Is it Possible to Have a Quality Life During Cancer Treatment?

— BY Dr. Ryan Best | Reading Time: 2 min

Happy daughter child helping cancer patient mom to cook dinner

Long walks around the riverbanks with your partner. Ice cream dates with your children. Life’s simplest pleasures never feel farther away than when you’re staring down a cancer diagnosis in the middle of aggressive treatment. When treatment begins to take a toll on your mental and physical health, it’s important to know that quality of life is still possible with the proper cancer care.

As you embark on the road to remission, surround yourself with a care team who intimately understands how to navigate the hardships of cancer treatment — a care team who can provide supportive therapies to reduce the severity, and in some cases, completely prevent certain negative side effects. Here’s how you too can have a positive quality of life during cancer treatment.

Can Cancer Treatment and Quality of Life Truly Coexist?

Health plays a significant role in our happiness. When we receive a cancer diagnosis, it’s easy to assume that if our health declines, our happiness must decline, too. Fortunately, that could not be farther from the truth. It is possible to have a positive quality of life, even while enduring aggressive cancer treatment.

Traditional cancer care tends to go through the motions of aggressively targeting cancer at the source, often to the detriment of the rest of the body. There’s a common misconception there are no remedies for the side effects of chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy, and other conventional treatments, which leads people to believe that they must suffer to properly heal.

So, it’s no wonder why we assume we cannot have any quality of life during cancer care!

However, what some conventional care plans do not account for is that most potential side effects do have researched supportive therapies that can help to reduce the severity of or eliminate certain side effects. Off-label medications, supplements, intravenous therapies, and lifestyle and dietary changes can make it possible for those undergoing cancer treatment to have a quality of life.

Happy grateful mom with cancer and sweet little daughter kid

What Are the First Steps to Improving Your Quality of Life?

The first steps towards improving your quality of life begin with meeting with an integrative cancer specialist. An integrative cancer specialist is a medical professional who combines complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) with traditional cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy, to help cope with the symptoms and side effects of medical and radiation oncology.

As the resident integrative cancer care specialist at Neurvana Naturopathic Medicine, I spend the first moments of an initial appointment discussing the research surrounding integrative cancer care to better inform you of how we can actively improve your quality of life. Next, we review your individual preferences and concerns surrounding your current cancer treatment.

From here, the first steps towards a quality life will consist of a personalized approach to cancer care that considers all factors of your existing oncology treatment, working in conjunction with your traditional care team for optimal support. Each week, we’ll review how your side effects ebb and flow until we can reduce the severity of or completely prevent certain negative impacts.

Sincere happy young bald woman listening to oncologist.

How Does Integrative Treatment Differ from Conventional Treatment?

Nearly 80% of individuals report physical side effects like nausea, vomiting, and fatigue while undergoing traditional cancer treatments like chemotherapy. However, quality of life also refers to emotional or psychological and social side effects, of which patients rank the non-physical side effect “affects my family or partner” above all other negative side effects of conventional treatment.

Instead of issuing the same aggressive conventional treatment for each individual, integrative cancer care uses testing to determine unique factors about your physiology to customize precise treatment approaches. For instance, tumour sensitivity testing can allow your integrative specialist to learn exactly what your specific tumours are sensitive or resistant to in terms of treatment.

Rather than put your mental and physical strength (and that of your family) through the wringer with countless conventional treatments, integrative cancer care relies on detailed monitoring to make treatment decisions that alleviate the burdens on your quality of life. The use of a much broader array of evidence-based therapies helps improve mental and physical health, including: 

Side effects of chemotherapy set. Patient suffer

Does Quality of Life Influence Cancer Treatment Outcomes?

Yes, quality of life can influence cancer treatment outcomes. Management of side effects can improve the efficacy of tumor therapy, which can be used to eradicate cancerous growths in the body. Not to mention, supportive therapies can also protect healthy cells from significant damage caused by medical and radiation oncology, like chemotherapy.

When healthy cells are protected during cancer care, it helps to decrease the rates of long-term side effects of conventional cancer treatment, such as heart and vascular problems and hypothyroidism. Overall, a better quality of life increases the chances of long-term remission and decreases the risk of developing other disorders that can arise after completing cancer therapy. 

Likewise, an improved quality of life helps you and your loved ones remain positive throughout cancer treatment, which can be quite the journey. Though it may sound cliché, a positive attitude is one of the most effective tools against cancer. The ability to remain optimistic in the face of cancer care is a primary attribute of integrative cancer treatment that simply cannot be overlooked.

The quality of life you deserve during cancer treatment.

Your cancer diagnosis is not your identity. Learn how a care team with intimate knowledge of integrative cancer care can help give you the quality of life you deserve during cancer treatment.