CAMLAW: Complementary and Alternative Medicine Law Blog

Cancer patients lacking nutritional support

According to an online poll conducted on, an online cancer community, only 30 percent of cancer patients are offered nutritional guidance.

The information below is from a reporting on the poll that appeared on Nov. 6 in PRNewswire. Note that the Society for Integrative Oncology hold its 3rd annual conference in a few days in Boston. Presenters will offer evidence-based report on a variety of approaches to integrative cancer treatment, including integration of acupuncture and massage.

The conference is presented in collaboration with: Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; Dana Farber Cancer Institute; The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center; American Cancer Society; American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO); Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation; National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM)

The Society for Integrative Oncology (SIO) is a non-profit, multi-disciplinary organization founded in 2003 for health professionals committed to the study and application of complementary therapies and botanicals for cancer patients. It provides a convenient forum for presentation, discussion and peer review of evidence-based research and treatment modalities in the discipline known as integrative medicine. It makes a clear distinction between \"alternative\" or unproven and \"complementary\" or tested useful therapies in cancer care.


More than 600 cancer patients responded to the poll that asked them, "While undergoing cancer treatment, which of the following complementary therapies did your treating facility offer?" Services included acupuncture, nutritional advice, naturopathic services, mind-body medicine, physical therapy, spiritual wellness and family counseling.

Fifty-three percent of respondents were offered no complementary services at all. According to Dr. Edgar Staren, senior vice president of clinical affairs and chief medical officer at Cancer Treatment Centers of America, "The lack of attention to treating the whole person among cancer patients has been a shortcoming in cancer treatment for a long time. While often effective, too many hospitals choose only to cut, poison or blast away at tumors with not enough attention paid to how treatments affect a patient's quality of life or even their survival. In many cases, patients may suffer because of side effects and complications caused by treatment practices with little consideration for the well-being of the whole person."

A December 2005 report published by the National Cancer Institute stated that as many as 40 percent of cancer deaths are caused by malnutrition.(i)

Cancer Treatment Centers of America provides a revolutionary approach to cancer treatment, using the latest medical technology combined with scientifically supported complementary and alternative medical therapies focused on the individual, whole-person needs of each patient....Cancer Treatment Centers of America developed its unique whole person integrated model of care to utilize every clinical and natural tool in the fight against cancer.

"This poll indicates that one of the most valued - not to mention clinically important - options is not offered nearly frequently enough," said Timothy Birdsall, ND, vice president of integrative medicine at Cancer Treatment Centers of America. "A solid nutrition program can help keep a cancer patient's immune system strong, even in the face of a disease like cancer and treatments such as chemotherapy. One of the greatest weapons in fighting any disease is the body's immune system. Cancer and the treatments we use to destroy tumors have the potential to have a devastating impact on the immune system. By the time most hospitals decide that malnutrition is a problem, it is often too late. But, if we intervene early, the results can be quite dramatic."

Patients at Cancer Treatment Centers of America facilities have a nutritionist and naturopath as part of their treatment team, working alongside their oncologist and other medical and clinical professionals.

"We treat patients with some of the most complex third- and fourth-stage cancer cases," said Dr. Staren. "We use advanced surgical techniques and the latest radiation and chemotherapy treatments like TomoTherapy and fractionated dose chemotherapy. Our experience in fighting cancer along side our patients has taught us that their best chance for survival goes well beyond technology. It also requires active nutritional support and other complementary therapies like mind-body medicine, spiritual support, family counseling and more."

(i) Nutrition and Cancer Care, National Cancer Institute, December 5, 2005.

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Michael H. Cohen, Esq.; 468 North Camden Dr. | Beverly Hills, California 90210 | 310-844-3173