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Dr. Donald Abrams is a leading Integrative Oncologist at UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine and a Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of California San Francisco. In September, Dr. Abrams is speaking about integrative oncology at the upcoming virtual Cancer Wellness Symposium

Recently, we connected with Dr. Abrams regarding the impact of integrative medicine on cancer survivorship, book recommendations, and takeaways he hopes are available following our first annual Cancer Wellness Symposium.

Q: If a survivor is contemplating making lifestyle changes after cancer to improve their health but they aren’t sure where to start, what advice would you give them?

A: I like to recommend books such as Anti-Cancer by David Servan-Schreiber; it outlines an integrative approach to health and is aimed at people living beyond cancer. 

Information in that book was updated recently in a good new book called Anticancer Living by Lorenzo Cohen and Alison Jefferies. Another one is a book by Laura Naci called Cancer Has a Wakeup Call. It is also a nice read to set people on a path to lifestyle change that might promote cancer free longevity.

I’ll also plug a four part video series I did with Michael Learner at The New School of Commonweal in Bolinas, CA, containing a nice four-part video on integrative oncology, nutrition, supplements, and cannabis.

Q: What are you hoping attendees of all backgrounds can take away from the symposium?

I hope I can offer people some info that will help them be able to implement some obtainable lifestyle changes to improve quality and quantity of life. 

Cancer is often a motivator of behavioral change. I will talk about nutrition, stress reductions, supplements, and exercise to reduce occurrence and support cancer free survivorship. The data is hard to prove for these therapies because it’s difficult to conduct random placebo controlled trials; so much of what we do is evidenced informed as opposed to evidence based. So, we have evidence something will be beneficial or at least won’t cause harm.

Q: Why does integrative medicine matter in cancer treatment or survivorship?

Many people feel the sensation that they became an organ, like a prostate, breast, a lung, a colon, etc. instead of a person. Obviously doctors need to specialize in a certain type of cancer, but it leaves patients feeling impersonal. In Integrative Medicine, we look at the whole person, body, mind and spirit to see how they are responding to their malignancy. Integrative Medicine is patient centered relationship care that is often not available from the primary care physician.

Q: How do you feel about current cancer survivorship care?

I think it’s making progress. 

At UCSF for brain cancer patients I just participated with 19 others in a neuro-oncology survivorship group and that didn’t exist two years ago. A number of groups have nurse practitioners providing this care and many professional oncologic groups have mandated providing survivor care programs. 37 years ago they didn’t exist and survivorship care was a foreign idea when I started in oncology. 

This conference is a great idea and a good place to start and I’d like to see more that address survivorship issues.


Join us September 22nd for the Virtual Cancer Wellness Symposium. The event is completely free to the general public. 3.5 CME credits are available as well for the early bird price of $50. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER.