From John Sacco, MD, Radiation Oncologist and Integrative Medicine Specialist

June 15, 2021

Sacco-John-F-MD-2017 OHC

John Sacco, MD, Radiation Oncologist and Integrative Medicine Specialist at OHC

This month, National Cancer Survivors Month, gives us an opportunity to celebrate the approximately 17 million cancer survivors in the U.S. We also recognize their family members, friends, and caregivers who have been on the survivorship journey with them.

An individual is considered a cancer survivor from the time of diagnosis through the balance of his/her life. There are several possible physical, mental, emotional, social, and financial effects related to both a cancer diagnosis and the period of adjustment after completing treatment. Cancer Survivors Month provides OHC with a timely opportunity to introduce a series of helpful tips incorporating integrative medicine into the healing process.

Integrative medicine considers the whole patient and uses both conventional and evidence-based complimentary approaches to optimize health and improve quality of life. This series will focus on my five pillars of good health: stress reduction, sleep hygiene, nutrition, exercise, and social connectivity.

Let’s dive deeper into the first pillar of good health: stress reduction. Studies have shown that a cancer patient’s stress level is high at the time of diagnosis, decreases during treatment, and then increases again post-treatment. While coping with the physical effects of treatment like fatigue, loss of appetite, and neuropathy, patients also must adjust to their new normal. Many ask themselves: What now? What if the cancer comes back? What if my support system leaves me?

Following are some helpful stress reduction tips for all of us:

  • Practice breathing exercises for 15-20 minutes once or twice a day. Use a 4-7-8 count: breathe in for four seconds, hold the breath for seven seconds, then breathe out for eight seconds.
  • Take a mindfulness-based stress reduction course (MBSR) like the one offered for free at this site: palousemindfulness.com
  • Use apps like Headspace, Calm, and Insight Timer that offer guided meditations.
    • insighttimer.com: free app for sleep, anxiety, and stress
    • headspace.com: free trial, then fee-based sleep exercises, audio experiences, meditations, and workouts
    • calm.com: app for sleep, meditation, and relaxation; free trial, then subscription
  • Attend a support group. Cancer Support Community and Cancer Family Care are local organizations with a variety of support programs for patients and family members.
  • Begin journaling by writing down your daily thoughts and feelings.
  • Stay physically active even if it is only walking around the house, gardening, cleaning, or light yoga.

Stress reduction is an important part of physical well-being. My colleagues and I are available to surround patients with all they need to transition into the new phase of life following treatment. For more information on survivorship or to request a second opinion, visit ohcare.com or call 1-888-649-4800.

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