Published on March 29, 2019


The Role of Integrative Medicine in Cancer Care

Research, advances in technology and a deeper understanding of cancer have led to better, more effective cancer treatments. Those advances go far beyond the traditional.

Today, providers and patients recognize the impact of an individual’s whole health on cancer treatment and survivorship. And, with integrative medicine, medical teams are better able to support people – and their families – on their unique journeys. 


Integrative medicine supports cancer patients by addressing the whole person – their body, mind and spirit. It is used alongside traditional cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation.

For example, your doctor may recommend acupuncture to manage the side effects of chemotherapy or work with you to create an exercise program tailored to your needs. Integrative medicine complements your treatment plan by finding opportunities to

help you manage your symptoms and feel your best – physically, mentally and spiritually.

Ideally, integrative medicine is introduced at the time of diagnosis for a well-rounded approach to cancer care and treatment. Your doctor will work closely with you to develop a plan that treats you – not just your diagnosis.

“An integrative medicine approach to cancer care is tailored to an individual’s clinical needs,” says Laurie Herscher, MD, radiation oncologist, and director of the Integrative Medicine Program at the Shady Grove Adventist Aquilino Cancer Center. “Every patient is unique – even if they have a similar cancer diagnosis.”


  • Dietary guidance
  • Exercise advice
  • Individualized stress management plans
  • Lifestyle review
  • Mindfulness
  • Spiritual care


Cancer journeys are stressful and overwhelming. By treating all your needs – and not just your cancer – your physicians can help you better cope with the physical, mental, and spiritual impact of a cancer diagnosis. 

“Research continues to show the many different ways a cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatments affect the body, mind and spirit,” explains Dr. Herscher. “Focusing on whole body wellness makes good scientific sense.” 


The focus on whole health should continue even after cancer treatments end.

“Integrative medicine should play a primary role in survivorship,” advises Dr. Herscher. “Many lifestyle interventions have been shown to be associated  with decreased risk of recurrence, some on the same magnitude as conventional therapies.”

Dr. Herscher encourages patients and providers to focus on evidence-based healthy lifestyle education to help the body, mind and spirit recover from cancer treatments. Some techniques may be carried on while undergoing cancer treatments, such as healthy eating and an active lifestyle. Individuals may also be able to try new, evidence-based approaches as their health, strength and energy allow.


Integrative medicine is an important part of your treatment and recovery plan. Integrative oncologists will work alongside other oncologists and cancer care providers to support you during and after treatment.

You can have a consultation with Dr. Herscher, the only integrative oncologist in our area, to answer any questions you have about optimal diet, supplements or how you can improve your physical, mental or spiritual health beyond conventional cancer care.

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