NEW YORKA person-centered holistic approach to the practice of
oncology involves the integration of current state-of-the-art Western
therapies with nutritional supplementation and other less traditional
methods, including meditation, music and sound therapy, and guided
imagery techniques, said Mitchell L. Gaynor, MD, director of medical
oncology and of the Integrative Medicine Program, Strang-Cornell
Cancer Prevention Center, New York.
Dr. Gaynor spoke at a symposium sponsored by the journal Alternative
Therapies in Health and Medicine and the SUNY Stony Brook Center for
Many patients perceive a diagnosis of cancer as an
instant death sentence, and this is followed by a tidal wave of fear.
Because of this, physicians must not lose sight of their power to
heal their patients, he said. Healing differs from curing
a person, which only addresses the physical aspects of a condition.
Dr. Gaynors approach involves more than simply discussing the
diagnosis and planned treatment with the patient; it calls for open
and frank communication between the physician and patient about the
patients fears and concerns. Some patients may not
realize they need to talk with their doctor about their cancer, not
only to learn about their disease but to free themselves from their
own expectations about what will happen to them, he said.
This is caring on a much deeper level than most physicians provide.
In addition, Dr. Gaynor obtains a nutritional history and suggests
certain foods or supplements that might help cancer patients.
Nutrition is of paramount importance in cancer prevention and
may also play a role in treatment, he said. Only within the
past 5 years have data begun to emerge from reputable scientific
journals attesting to the efficacy of many naturally found
phytonutrients in cancer prevention, he noted.
In a review of this literature, he cited many compounds now shown to
have various protective biochemical characteristics (Table). A
comprehensive review of this material can be found in Dr.
Gaynors book (Dr. Gaynors Cancer Prevention Program,
Kensington Books, 1998).
Not only are phytonutrients important, but vitamins C, E,
A, and minerals like selenium, calcium, and zinc are also necessary
for a diet optimized to lower cancer risk, Dr. Gaynor said.
Furthermore, he said that several of these agents have been shown to
have synergistic effects with more conventional cancer therapy. He
expects these data will figure more prominently into routine oncology
practice in the future, especially as more studies are completed.
Although the dissemination of this type of information is the
weak link in the chain of communication among researchers, doctors,
and patients, everyone is becoming more aware of these nutritional
modalities, he said.
Dr. Gaynor also urges patients to practice meditative exercises,
using sound and guided imagery to focus their mental energy, gather
their fears, and rationally and confidently strive to improve their
quality of life while undergoing treatment.
While we may not be able to cure many patients with advanced
cancer, the use of music, meditation, nutrition, positive feedback
through discussion, and conventional medicine can all work together
to improve patients outlook and help them enjoy their
lives, he said.
Dr. Gaynor has a new book (Sounds of Healing A Physician
Reveals the Therapeutic Power of Sound, Voice, and Music, Broadway
Books, 1999) and a CD, also called Sounds of Healing. The CD features
Tibetan and quartz singing bowls, gongs, the shakuhachi (a Japanese
flute), and overtone chanting. It is available through 1-800-777-2002
or at the website www.hickey-gaynor.com.