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 Complementary/Alternative Medicine.
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(Drug information on 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.