Exploring Integrative Oncology (Part I: Switzerland)
Over the course of five days (Sept 24-28, 2022), nine naturopathic doctors from across Canada were invited for an all-expense paid trip to study and share integrative oncology insights at three integrative cancer clinics/hospitals located across Switzerland-Germany. I feel very fortunate to have been included in this contingent.
The trip started in beautiful Zurich, Switzerland at the Zentrum für Integrative Onkologie (Centre for Integrative Oncology), where we spent the day with the clinic’s medical director, Dr. Boris Hübenthal.
Now, imagine a clinic where the medical director has specialized in hematology and oncology, with a further practice specialty in naturopathic medicine! What’s more is that all therapies offered at Dr. Hübenthal’s clinic, conventional or complementary, chemotherapy or IV mistletoe, immunotherapy or hyperthermia - are all equally subsidized under the public healthcare umbrella.
Naturopathic medicine or natúrheilverfahren is a practice subspecialty of medical doctors in Switzerland, Austria and Germany. Doctors develop expertise in natural medicine through post-graduate courses and seminars i.e., Association of Physicians With Special Training in Naturopathy.
Beyond giving us a guided tour of the entire facility, Dr. Hübenthal shared with us complex clinical cases that highlighted his centre’s unique philosophical approach to care -an individualized and personalized approach to oncology, based on informed choice and education.
What impressed me most, was how his clinic was able to nimbly pivot, without ever compromising their clinical integrity. They never stopped integrating complementary medicine with the standards of care, no matter how dire the patient’s condition became. The two were always working together. For example, a patient never received chemotherapy without also administering mistletoe therapy -ever.
“I knew that for a patient’s oncology care to be complete, it has to involve more than just injecting poison into them…”, Dr. Hübenthal responded plainly when someone asked what drew him to natural medicine.
In one case of a triple positive breast cancer patient with metastasis to the brain, I was horrified thinking that ‘we’ (oncologists, naturopathic doctors, etc., in Canada), likely would have walked away from this case numerous times. So embedded are the horrifying statistics of this disease, we have built an entire industry that is perpetually waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop.
Dr. Hübenthal also spoke about the potential that integrative cancer clinics have in helping reduce patient stress because care plans can all be facilitated under one roof. We also discussed the role ‘hope’ in cancer care, which I thought brought a fascinating bookend to his clinical presentation.
To learn more about our clinic's supportive cancer care, please visit us at: https://www.wellnessdoctor.ca/supportive-cancer-care
A special thank you to Robbin Coedy and Sebastian Stockerl at Helixor (Canada/Germany) https://helixor.com/integrative-oncology/ for making this trip possible!