Richard G. Petty, MD

Integrated Medicine and Cancer

There’s a very interesting and important piece of research from the School of Social Work at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

The title of the paper is “Patient-physician communication regarding use of complementary therapies during cancer treatment,” and it discusses something with which I’ve been very involved for many years.

The paper uses the terms “complementary and alternative medicine,” though the same principles apply to the far more sophisticated and comprehensive approaches of Integrated Medicine.

Studies from the United Kingdom, Germany, Holland, France and the United States have estimated that as many as 80% of adult cancer patients use at least one form of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) during or after conventional treatment. I’ve discussed before the pitfalls of trying to use unorthodox medicine in place of conventional medicine. In Europe some of the practices of Integrated Medicine, particularly acupuncture, homeopathy and massage, are used to help people cope with the rigors of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, rather than to treat the tumors themselves. Many people claim that they can use homeopathy or some herbal remedies as the sole treatment for different types of cancer. But I won’t endorse them unless they can show me some data.

We already know that patients frequently do not tell their oncologists about their use of unorthodox medicines and physicians consistently underestimate the numbers of their patients using them. The purpose of this study was to assess newly diagnosed cancer patients’ and oncologists’ communications with regard to unorthodox medicines. They looked at people with two types of cancer: 106 had breast cancer and 82 had prostate cancer. All the patients in the study were receiving regular conventional medical treatment.

In line with previous research, 84% reported that they were using at least one unorthodox therapy. The most popular were exercise, vitamins, prayer, and nutritional supplements.

But here was the surprise for the investigators: The oncologists surveyed were generally enthusiastic and supportive of patients’ use of these therapies. In addition to those therapies popular with patients, at least half the physicians supported massage, journal writing, support groups, acupuncture, biofeedback, and art therapy.

This was no surprise to me at all. I spent most of my clinical career in tertiary referral centers, and I’ve worked with the best of the best. The vast majority was extremely supportive of anything that would help. Every one of them was a skeptic who would say, “show me.” But once they had been shown, they would be very helpful. After all, who doesn’t want to help people get better?

It has always been so noticeable that the biggest critics, not skeptics, but critics, have been people who were less secure. Often not the “Best of the best,” they would carp and complain that “we don’t do things that way,” and “I don’t see how it could work, so I’m sure that it doesn’t.”

What this new piece of research showed was that discussions the use of unorthodox medicine were relatively rare and were most likely to be initiated by the patients. When the topic was discussed, both patients and doctors said that it usually enhanced their relationship.

What do I take away from this study?

If you, a friend or loved one has cancer, or any other type of illness for that matter, consider using something else in addition to your regular medical care. Not as a replacement, but in addition. The regular treatment will be helping the physical side of the illness, but you also need help with the psychological, social, subtle and spiritual aspects of what is going on in your life.

And guess what? Chances are that if you have a good oncologist, or any other type of conventional clinician working with you, he or she will probably be very supportive of anything that you do.

I once said at a very large meeting that if I needed to put a bone through my nose and do a dance to get someone better, I’d do it.

And I’m not the only one.

What Integrated Medicine does is to put all the cards on the table from the very beginning. We tell people that we are going to be helping guide them toward physical, psychological, social, subtle and spiritual health. They need to be able to derive meaning and purpose from what’s happened to them, rather than just cussing at their misfortune.

And then using the experience to grow as individuals and to help others.

The Integrated Practitioner will also be working with the way in which this person’s challenge is changing them. If a practitioner is not changed by the person in front of him or her, they are working only as a technician and not as a healer.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but everyone needs to be clear about what the practitioner is bringing to the table, and what their expectation is for the person who has come to see them with a problem.

For now, if you are not working with an Integrated Practitioner, do tell your health care provider if your are doing something else to help yourself.

Chances are that he or she will be very supportive.

About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

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