Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Complementary and Alternative Medicine For patients, families, and healthcare workers, navigating through the myriad of available therapies for cancer can be a daunting task. This is made more complex by the inherent heterogeneity in the types and causes of cancer. While traditional (standard) therapies for cancer such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery remain the mainstays of cancer treatment, alternative therapies for cancer have garnered interest from all stakeholders for their promise as perhaps not primary but complementary therapies. There are many terms that describe these alternative therapies, including “holistic”, “complementary”, and “naturopathic”. A commonly used moniker that seems to encompass many of these terms is “Complementary and Alternative Medicine”, also termed “CAM”. Interestingly, the term CAM seems to be somewhat a paradox. Complementary seems to suggest one therapy in addition to another, while alternative implies one therapy instead of another. Therein may lie some of confusion associated with this term. This confusion contributes to the controversy surrounding the use of CAM in many diseases, including cancer. Complementary and Alternative Medicine includes such modalities as acupuncture, dietary modification, exercise, hypnosis, and yoga. For example, a very good friend of mine was diagnosed with advanced lymphoma about six months ago. In addition to traditional chemotherapy, he embarked on an aggressive regimen that included dietary optimization (for example, nutritional support), exercise, and positive thinking. This routine accelerated once the chemotherapy began, and even more so in advance of his stem cell (bone marrow) transplant a few weeks ago. While the typical hospital stay after bone marrow transplant is about 30 days, his stay lasted only 12 days. This was a record...

REVIEW: EMPEROR OF ALL MALADIES

Death is inevitable, and since about 3000 BC, what we now know as cancer has existed. Today, cancer is behind only heart disease as the leading cause of death in the United States. The statistics are frightening: about 50% of men and 33% of women will develop cancer during their lifetime. Since the incidence (new cases) of cancer increases with age, one can expect that the longer life is extended with modern medicine, the rates of cancer may remain high for the foreseeable future. Grimmer is the fact that despite the reduction in certain preventable types of cancer such as lung cancer, the rates of cancer continue to increase, not decrease. The word cancer was first used by the famous physician Hippocrates, who described tumors as carcinos or carcinoma. Cancer has been described in many different ways, but the most logical definition is to that cancer is the phenomenon when normal cells change and begin rapidly dividing, forming two cells from one. This rapid growth exceeds that of normal cells, owing to unrelenting growth of tumors and other forms of cancer. Even for physicians, understanding the causes of cancer can be complex and confusing. Unfortunately, we are likely at our infancy in understanding cancer. As a result, we have spent the past few centuries attempting radical treatments, with very modest success. Many scientists, clinicians, and other scholars have tried to enhance our understating of cancer. More challenging has been our attempts to convey these thoughts and theories to the public. Indeed, the public has faced cancer in their families and friends, with a dearth of knowledge about what causes cancer...

INTERVIEW: Louise Knight, Director of Patient and Family Services, JHH Oncology

CAC: Please describe your general roles as the Oncology Social Worker at JHH. Louise Knight: On the adult side of the Kimmel Cancer Center, the oncology social workers take care of the mental health of our patients and families, which is easier to refer to as psychosocial health. The social component can be related to community, financial, and insurance aspects. The other two categories are the spiritual and the practical. Our brochure includes all of the most important information about the type of support that we provide. We’re looking to provide those services to patients who have either self-identified or have recognized issues, problems, or needs. People are often very good about identifying a concrete or practical reason that would drive them to the office – that is typically how most people will self-identify. We identify categories on the brochure with simplistic, one-word phrasing that is at the appropriate adult reading level. As an example, people may come to talk about one of the categories in the brochure, such as a money or legal issue, as opposed to being able to readily articulate what it is that they need in their own terms. This is how patients will come to talk to a social worker on the outpatient team. We then might assess if there is an emotional or psychological issue going on within the patient or family. We may also further assess if there are spiritual needs, and can then refer to our highly skilled in-house chaplain or palliative medicine team. We become the assessor of what the patient’s needs are in addition to the item that the...

John L. Champion Memorial Scholarship

Seneca Friend from Long Reach High School receiving the Champions Against Cancer John L. Champion Memorial Scholarship in May 2016   Jordan Stanford from Long Reach High School receiving the Champions Against Cancer John L. Champion Memorial Scholarship in May 2016   Alexander Gilbert from Long Reach High School receiving the Champions Against Cancer John L. Champion Memorial Scholarship in May...

HOW DOES A COMMUNITY SURVIVE?

By Doug Silverstein, President, Champions Against Cancer Yet another friend and neighbor in Howard County has passed away after a long battle with cancer.  I felt privileged to know him. As I reflect on the devastating loss, I realize that cancer is not about one person, but really about the community in which we live and where we share our hopes, dreams, and laughs. Champions Against Cancer was formed in honor and memory of John Champion, who lost a 10-month battle with lymphoma. John inspired us to come together to help our community. Perhaps you have been motivated by someone else to help a friend, donate your time, or simply share a story. We in Howard County have watched many family members, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances face the scourge of cancer. We’ve watched as cancer ravaged their bodies, and at times, their souls. Moreover, cancer left a scar among those in our community who cared for and loved them. These battles can make cancer seem unrelenting and unbeatable. At other times, it can feel even worse. Cancer can leave one with the feeling of inevitable doom. Indeed, given the daunting statistics of cancer rates, one cannot escape the impression that down the next alley is the enemy against which we have a paucity of defense options. Amidst those times of despondency, we can and must find solace. Cancer victims fight cancer with dynamism, elegance, and benevolence. They can inspire us to reach within ourselves and find our inner compassion. Indeed, while cancer shines a light on the patient, it often shines a brighter light on the caretaker. I watched...