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Introducing Integrative Oncology at the AMITA Health Cancer Institute

The Integrative Oncology Program at the AMITA Health Cancer Institute uses alternative treatments that have scientific evidence of effectiveness, and incorporates these with traditional cancer care. The result of this holistic approach to care is to strengthen the body, reduce stress and anxiety, improve patient quality of life and prevent cancer recurrence.

Arti Lakhani, MD, hematologist/oncologist at the AMITA Health Cancer Institute and Director of the Integrative Oncology Program, explains the role of integrative oncology using a “weed and soil” analogy: If cancer is the weed, then the goal of integrative oncology is to try to strengthen the soil — the body — so that it can better fight off cancer and handle the toxic side effects of cancer treatment. Integrative oncology is often misinterpreted as an alternative to the traditional cancer treatments of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. In contrast, the Integrative Oncology Program at the AMITA Health Cancer Institute adds evidence-based approaches to a patient’s traditional cancer treatment plan in order to improve patients’ overall health, well-being and quality of life during and after cancer treatment.

“Integrative oncology not only aids in cancer treatment, it reduces side effects, improves long-term quality of life and, most importantly, empowers the patient to take an active role in their own health.”

– Arti Lakhani, MD, Integrative Oncology

After receiving a diagnosis of cancer, patients who express an interest in complementary approaches are referred by the nurse navigator to the Integrative Oncology Program. In an initial meeting with Dr. Lakhani, patients discuss their diet, lifestyle and goals for treatment and survivorship. A combination of vitamins, supplements, nutrition, physical activity and mental therapies, such as mindfulness, meditation and yoga, are then offered to the patient. An important aspect of integrative oncology is to ensure that patients are not taking any vitamins or supplements that might interfere with cancer treatment; an example of this would be to avoid high doses of antioxidants during treatment as this can reduce the efficacy of certain chemotherapies and radiation.

The Integrative Oncology Program at the AMITA Health Cancer Institute provides ongoing education and support to patients and their families throughout the entire treatment and survivorship process. Various patient and survivor support programs are available at the AMITA Health Cancer Institute and through partnerships with community-based resources such as The Wellness House, a longstanding not-for-profit organization in Hinsdale, IL. The Wellness House offers free physical and emotional support programs for patients with a cancer diagnosis and their families. It provides education, therapy and health and wellness classes, and hosts a number of support groups. The facility includes a library and exercise room, as well as resources specifically designed for children and teens.

Arti A. Lakhani, M.D.

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