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What is Integrative Oncology and how does it benefit your cancer journey?

By: Carolyn Barnes, MD

What is integrative oncology?

Integrative oncology is an approach to cancer care that utilizes various supportive therapies to complement traditional cancer treatment method such as medical oncology, radiation therapy or surgery. It helps use your own immune system and your natural faculties, such as your mind and spirit, to optimize your body to stay strong throughout the cancer treatment process and beyond.

Why should I consider integrative oncology?

Throughout my 8 years of treating patients, I have seen firsthand the shock and feeling of helplessness when a person is diagnosed with cancer. Integrative oncology offers a sense of empowerment and ability to take back some control over their life and cancer journey.

Additionally, when used in conjunction with standard treatment methods, these integrative offerings can help manage side effects, provide stress relief and may even help with treatment adherence and results.

How does integrative oncology work with my treatment plan?

When a patient comes in for their consultation, I work with them to create a personalized plan that utilizes both conventional treatments and integrative services to help meet their treatment goals. For example, I will order lab tests to help me understand a patient’s current nutritional needs and stress levels, which will help me understand what additional resources they need to be referred for, such as a nutritionist, support group or counselor. Working together with the patient, I monitor them throughout treatment.

What are some myths about integrative oncology?

Myth #1

  • Integrative oncology is alternative medicine and rejects modern medicine.


  • Integrative oncology works in conjunction with your surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy to help your immune system combat cancer, help you recover from treatment and lower stress levels that can contribute to the cancer growth. 1




Myth #2 

  • Integrative oncology is just a set of additional therapies and supplements. I can do this on my own and do not need an expert.


  • Your cancer treatment plan is customized to your current state of health, type of cancer and many other factors. Some additional therapies or supplements may actually be harmful to you during your cancer journey and that is why you need to consult your physician before making changes that might affect your ability to recover and properly heal from your cancer. 2

How do I start my integrative oncology journey?

You can request a consultation from one of our radiation oncologists who offer integrative oncology as part of their cancer care program. From their our doctors can order the appropriate functional medicine tests to help identify an appropriate integrative oncology regiment based on your individual needs and goals.


Metastatic Cancer Patient

About Carolyn Barnes, MD

Dr. Carolyn Barnes is a Board Certified Radiation Oncologist. She completed her undergraduate education in Biology-Chemistry at Point Loma Nazarene University where she graduated Magna Cum Laude. She subsequently attended Loma Linda University School of Medicine and completed her residency training in Radiation Oncology at the same institution. During her training, she was Chief Resident and participated in several studies using proton therapy to treat benign brain tumors and rare cancers of the eye. Her work has been presented on the national stage.