Faced with cancer, many patients turn to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in hopes of improving clinical outcomes, controlling symptoms, and enhancing quality of life. A large national survey found that 60% of cancer patients use at least one type of CAM. Patients’ CAM use can be influenced by cultural beliefs, expectations, and family and social support. Use of alternative medicine instead of conventional treatment for curing cancer has been associated with worsened survival; however, certain CAM approaches—such as yoga, meditation, acupuncture, and massage—can improve symptom control and quality of life for patients and survivors. Therefore, practicing oncologists and healthcare professionals must know which CAM approaches are safe and effective, and which are risky, so they can have informed discussions with their patients.
In recent years, integrative oncology has emerged as a scientific and clinical discipline that rigorously researches evidence-based CAM therapies and integrates them into conventional cancer treatment strategies to meet the diverse needs of cancer patients and their families. In the United States, leaders in oncology—including growing numbers of National Cancer Institute–designated cancer centers—have established programs and centers dedicated to providing integrative care for patients during and beyond cancer treatment.
Established in 2003, the Society for Integrative Oncology (SIO) is a nonprofit, international, multidisciplinary professional organization whose mission is to advance evidence-based, comprehensive, integrative healthcare in order to improve the lives of people affected by cancer. Through educational conferences, webinars, guidelines, publications, task forces, and more, SIO helps its nearly 500 members from 21 countries pursue goals of excellence in comprehensive patient care, enhancement of anticancer therapy, supportive care, and cancer prevention.
In recognition of the increasing presence of integrative oncology in clinical oncology, SIO is excited to join forces with the journal ONCOLOGY. Through this partnership, SIO offers its members access to ONCOLOGY and to the CancerNetwork website, giving them information relevant to the rapidly changing clinical oncology field. It also allows SIO to provide practicing oncology clinicians with timely, evidence-based, peer-reviewed information about integrative medicine. Through this vital new partnership, SIO and ONCOLOGY seek to make integrative medicine part of standard clinical oncology practice, and to help physicians and patients make informed decisions about CAM to maximize benefits and minimize harms. Ultimately, the best medicine is what works for the individual patient—physically, psychologically, and spiritually.
Acknowledgments: Dr. Mao is funded in part by a National Cancer Institute grant to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (grant number P30-CA008748) and by the Laurance S. Rockefeller Fund.
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