation
- Decrease stress
- Promote relaxation
Nutrient IV - Administration of a vitamin and mineral formula (known as the “Myer’s cocktail”) intravenously may be useful in treating a variety of medical problems, according to a report in Alternative Medicine Review (2002;7:389–403).
Although few studies have been published on this therapy, many physicians have observed its benefit in treating migraine headaches, fatigue, allergies, heart disease, acute asthma attacks, fibromyalgia, infections, and other conditions.
The Myer’s cocktail was pioneered by John Myers, MD, a physician from Baltimore, Maryland, who developed this treatment more than 30 years ago. The dosages of the various nutrients were subsequently modified, based on more recent information, by Alan R. Gaby, MD, the author of the report. The vitamin-mineral combination includes magnesium, calcium, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin B5 (dexpanthenol), vitamin B complex, and vitamin C.
Intravenous therapy can raise blood levels of nutrients to a considerably greater extent than oral therapy can, and some doctors believe that achieving these high blood levels has therapeutic benefits in certain clinical situations.
The benefits of the Myer’s cocktail may be due to the drug-like (pharmacological) effects of some nutrients (for example, high concentrations of vitamin C kills viruses), or to an improved transport of nutrients from the blood into the cells.
This is a great way to boost yourself up to make sure you can be at your best as a caregiver and will not require that you take a lot of pills.
How do I build my support community?
Building a support community is a good way to limit the potential for burnout as a caregiver.
The following steps are a good way to get started:
- Make a list of all the current responsibilities you are taking care of as a caregiver.
- Make a note of the duties you are willing to relinquish.
- Identify 8-10 people who can be in your support community.
- Contact the people you've identified and find out if they are willing to help you. Ask them what they are comfortable doing.
- Once you have received a commitment, write the person's name and contact information on a chart and indicate what they'd like to do to help.
- Contact and assign out each of the relinquished duties to a member of your support circle.
Extra tip: There are tools available for coordinating responsibilities among a caregiver community. A coordination system like Lotsa Helping Hands allows members to see needs and offer and coordinate their help in an easily manageable framework. http://lotsahelpinghands.com
Why Is It Important to Care for the Caregiver?
A good caregiver is an amazing resource for any person with cancer. Because of the work they do, caregivers are often an integral part of the oncology or medical team. They can provide:
- Emotional support
- Help to facilitate patient visits
- Take care of supplement/medication implementation
- Provide third-party clinical information
- Facilitate communication between physicians.
Important Affirmations for Caregivers - The Caregiver's Bill of Rights
As a caregiver, you've taken up a vital and noble office that provides a much-needed service to your loved one.
The following is a 'bill of rights' that has been used by many who serve as caregivers and serves as a reminder to understand what you can do, and adjust to get the help for what you can't do:
- I have the right to take care of myself. This is not an act of selfishness. It will enable me to take better care of my loved one.
- I have the right to seek help from others even though my loved one may object. I recognize the limits of my own endurance and strength.
- I have the right to maintain facets of my own life that do not include the person I care for, just as I would if he or she were healthy. I know that I do everything that I reasonably can for this person and I have the right to do some things for myself.
- I have the right to get angry, be depressed and express other difficult emotions occasionally.
- I have the right to reject any attempt by my loved one (either consciously or unconsciously) to manipulate me through guilt, anger or depression.
- I have the right to receive consideration, affection, forgiveness, and acceptance from my loved one for as long as I offer these qualities in return.
- I have the right to take pride in what I am accomplishing and to applaud the courage it sometimes takes to meet the needs of my loved one.
- I have the right to protect my individuality and make a life for myself that will sustain me when my loved one no longer needs my full-time help.
- I have the right to expect and demand that as new strides are made in finding resources to aid physically and mentally impaired persons in our country, similar strides will be made toward aiding and supporting caregivers.
(Caregiver’s rights from The American Heart Association)
Online Resources for Caregivers
The following are a list of some caregiving support organizations that have helpful tools, resources, or a community of sharing and support.
- Family Caregiver Alliance - A nonprofit organization that aims to address the needs of families and friends providing long-term care for loved ones at home.
- American Cancer Society - A well-known cancer network with resources for caregivers for people with cancer.
- Circle of Sharing - Also under the auspices of the American Cancer Society, it is a sharing post for the cancer support community.
- Cleaning for a Reason - A nonprofit organization in the United States and Canada. They work with local maid services to provide home cleaning services to women with cancer.
- CaringBridge - A free website platform where you can securely let people know what is happening with your health journey. You create what you want and share what you want with whoever you want to have access. People stay in the know and you don't have to expend a lot of energy in communication.
- Share The Care - An organization that aims to reduce the stress, depression, isolation and economic hardship of anyone needing support whether personally or for their caregivers.
- Face in the Mirror Foundation - Organization to provide support for people with cancer and their caregivers.
Have Questions About Our Office?
Tom, Mandy, and Nicole, our front desk staff, are standing by to answer any questions that you may have. They also schedule appointments with our doctors, so you'll get well acquainted with them. Feel free to contact us directly, or fill out the contact form by clicking the button below and Tom, Mandy, or Nicole will reach out to you through the information you provide.