It wasn’t all that long ago that acupuncture was considered beyond the fringe. Today it’s practically mainstream, part of a huge shift in medicine to look beyond the traditional tools of drugs and surgery at other ways to treat illness. Instead of focusing on a specific problem, integrative medicine looks at the whole person, not merely the diseased part. While the holistic approach is tremendously appealing, it’s also scary for many, because we all are wary of snake-oil salesmen promoting apricot pits to cure cancer. That’s why a program like the one at Jefferson-Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine is so valuable. The blending of mind, body and spirit is managed by credentialed professionals and researchers, in a university hospital setting, who work closely with physicians to supplement but not replace conventional care. The center is named for a woman who ardently believed that chemotherapy alone wouldn’t cure her cancer, and sought an experimental treatment in Germany that prolonged her life for several years. It concentrates on four cornerstone programs: integrative cancer care, cardiovascular disease prevention, menopause and osteoporosis, and pain management. Its arsenal of weapons includes such evidence-based offerings as acupuncture, massage therapy, psychology, art, stress management, diet and nutrition, meditation and biofeedback — all selected to match the patient’s needs and interests. For those seeking to explore a world beyond pills, this is a safe place to test the waters (Gibbon Building, suite 6215, 111 South 11th Street, 800-533-3669, jeffersonhospital.org/cim).
Thirty years ago, Susan Silberstein amassed a mountain of information about unconventional cancer treatments in the course of her husband’s fight for his life. Unwilling to waste all she’d learned, she founded the Center for Advancement in Cancer Education, which has grown to be a remarkable resource center bridging the gap between conventional cancer therapies and those still questioned by science. It provides no treatment whatsoever but has advised more than 28,000 people in their quest to sift through the confusing morass of complementary therapies and become better informed about what might work for them. Individualized counseling sessions usually last two hours, with follow-up available on an as-needed basis. In a world drowning in cancer data, it’s comforting to have a source like this as a trustworthy guide (300 East Lancaster Avenue, suite 100, Wynnewood, 610- 642-4810, beatcancer.org).