Integrative oncology

Michael Thomsen recently went to not just one, but three international cancer conferences:
I was awarded a travel scholarship to present on the state of integrative oncology in Australia at the annual conference of the Society for Integrative oncology in Houston, USA.
It was a wonderful conference with great presentations from passionate clinicians, researchers and patient advocates – all working to improve cancer treatment, care and survivorship.
Integrative oncology is a relatively new concept in Australia, yet it is estimated that one in every four cancer patients in Australia use complementary therapies.
For example, 87% of breast cancer patients reported using CAM. The most commonly used therapies are dietary and psychological support, botanicals, relaxation, meditation, vitamins and positive imagery. 40% of patients do not discuss their use of CAM with their physician.
The Consortium of Academic Health Centres for Integrative Medicine defines integrative medicine as “the practice of medicine that reaffirms the importance of the relationship between practitioner and patient, focuses on the whole person, is informed by evidence, and makes use of all appropriate therapeutic approaches, healthcare professionals, and disciplines to achieve optimal health and healing”[1].
Integrative oncology has been specifically described as both a science and a philosophy that focuses on the complex health of people with cancer and proposes an array of approaches to accompany the conventional therapies of surgery, chemotherapy, molecular therapeutics, and radiotherapy to facilitate health [2].
These other approaches include naturopathy, herbal and nutritional medicines, specific exercises, yoga, oncology massage, relaxation and stress reduction and other body-mind techniques and many more complementary therapies.
It was especially affirming to mingle with medical and radiation oncologists as an equal. The past and current presidents of the Society for Integrative Oncology are both naturopaths. In these circles, naturopaths are respected health practitioners with as much to contribute to the care of cancer patients as any other practitioner.

Clinical Oncology Society of Australia

The second conference was the annual scientific meeting of the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia (COSA). I only managed to get to a few lectures and selected the presentations on integrative oncology. One of the highlights was the use of medical cannabis in the treatment of cancer pain. 
Donald Abrams, M.D. is chief of the Hematology-Oncology Division at San Francisco General Hospital and a Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of California San Francisco. He has an Integrative Oncology consultation practice at the UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine. 

You can view a presentation by Dr Abrams  on medical cannabis online

Link to study on medical cannabis and pain control

Come on Tasmania’s government - get these medical cannabis trials underway. A new source of income for Tasmania and a great medicine for cancer patients. The use of cannabis should be legalised now.

World Cancer Congress

The third conference was the World Cancer Congress organised by the Cancer Council of Australia and the Union for International Cancer Control in partnership with the UN, WHO and many other international organisations.
One presentation was frightening. It was on the obesity epidemic and the increased risk of cancer. The pattern is the same as previously for tobacco.
Much is known about tobacco and cancer risk and it appears that we can virtually replace the word tobacco with obesity and the same horrific scenario emerges.
There is a lag period from the peak of the obesity epidemic and the level of cancer of 20 years.
This means that in spite of tackling the obesity epidemic today we will see a tremendous peak in cancer 20 years from now.  The researchers are calling for a campaign like the antismoking campaign.
They are calling for a tax on unhealthy food, a ban on TV advertising of fast and unhealthy food, educational campaigns etc. 
I suggest plain packaging chips and lollies and taking fast food companies to court for lying about the health risks of their products!
Michael Thomsen
Michael is an experienced naturopath and herbalist with over 28 years experience. He has a Master of Science, Graduate School of Integrative Medicine at Swinburne University. Michael has a special interest in Integrative Oncology and works in close collaboration with Hobart Hyperthermia featuring a German whole-body infrared hyperthermia system used to care for cancer patients.
Naturopathic Cancer Support Caren at Hobart Naturopath


  1. Kligler B, Maizes V, Schachter S, et al. Core competencies in integrative medicine for medical school curricula: a proposal. Acad Med 2004; 79: 521– 31.
  2. Sagar SM. The integrative oncology supplement—a paradigm for both patient care and communication. Curr Oncol 2008; 15: 166 – 7.