Which Options Best Suit You?

Key Points

  • Before considering therapies, focus on some key questions that will help define your goals, beliefs and comfort.
  • We don't tell you what to do, but we do want to be sure you're aware of all your options.
  • Be true to yourself in making decisions about your care.

Intuition in Healing Choices

A substantial scientific literature shows the power of intuition in making choices. Malcolm Gladwell’s 2005 book Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking provides a popular summary of the science. Correctly used, your intuition can be a key tool in making choices in conventional and integrative cancer care. 

Insight can be trained and cultivated. It can also be corrupted and misused. The right use of intuition is an invaluable tool.

Before considering therapies, focus on these questions:

  • What are your goals?
  • What are your beliefs regarding medical care?
  • What are you willing and able to do?

Goals

Would you prefer to:

  • Pursue a cure with a difficult diagnosis and difficult treatments at any cost
  • Focus on quality of life

Your goals will help you decide which treatments and therapies to pursue.

Beliefs

Some people trust mainstream medicine and are wary of anything outside it. Others trust complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies and are wary of conventional medicine. Still others are open-minded about both. What do you believe? Your comfort with various cancer-care approaches will help define your choices.

Willing and Able

What are you willing and able to undertake in terms of:

  • Medical procedures
  • Finances
  • Travel
  • Lifestyle changes

Answering these questions can help you focus on therapies and narrow the options to suit yourself. No one else can answer these questions for you. 

We Don’t Tell You What to Do

We don’t believe in telling you what treatments or therapies you should choose. But we do believe you should know what all your options are, including therapies and approaches that hold promise and those you should be cautious about.

Example 1: James

James is 80 years old and was recently diagnosed with stage I prostate cancer. He wants to trust his local oncologist and follow his advice. Interesting lifestyle therapy options are available for James, including the 7 healing practices and natural products. However, they involve deep changes in eating, exercise, stress management, and more.

James does not believe that lifestyle changes provide much benefit or that the effort would be worthwhile for him. Instead, he is drawn to options in mainstream therapies, including  surgery, radiation, and "wait and watch."

If James wants to trust his oncologist and live the way he has always lived, we don’t advise trying to change his mind. His cancer experience is his own, and no one else can write his story.  If James changes his mind at some point and wants to explore other options, he might see what other approaches resonate for him.

Example 2: Lisa

Lisa is a 25-year-old woman who was just diagnosed with stage II breast cancer. She hates the idea of surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy and wants to “try some natural therapies first.”

There are dangers to Lisa's approach. Breast cancer in early stages can respond well to conventional treatments, possibly being curable. If her cancer progresses to metastatic stage IV, conventional therapies will have little effect. Lisa has a decent chance for a lasting recovery using conventional therapies. Her best bet would be to integrate conventional and complementary therapies and not pursue complementary therapies alone.

When curative conventional therapies are available—and complementary and alternative therapies are rarely known to be reliably curative—we'd want Lisa to understand the risk she is taking if she declines or delays conventional therapies for too long.

Be True to Yourself

Your goals and beliefs may change over time. Who you are, what you believe, and what you are trying to accomplish matter in all cancer therapy and especially in integrative cancer therapies.

Explore your goals, beliefs, and how to work with a medical team by visiting our Questions for Your Care Providers page.

More Information

  • Commonweal: Healing Circles
  • Jeremy R. Geffen, MD, FACP: The Journey through Cancer: An Oncologist's Seven-Level Program for Healing and Transforming the Whole Person
  • Norman Cousins: Head First: The Biology of Hope and the Healing Power of the Human Spirit
  • National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: Are You Considering a Complementary Health Approach?

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