Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients
Alternative Medicine Conference Calendar
Who are we?New articlesFeatured topicsArticles onlineSubscriptionsContact us!
Check out recent tables of contents
From the Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients
June 2004
Pathways to Healing
by Elaine Zablocki
June 2004 cover
Order back issues
Advertise with TLDP!
Order this issue!
Search our site

Integrative Care, Mind-Body Methods Aid Cancer Patients
When you're coping with cancer you need healthcare providers you trust, and you need a little help from your friends.

"It's been demonstrated that people who have strong social networks weather the stress of cancer and cancer treatment much better than people who are isolated," says Barry Boyd, MD. In fact, he thinks social support for people with cancer is so important that he joined his current church because it offers a deep sense of fellowship to his cancer patients. "There's such a sense of connection and nurturing, and that's what any religion should provide," he says.

Boyd is a medical oncologist, and the founder and director of the integrative medicine program at Greenwich Hospital, in Greenwich, Connecticut. Maintaining hope is critical when dealing with cancer, he says. "You need support. It can come from a friend, a relative, your children, or nurses at the practice where you're getting your care. It can be anyone that you feel safe and comfortable with."

In addition to social support, cancer patients benefit from using mind-body methods to deal with cancer. Boyd offers his patients the book
Prepare for Surgery, Heal Faster: A Guide of Mind-Body Techniques, by Peggy Huddleston, plus its companion relaxation tape. While the book title refers specifically to surgery, these methods are just as useful when preparing for chemotherapy or coping with emotional and personal issues related to cancer, Boyd says. "Guided imagery techniques are important in re-framing patients' anticipation of traumatic events such as surgical procedures and chemotherapy. A program like this can significantly reduce anticipatory anxiety and help many patients better tolerate cancer treatment."

Beverly Pierce, MLS, MHD, RN, CHTP, agrees. "With a diagnosis of cancer, you're dealing with anxiety, thoughts that won't stop, all the 'what ifs'," she says. "Mind-body methods can help with coping, decision-making, and communication." The methods can be as simple as deep breathing, to slow down mind and body. Or they can include more complex forms of guided imagery. "The imagery can be very flexible, according to the needs of the individual," Pierce says. "A person can choose an image that has meaning and resonance for them."

Pierce is the Cancer Program Manager at the Center for Mind-Body Medicine, in Washington, DC. For five years, the center has pulled together an annual conference on integrating complementary and alternative therapies with mainstream cancer care, attended by both patients and providers. In the future, Pierce pictures smaller regional conferences. The center also offers training programs for healthcare professionals, including a program for integrative cancer care counselors, called Cancer Guides, who are knowledgeable about CAM modalities that can be helpful when dealing with cancer.

Pierce has referred cancer patients to Huddleston's book and tape, as well as guided imagery tapes developed by Belleruth Naparstek. This series includes several titles designed to help patients and their families deal with various aspects of cancer, including:

  • Fight Cancer
  • Help with Chemotherapy
  • Help with Radiation Therapy
  • Bone Marrow & Stem Cell Transplantation
  • Relaxed & Awake During Medical Procedures
  • Successful Surgery
  • Ease Pain
  • Healthful Sleep
  • Peaceful Dying
  • Relaxation & Wellness
  • Relieve Stress
  • Ease Grief
  • Healing Trauma
In addition to using these guided imagery books and tapes, patients with cancer may benefit from private meetings with local counselors who are trained in mind-body methods. Several organizations offer training for healthcare professionals; contact them to locate a practitioner in your city. (See resource list.)

Theraputic massage in cancer careIntegrative Care for Cancer
People who are coping with cancer need the best possible conventional treatment. According to Pierce, today many conventional cancer treatment centers do offer some alternative modalities, but programs vary. "Wherever you're getting your conventional treatment, ask what additional services they offer," she says. "If you don't get a satisfactory answer, ask someone else. Keep asking. There may be a very lively integrative program, but people aren't always told about it. It depends on who you ask."

Then there are a few cancer treatment centers that do make a point of offering comprehensive integrative care. The Block Center for Integrative Cancer Care, in Evanston, Illinois, combines conventional treatment with mind-body methods, a semi-vegetarian diet rich in phytochemicals, nutritional supplements, and other CAM modalities.

Christine GirardCancer Treatment Centers of America offers care at two hospitals (in Zion, Illinois and Tulsa, Oklahoma) plus an outpatient care center in Seattle, Washington. "We specialize in combining conventional care with complementary and alternative medicine," says Christine Girard, ND, Director of Naturopathic Medicine for Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Southwestern Regional Medical Center. "Here in Tulsa we offer mind-body methods, naturopathic medicine, nutrition, pastoral or spiritual care, psychoneuroimmunology, massage, pain management, and rehabilitation."

Many of these services can be billed through the patient's insurance. "However, it's hard to bill for certain things," explains Girard, "We as an institution just include them in our package of services at no additional charge. For example, for patients who are under active treatment or active follow-up, there is no charge for a visit with a naturopathic doctor." Patients are responsible for nutritional supplements, which can be a substantial, though tax-deductible, expense.

At this hospital, naturopathic physicians see both inpatients and outpatients, and provide care concurrently with conventional modalities. This means CTCA patients generally are able to stay on nutritional supplements while going through chemotherapy or radiation, since the organization has developed specialized expertise in this area.

CTCA prides itself on its cutting-edge conventional care. The CTCA hospital in Tulsa uses fluorescence bronchoscopy to identify abnormal lung tissue and pre-cancerous areas; it is the only hospital in a four-state area to offer this form of diagnostic imaging, which can identify lung cancer in its earliest, most treatable stages.

At the same time, CTCA invests a remarkable amount of time and energy in smoothing communications between clinicians. The treatment team meets regularly throughout the week to discuss specific patient cases, and usually includes a medical oncologist, a specialist in hospital medicine (called a hospitalist), plus staffers from pain management, rehabilitation, and naturopathic medicine. "This is how we can understand what each department or each practitioner is doing," says Girard. "By communicating with one another we can provide more cohesive care." Usually the discussion is just a quick overview, but in complicated or difficult cases, the team may spend more time focused on a single patient.

It would be wonderful if every person dealing with cancer could rely on such an integrated, dedicated team of care providers. In most cities, that's not the reality, yet. But there are nuggets of integrative care gleaming within the conventional care system.

Mind-Body Methods:
Center for Mind-Body Medicine
5225 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 414
Washington, DC 20015

Training for Cancer Guides and consultations with a Cancer Guide:
Information on previous cancer conferences, including speakers and topics, is posted at

Peggy Huddleston
Book, tape, training for healthcare providers

Belleruth Naparstek
Many books, tapes and CDs, plus training for healthcare providers
Searchable catalog:

Academy for Guided Imagery
Training programs for healthcare providers, self-care products and programs
(Note: Sept. 2004, new site is at

Integrative Cancer Care
Cancer Treatment Centers of America
800-367-4357 or 800-FOR-HELP
(Note: Sept. 2004, new site is at

Block Center for Integrative Cancer Care
1800 Sherman Avenue Suite 515
Evanston, IL 60201

Cancer Treatments
Cancer information including treatment options, symptoms and more.

Elaine Zablocki is the editor of CHRF News Files, a bimonthly emailed newsletter about the emerging integrative medicine industry, published by the Collaboration for Healthcare Renewal Foundation.



Visit our pre-2001 archives

Search our pre-2001 archives for further information. Older issues of the printed magazine are also indexed for your convenience.
1983-2001 indices ; 1999-Jan. 2003 indices
Once you find the magazines you'd like to order, please use our convenient form, e-mail, or call 360.385.6021 (PST).

© 1983-2004 Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients
All rights reserved.
Web site by Sandy Hershelman Designs
August 1, 2005