Your Holistic Cancer Care Team

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Team of nurses and doctors
  • Like many long-term events, cancer treatment is a journey. No one single care provider can meet all your needs. A holistic approach to cancer care is one that considers all aspects of the person undergoing treatment—their physical needs, their emotional concerns, even their spiritual situation.

    It takes a team to provide a truly integrative approach to cancer care, which can include diet, lifestyle, stress management and other therapies alongside conventional medical treatments. A holistic cancer care team can address all of your needs by connecting you with the right people.

  • 1
    Doctor and patient

    Your oncologist is a physician whose specialty is cancer—in short, a cancer doctor. You may have a medical oncologist, a surgical oncologist or a raditation oncologist—or some combination of physicians in those categories. Your oncologist’s job is to oversee the course of your treatment from diagnosis forward.

  • 2
    Oncology Nurse
    Woman Going Over Prescription With Nurse

    An oncology nurse will work closely with you, administering treatments and providing education about your care to you and your family. Your team may also include an oncology nurse practitioner—a nurse who has gained some additional education in this field.

  • 3
    Patient Navigator
    Businesswoman using technologies at desk in home office

    Knowing how to navigate your way through the maze that is a complex series of healthcare treatments is hard. A patient navigator is a healthcare professional who is trained to help guide you through the system. They also communicate with the rest of your team to better coordinate the care you receive.

  • 4
    Social Worker or Psychologist

    Feeling scared? Lonely? Despondent? Anxious? You are not alone. Many people with cancer experience these emotions. A social worker, counselor, or psychologist can work with you to identify your feelings and find ways to cope with them. They can also talk to you about your concerns about more mundane or everyday issues, such as getting back and forth to treatment or talking to your coworkers or friends about your experiences. 

  • 5
    Massage Therapist
    woman receiving massage

    As a part of your integrative cancer care team, a skilled massage therapist may be just what the doctor ordered. You may find that a massage helps you relax and feel calmer. Some people even report a decrease in other treatment-related symptoms, like swelling, pain or nausea, after getting a massage.

  • 6
    nutritionist pointing at nutrition label information

    Chemotherapy and other cancer treatments can affect not only your appetite but also your senses of smell and taste. You may feel nauseated, listless or completely uninterested in eating, or food may just taste or smell “off” to you. A registered dietitian or nutritionist can work with you to find foods that not only provide the nutrients your body needs but also taste good to you. They will also keep in mind any side effects like mouth sores that may be hampering your ability to eat normally.

  • 7
    Chaplain or Spiritual Guide
    priest comforting churchgoer in pew

    Cancer treatment can be daunting, and it may even challenge some of your spiritual beliefs. A chaplain, preacher, rabbi or other type of spiritual guide may be a welcome source of comfort at this difficult time.

  • 8
    Rehabilitation Therapist
    After surgery care

    Depending on the type of treatment you receive, you may need to work with a rehabilitation therapist of some sort. This could be a physical therapist or an occupational therapist (a healthcare professional who can help you work on regaining or strengthening skills necessary for the activities of daily living) or even a speech therapist. These professionals will help you work on skills or build strength so you can gain a higher level of independence.

  • 9
    Doctor holding acupuncture needle

    Acupucture or other types of complementary therapy are often included as part of an integrative cancer care treatment plan. Complementary therapies are therapies that are designed to treat the whole person, not just the symptom of a disease, and are often used alongside a conventional medical treatment. Talk to your oncology nurse or oncologist before deciding which type of therapy to try.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Jul 24

  1. Complementary and Alternative Methods and Cancer. American Cancer Society.

  2. Don't Be Fooled: How to Protect Yourself From Cancer Treatment Fraud. American Society of Clinical Oncology.

  3. Frisch NC. Standards for Holistic Nursing Practice: A Way to Think About Our Care That Includes Complementary and Alternative Modalities. Online Journal of Issues in Nursing. 2001 (6).

  4. Holistic Nursing Measures Can Control Symptoms Associated with Cancer Treatments. Oncology Nurse Advisor.

  5. Integrative Oncology: A Holistic Approach to Cancer Care. UPMC HealthBeat. UPMC Cancer Center.

  6. Integrative Medicine. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

  7. Lengacher CA, et al.  A Pilot Study Evaluating the Effect of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on Psychological Status, Physical Status, Salivary Cortisol, and Interleukin-6 Among Advanced-Stage Cancer Patients and Their Caregivers. Journal of Holistic Nursing. 30: 3. 170-185.

  8. ONS: Holistic Nursing Interventions Reduced Patient Anxiety, Nausea, and Pain During Hospitalization or RT Treatments. CancerNetwork.

  9. Types of Complementary Therapies. American Society for Clinical Oncology.

  10. What Kinds of Cancer Treatment Are There? American Cancer Society.

  11. Your Onocology Team. American Society of Clinical Oncology.

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