The early “integrative medicine” period clearly was one of “non-integrated integration.” The hospital or insurer wanted to throw the consumer an integrative bone in the competitive marketplace. They produced stand-alone integrative clinics or a carve-out insurance products. Offerings, in these forms, serve dual purposes. The medical delivery organization or insurer pleases patients by offering a little yoga, or acupuncture, or manipulative therapy or massage. At the same time, the non-integrated nature of what is offered pleases medical leadership: they are not asked to take the integrative methods seriously. They needn’t cross the medical-cultural divide to weigh whether the integrative approaches may be better than usual care. For most of the past decade, the Society for Integrative Oncology (SIO) has been building bridges across the chasm. Twice they’ve developed integrative oncology guidelines with mainstream oncology organizations. Now, through an unrestricted grant from the Samueli Foundation, SIO and the influential American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) are commencing a project to raise three additional girders to bridge treatments.
The raw data are stark. 40% of US adults in a recent poll believe that “cancer can be solely cured through alternative remedies.” Of young people aged 18-35, the percentage pushes up to nearly half, at 47%. Remarkably, 38% of family members and other caregivers to people with cancer agree. And 22% of cancer survivors do. These beliefs – a shocking contrast to a 2017 study that found that choosing alternatives increases risk of death 2.5 times – are a central reason that the cancer establishment needs integrative and naturopathic oncologists.