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Another big step forward for Integrative approach

14 Jun 2021

Launch of innovative Integrative Oncology course for Healthcare Professionals

These are exciting times. While Integrative Oncology is well-established in the US and other countries it is relatively new to most healthcare professionals in the UK – but there is now a strong and growing interest.

The British Society for Integrative Oncology ( defines Integrative Oncology as a patient-centred, evidence-informed field of cancer care that utilises nutritional, lifestyle and complementary interventions alongside conventional cancer treatments to support better quality of life, improve resilience, minimise the side effects of treatment and improve outcomes. This is all what Yes to Life has been about supporting for over 15 years.

It seems quite extraordinary to me that there has been so apparent little interest and even resistance in the past to taking an integrative approach. Indeed a too common story is that of patients trying to share or ask their oncologist about integrative approaches only to be met with indifference or even hostility. We also see how incredibly busy those medical teams are – how can they possibly be an expert in so many areas?

Yet patients are exploring integrative approaches – an astonishing 83% of cancer patients now take a supplement, 69% take three or more and over 70% use at least one complementary therapy including exercise, change of diet, yoga and meditation – all things we know from research improve their health and make them stronger and more able to fight cancer.

It is worth remembering that a serious cancer diagnosis is not a situation to just ‘throw things at’ in the vague hope they might work. Our health professionals do know their stuff about conventional treatment – but often have limited knowledge in other areas. For example an oncologist will usually only have had a few hours training in nutrition, whereas a nutritionist will have immersed themselves in nutrition, often for years and some will have specialised in cancer, keeping up to date with the latest research.

An integrative approach can give us the best of all worlds. Yet we see too often that it is made so much harder for those of us with cancer if there is not support or understanding from our health team. If you’ve part of Wigwam, our community of people living with and beyond cancer (a project of Yes to Life), then you’ll know this is a rapidly evolving field of science with much to offer to patients. The huge range of possibilities can be overwhelming and even intimidating, leading to many of us having difficulty in knowing how to find what is right for ourselves.

Where can you find good information?

Last September we saw the Your Life and Cancer event which was the largest integrative cancer event ever held in the country (and will happen again this Autumn). The two weekends saw over 700 people living with or beyond cancer, participate and more who were unable to attend purchased videos of the event (see videos here soon). There are already plans for another Your Life and Cancer this Autumn. This is great and we know quite a number of participants took information back to their medical team and a few have reported interest.

Of course we also have other Yes to Life events like our recent Congress weekend looking at nutrition (see great blog summary here) and our regular Forums that are usually available here on the Wigwam website.

We’ve also seen last month’s Integrative Oncology conference – the first in the UK of it’s kind – over 370 health professionals joined, with over a quarter of those coming from statutory health services; oncologists, surgeons, nurses, radiographers and more (see here). Things are changing and now there is another part of the answer to helping our medical teams at least be aware of the growing science around integrative approaches: a comprehensive Introduction to Integrative Oncology course for healthcare professionals is just being launched and many of us hope it will prove to be another part of the shift to change cancer care. Indeed I’ve already pointed my own oncologist to this opportunity and even if they don’t sign up now they can’t help but hear that things are changing in cancer healthcare.

Here’s what the website says: “This new introductory course is designed to provide healthcare professionals with an overview of Integrative Oncology, looking at all the resources available, the role they can play in cancer care, who the providers are, and the evidence for efficacy and safety. Delegates will complete the 11-module Introduction with sufficient understanding of integrative modalities to confidently refer their patients on at times and in situations where Integrative Medicine may be able to help.

“The Course Presenters are highly qualified professionals, many of them recognised leaders in their respective disciplines. Each Module has been specifically designed by its presenter for the target audience of healthcare professionals looking to gain a robust understanding of the potential of Integrative Medicine to support and extend the care they offer to those with cancer”.

See more about the course at:

The course also helps launch Yes to Life’s ‘Horizons’ – a new channel for professional development featuring e-learning training modules by highly qualified experts, all focused on raising standards in oncology through integration. This channel in itself is another exciting development where we hope to grow learning for healthcare professionals.

Integrative Oncology makes sense. It is a win-win. Patients are doing better, feeling more in control with fewer side effects and better outcomes. Pharmaceutical companies are seeing approaches like fasting make their drugs work better. All the evidence around exercise indicates potentially huge financial savings for services and better outcomes for patients.

We still have lots to learn and all this may seem too slow – but when I talk to folks who have been trying to make change for many, many years they see a real shift. Exciting times indeed.

Don’t forget!