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The Medicine of the Mind

Program offers people a new (old) tool for fighting cancer

The power of the mind can be strong medicine. Through the Cancer Integrative Medicine Program at Rush University Medical Center, people who are battling cancer can learn to harness this power to promote healing.

TRADITIONAL MEDICINE REBORN The idea that the mind plays a role in physical health isn’t new. It can be traced to Hippocrates, who is often called the father of medicine, says Janine Gauthier, PhD, director of clinical services at the Cancer Integrative Medicine Program. But with the discovery of antibiotics and the invention of valuable medical tools such as the microscope and stethoscope, the focus of Western medicine turned to science and technology.

Unquestionably, technological advances have improved health care. However, experts increasingly realize that there may be something to those older ideas concerning the mind’s role in health. Scientific studies have now firmly established connections between the mind, body and well-being. Everyday experiences also demonstrate this link.

Think about being cut off while driving, Gauthier says. It may cause you to gasp, which triggers a reaction that makes your muscles tense, your heart rate accelerate and your blood pressure rise. That’s a protective response to help you deal with a threatening situation. But when you’re facing the ongoing stress of a cancer diagnosis, similar prolonged reactions can alter hormone levels and make your body less able to fight off internal threats — all at a time when you need that ability the most.

The Cancer Integrative Medicine Program makes use of several nonconventional treatments, including long-established medical therapies of other cultures, such as acupuncture. It also encourages you to take a more active role in your health care by using your mind to bolster your body’s ability to fight disease.

Some therapies are intended to help you challenge your perceptions of your situation, in order to lessen your stress and reduce the toll that stress takes on your body. Several therapies use breathing exercises or other strategies to help you relax.

A HOLISTIC APPROACH The program offers a wide variety of services, including nutrition and herbal counseling. All therapies and services are integrated into your conventional medical care — they never replace it.

Program staff work with you to determine which services might be useful in dealing with stress, anxiety, pain, fatigue and the side effects of treatment. Providers also work closely with your physicians to ensure that each chosen therapy is right for you. It’s all part of Rush’s commitment to treat the whole person, not just his or her illness, and it may lead to improved mood and coping skills, reduced pain and a better quality of life.

To learn more about the Cancer Integrative Medicine Program, call (888) 352-RUSH (7874).

Janine Gauthier, PhD, also serves as director of the Section of Psychosocial Oncology at Rush University Medical Center. Her research interests include integrative medicine, health-related quality of life, spiritual issues and coping in cancer patients.


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