21 Jan Better Health, Together. How NDs and MDs are Collaborating to Advance Cancer Care
Better Health, Together. How NDs and MDs are Collaborating to Advance Cancer Care
By Dr. Mark Fontes, ND
While there may be differences between naturopathic doctors and medical doctors, they share the common goal of providing the best possible health outcomes for their patients.
There are an increasing number of examples of how naturopathic doctors are successfully working alongside medical doctors and other health care providers, leveraging both conventional medical treatments and complementary therapies. Many NDs work alongside MDs in multi-disciplinary settings including hospitals, medical clinics and community health centres.
For the past three years, I have been collaborating with Dr. Vijay Ramaswamy, a neuro-oncologist at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto, to support patients and their parents in all aspects of their cancer care.
An important component to this collaboration is safety. Studies have shown that four out of five pediatric oncology patients take some type of supplement, vitamin or herbal medicine product. I ensure there are no interactions between these supplements with any of the prescribed medications (including chemotherapy) patients are receiving.
Naturopathic cancer care also focuses on supporting quality of life during treatment by helping to reduce any side effects of chemotherapy, such as recommending options to reduce muscle cramps, improve sleep and increase energy levels. A naturopathic doctor can also provide specific dietary recommendations and, once treatment is complete, focus on ways to help prevent any complications or long-term side effects from treatment.
The patient cases Dr. Ramaswamy and I work on together highlight the importance of this collaborative care. I provide patients and their parents with dietary advice to help maintain a normal body mass index, which has been associated with better responses to chemotherapy and may reduce the risks of long-term side effects. I may recommend nutrient testing, such as Vitamin D and Vitamin B12, in order to correct for any deficiencies. I will also consider prescribing herbs and supplements to support the effects of medications prescribed to the patient. Throughout the care of all our patients, Dr. Ramaswamy and I consult on any updates or changes required in treatment recommendations.
The benefits of this type of medical collaboration are obvious, so why aren’t more physicians recommending it or patients requesting it? The answer, in part, may be because many people still consider naturopathic medicine alternative rather than complementary to conventional medicine. When the reality is, there are great potential benefits from our working together in support of the best possible outcomes for patients of any age.
The good news is that this outlook is starting to change. More people are aware of the benefits presented by complementary medicine and are interested in including it alongside the care they receive from their medical doctors and other healthcare providers. I’m very proud to be working with doctors like Dr. Ramaswamy and his team, to bring comprehensive, integrative care to Canadians.
Dr. Mark Fontes ND is a naturopathic doctor at Insight Naturopathic Clinic in Toronto and Chair of the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors