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Integrating cancer care – holistic support for patients

For those diagnosed with cancer, an integrative care approach has been shown to improve outcomes and lead to a better overall care experience.

Middle-aged lady with grey cancer headscarf looking contemplative
Middle-aged lady with grey cancer headscarf looking contemplative

Each year, more than 10 million people worldwide are diagnosed with cancer, but with early detection and treatment, more patients can be expected to live longer than five years beyond their initial diagnosis.  

For those diagnosed with cancer, an integrative care approach has been shown to improve outcomes and lead to a better overall care experience.   

Types of cancer treatments 

Cancer care is multilayered and often involves a host of different specialists overseeing treatments including

  • Surgery 

  • Chemotherapy 

  • Radiation therapy 

  • Support services, such as: rehabilitation for physical strength, psychotherapy for emotional issues that may arise and spiritual wellbeing. 

Holistic care on the cancer journey 

Wellness is an important aspect of integrative care throughout the cancer journey from diagnosis to treatment, survivorship, and end-of-life care. A holistic treatment plan incorporating wellness works best when centred on the patient’s needs and involving good communication with the patient, their family, and carers.  

Here are some aspects of care that may be included.  


Exercise is increasingly becoming accepted for its role in both preventing and treating cancer. Evidence shows exercise can reduce the risk of colon and rectal cancer, and significantly reduce the recurrence and mortality rates of many other cancers.

For those diagnosed with cancer, exercise may help ease symptoms that interfere with daily life, including lack of appetite, diarrhoea, constipation, treatment related fatigue, muscle pain, joint stiffness, depression, anxiety, and insomnia. 

Middle aged man in green t-shirt doing yoga on his deck on a sunny morning


Eating well can be important for cancer patients, as many treatments can affect eating patterns and can even lead to malnutrition, which may result in loss of weight and lean body mass. There is evidence that poor nutritional intake may impact the efficacy of treatment and clinical outcomes, which is why having nutritional guidance by a clinician can be so valuable throughout the cancer journey. 

At the other end of the spectrum, obesity is highly prevalent in cancer patients and survivors. This is a concern because not only can obesity mask malnutrition, it’s also a risk factor for cancer recurrence and may decrease survival rates for some cancers.  

Psychological support 

Facing cancer puts huge stress on a patient and their families and friends. Accepting diagnosis, undergoing treatments, understanding prognosis, handling possible side effects, managing a possible relapse, facing an uncertain future, and dealing with financial stressors are all stages of the cancer journey that can take a toll on mental wellbeing. 

Many cancer patients experience multiple psychological symptoms during their cancer journey, often running concurrently, including distress, anxiety, depression, cognitive impairment, body image challenges and sexual dysfunction. 

Approaches that have proven effective for cancer patients include cognitive behavioural therapy, support groups and mindfulness practices. 

Other modalities 

Other modalities and forms of support, depending on cancer type, may include: 

Early integration of supportive care can lead to improved outcomes for patients, but a successful integrated care plan needs to be patient-centred and customised for the individual.      

Introducing cancer coaching by Osara Health 

nib have introduced a health management program to support eligible members living with cancer.  

The Cancer Coach Program by Osara Health connects eligible members with a professional health coach, digital resources, and access to a community-based smartphone App.  

The Cancer Coach Program has been designed by doctors, oncologists, health coaches and researchers to help cancer patients take control of their wellbeing. The program aims to empower participants with a balance of technology, evidence-based resources and human support to provide information and tools to support their wellbeing during their cancer journey.     

To find out more about the Cancer Coach Program, eligibility or to enrol, please click here