Dr. Roger Rogers and I founded InspireHealth sixteen years ago, on the belief that it is important to treat the whole patient, not just the disease. When a patient’s general health is good and his or her immune system is strong, the body’s natural defenses are better able to keep cancer ‘in check’. A healthy immune system is influenced by healthy lifestyle choices: good nutrition, regular physical activity, stress management, strong social connections, limiting exposure to environmental toxins, and finding joy, connection, and meaning in our lives.
Research in cancer immunology is confirming the importance of our body’s immune system and the ‘environment’ of our body in controlling cancer.A recent article on The Scientist website, summarizing research presented at the American Association for Cancer Research annual conference, confirms that immune cells within the tumor microenvironment—immune cells in and around the tumour— play a significant role in how the disease will progress. That is to say, the speed of growth of the cancer cells depends on the immune cells in and around the tumour. The immune cells and the health of the patient are critical to the outcome of the cancer diagnosis.
When we opened our first centre in Vancouver, 16 years ago, these concepts were not commonplace in medicine or in the media. It is heartening to see the growing interest in the importance of health and of supporting immune system function. The media is abuzz with articles about the importance of vitamin D, healthy diet, exercise and engagement in health. Today, more and more people are embracing the real meaning of catch phrases such as “living your passion” and “work/life balance”. A trend towards taking personal responsibility for health is on the rise. This mindful and healthful movement is shifting from grassroots to mainstream right before our eyes.
Businesses all around us are responding to this movement. Yoga studios abound, and meditation is no longer considered a fringe activity. Grocery chains are adding nutrition experts to their marketing teams to assist shoppers in making healthier choices. And those healthy choices are increasing exponentially each year.British Columbia continues to lead the way with grocery chains such as Choices, Nature’s Fare and Whole Foods providing extensive selections of healthier options and, in the larger mainstream chains such as Real Canadian Superstore and Safeway, the organic food sections continue to expand. Steven Burd, CEO of Safeway recently stated, “Today we’re a super market company… selling wellness services and wellness products. I think in 10 years’ time we’ll be thought of more as a wellness company selling food.”
Major medical centres in the US, including Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center—the world’s oldest and largest cancer hospital—provide Integrative Medicine Services that complement the mainstream cancer care they provide. MD Anderson Cancer Center, another leading US cancer centre, has an evidence-based Integrative Medicine Program focused on engaging patients to take an active part in their health on all levels. Their stated mission is “to engage patients with cancer and their families to become active partners in their own physical, psycho-spiritual, and social health through personalized evidence-based clinical care…”
In the United States, 55 academic medical centres and institutions comprise the Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine whose mission is to advance the principles of integrative healthcare within academic institutions.
Here in Canada, the Ottawa Integrative Cancer Care Centre opened in 2011, the first of its kind in eastern Canada. Other Canadian hospitals and cancer centres have begun offering components of integrative care.
At InspireHealth, we are proud to have been a pioneer and leader of integrative medicine in Canada, and are inspired by the growing movement that is transforming the way we think of health care.
Dr. Hal Gunn
Co-Founder and CEO