Integrative Medicine: Health and Healing in the Cancer Journey
As an integrative and palliative medicine physician at the University of Wisconsin Paul P. Carbone Comprehensive Cancer Center, Dr. Marchand offers services that go beyond the chemotherapy, radiation, surgery and other "conventional therapies" tailored to a person's cancer diagnosis.
In her workshop, "Integrative Medicine: Health and Healing in the Cancer Journey," Marchand stressed that patients make decisions about conventional therapy with their oncology team.
"I help to create a comprehensive survivorship plan," explained Marchand, clinical director of integrative oncology services at the cancer center. "I'm interested in the cancer and specific therapies so that I can help them judge which other therapies might be most helpful to them, but I'm most interested in the person that has the cancer.”
"I'm interested in healing," Marchand added. "Cure is wonderful when it happens, but there's much more to healing than just cure."
Expanded Options for Care, Hope and Meaning
From acupuncture to yoga to meditation practices, the Integrative Medicine approach involves a broad array of expanded options for care, hope and meaning in cancer patients' lives, Marchand says. The approach involves all appropriate therapies – both conventional and alternative – focusing on the person's needs, values and well-being, rather than just the disease itself.
"It's on every plane of being – mind, body and spirit," she added. "When you're paying attention to mind, body and spirit health, options for health expand dramatically – there are no limits to hope. Even when patients are terminal, that hope is still eternal."
When they hear about her integrative medicine services at the cancer center, curious patients often wonder, "Who is this person, and how can she really be helpful to me?" says Marchand, whose background includes 14 years as an integrative family physician with the UW Health Belleville Clinic. As an integrative medicine practitioner, Marchand emphasizes "whole-person care," and thorough initial consultations with cancer patients typically take about an hour.
After this open-ended conversation, Marchand and the patient then discuss expanded options of care and prevention, using both evidence-based conventional and alternative therapies. Knowing that volumes of information about cancer therapies available through the Internet and other sources may or may not be trustworthy, Marchand says part of her job is to sift through this information with patients.
"I help people blend alternative and conventional therapies together so that it will not harm them in any way, and they get the full benefit of conventional and alternative therapies," she said.
Marchand describes the integrative medicine approach to cancer care as offering patients a variety of resources and help, including:
- Making lifestyle changes to promote optimal health
- Finding evidence-based information on nutritional supplements and herbs, and background on how to avoid harmful interaction with conventional therapies
- Decreasing the side effects of conventional therapies, such as chemotherapy and radiation
- Preparing for surgery
- Working through the challenges of living with cancer, and surviving cancer in potentially a better state of health than before the cancer diagnosis
One resource Marchand says she often recommends to patients is the book Definitive Guide to Cancer: An Integrative Approach to Prevention, Treatment and Healing, by Lise Alschuler, ND and Karolyn A. Gazella (2007). Marchand says the book includes current cancer research and is particularly helpful in its review of chemotherapeutic agents and which botanicals may be helpful or harmful to them.
Finding One's Own Path
Marchand stresses that being healthy is "a synergistic effect."
"It's not just one thing – there is no 'magic bullet' – 'If I drink pomegranate juice, that's gonna do it for me.' Well, it's not that simple," Marchand says. "There are endless options for health and healing… there is no recipe for this. There are helpful hints, but you have to find your own path."
Integrative medicine options at the UW Carbone Cancer Center allow patients to pursue many paths. Many of these are not covered by most health insurance plans, but some of them are – and some will be, Marchand says.
For example, some health insurance companies already cover Acupuncture, and others are expected to soon follow suit, Marchand says.
"There's so much research showing how effective acupuncture is in alleviating so many symptoms," such as chemotherapy-related nausea, she said.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction is another integrative medicine program available to patients at the UW Carbone Cancer Center. Though the Mindfulness program is not fully covered by insurance, scholarships are available for cancer patients. A cancer survivor, Darren Fortney, raised money for the scholarships by participating in the Ironman triathlon in 2006.
Other integrative medicine programs are physical movement therapies that require awareness of the body, mind and spirit. The Feldenkrais® Method, for example, helps participants learn to move more effortlessly, increasing ease and range of motion, Marchand says. Feldenkrais can be especially helpful for a breast cancer patient who has problems using one side of her body after undergoing surgical and radiation treatment to the breast area.
No matter what avenues a patient chooses to pursue, Marchand stresses that integrative medicine is a multi-disciplinary, team approach to caring for cancer patients.
"It requires a whole village," she says.
"In doing integrative medicine at the cancer center, I am not integrative medicine," Marchand added. "I am not the only person – everybody there is doing integrative medicine, doing their part. But integrative medicine takes it one step further – it's coordinating everything… really having the patient at the center of everything that we do."
Date Published: 07/09/2008