February 3, 2010

Complementary medicine and cancer care in Australia – far from best practice

Posted in brisbane, health, life tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 1:18 pm by Margi Macdonald

Recently I’ve reflected upon progress towards a greater integration of complementary therapies with Australian biomedical oncology practices and attitudes.

My reflections arose after a recent enquiry about my work.

Here’s my edited response to that particular heart-felt enquiry.

I can definitely offer appropriate therapies to help your friend through the rigors of  treatment, and the whole ‘thing’ of dealing with cancer.

Mine is a compassionate, gentle, supportive style of practice, which places the client and her/his unique needs at the centre of the process.

I have a brochure which outlines all of this.

This week, I am facilitating an information session with a cancer support group at a regional private hospital. The group is a satellite of a larger support program offered in Brisbane, where in times past, I’ve presented information sessions.

Two medical oncologists – mainstream – sometimes refer people to me, but sadly, they wait until people have very advanced disease.

I am definitely a Complementary practitioner; my work is informed by the work, research and programs offered in the USA for a decade now, at places such as the MD Anderson Cancer Center Houston; Memorial Sloane-Kettering Cancer Center in New York; and other centres such as Dana Farber, and Alta Bates Summit. I just dropped my membership of the US-based Society of Integrative Oncology. I attended the SIO conference in Atlanta in late 2008. Mindblowing.

I rarely prescribe herbal medicines or supplements while folk are receiving chemotherapy, and if I do, it’s in consultation with their medical oncologists.

Best practice oncology in the USA, and some European countries – which very definitely incorporates Complementary therapies – is ten years ahead of the antiquated practices and attitudes in this country.

I consider that given the emerging overseas evidence – clinical, empirical and anecdotal – Australian oncologists are bordering on negligence in their failure to actively seek to understand Complementary therapies, and direct their patients to credible practitioners.

I hope I am able to help your friend.

I wish it was different here, I really do, and I am perplexed and increasingly irritated at the blinkered vision and conservative attitudes which pervade the thinking of too many medical practitioners in this country.

I cannot understand why it is that most oncologists here, seem ignorant of the therapies, programs and facilities offered to cancer patents and their families in some of the world’s most prestigious, highly regarded institutions.

And what stage do we call attitudes and platitudes such as the ones below negligence, and not just plain ignorance, and a distinct lack of compassion and insight into the needs and lives of people living with cancer?

These comments were made to me by Australian oncologists within the last three years.

”I’m just too busy to find out about it”

“My peers would give me a hard time if they knew I was doing this”

“I let the patients figure it out and make the choices themselves”

I know that there remain equally disturbing levels of ignorance, and antiquated and blinkered thinking, in certain sectors of the natural medicine world. There are, sadly, still some absolute quacks out there, whose practices and attitudes are ego-driven, unkind, and negligent.

How do we integrate the best of biomedicine, with powerful and effective healing arts and sciences?

Do leave a comment.

This is important.

To see how the ‘big guns’ in cancer treatment and research are including Complementary therapies in their care of people touched by cancer, follow the links listed below.

If you are living with cancer, or love someone who is, consider asking the oncologists involved, why Australians don’t receive the levels of care available at these centres.

Place…of Wellness MDAnderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas

Integrative Medicine Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York

Complementary Therapy Programs & Support Groups Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, California

Zakim Center for Integrative Therapies, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston

Cautions and care

These pages are for information purposes only, and are not a substitute for the correct care and attention of appropriately qualified and experienced health care professionals. If you have a concern about your emotional or physical health, seek the advice of your preferred health practitioner.

© Unless stated otherwise, all images and content here are the property of Margi Macdonald.

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2 Comments »

  1. Hi Margi,
    What lovely comments- and useful outrage. Complementary medicine- including talk therapies, yoga, meditation, and the use of herbs and scents to promote wholeness, is often ignored because it is “too simple.”
    Like the man who was told to stay out of the hot sun if he wanted to avoid a stroke, and replied that was “too easy,” and so baked in the sun and had another stroke, society will suffer the consequences of confusing the ideas of simplicity and uselessness until it opens itself to the concept of easeful, peaceful, and useful work with others.

    • margihealing said,

      Hi Lynn
      those words…easeful…peaceful…useful…simple…are so often excluded from the thinking of many who work within biomedical oncology.
      I dream of the day when it will be otherwise.
      Delightful to hear from you – as ever.


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