The Integrative Medicine Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering provides a comprehensive support system for patients at every stage of cancer treatment and level of clinical status. Integrative medicine uses evidenced-based complementary interventions to optimize the receipt of mainstream care by controlling the serious physical and emotional symptoms often experienced by patients before, during, and after therapy.
Our senior faculty are world-renowned lecturers in the practice of integrative oncology. As principal investigators, they study the value of complementary therapies for specific problems, train physicians and therapists from many countries, and provide patient consultations. Our expert team can guide patients to make effective decisions about the most helpful integrative therapies throughout their treatment program and beyond.
Integrative Medicine Senior Faculty
Barrie R. Cassileth, Chief of the Integrative Medicine Service, discusses how complementary therapies can help in cancer care.
The guiding principle at Memorial Sloan Kettering is to offer individuals with cancer the most-effective treatment and the highest quality of care. Through our Integrative Medicine Service, certified therapists who are highly skilled and specially trained in oncology provide a range of rational, evidenced-based complementary therapies. They excel in symptom management skills and are highly sensitive to patient and family needs.
There are several main categories of integrative or complementary therapies offered at Memorial Sloan Kettering:
Physical fitness and movement therapies
To improve strength, stamina, and endurance; promote relaxation and relieve pain, muscle tension and weakness; and alleviate fatigue, anxiety, depression, and stress. Evidenced-based studies show a survival advantage for many patients with cancer who engage in regular physical activity after diagnosis.
To address chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, nerve and joint pain, hot flashes, dry mouth, headache, fatigue, procedural anxiety, depression, insomnia, stress, appetite loss, diarrhea, constipation, weight gain and loss, and lifestyle changes such as smoking cessation. Recent research also shows that acupuncture may be effective in managing swallowing difficulties and swelling such as lymphedema.
To relieve pain, muscle tension, postoperative symptoms, musculoskeletal problems, anxiety, depression, insomnia, stress, and fatigue. Massage has been shown to reduce symptom scores in patients with cancer by approximately 50 percent, with benefits sustained over a 48-hour period.
Mind/body therapies such as meditation and self-hypnosis
To address depression, procedural anxiety, fatigue, insomnia, stress, nausea, weight gain and loss, pain, muscle tension, and facilitate lifestyle changes. Regular practice of mind-body therapies has been shown to produce and sustain benefit.
To facilitate recovery and promote general well-being. Music therapy is provided by trained therapists adept in dealing with the psychosocial and clinical issues faced by patients and family members. This modality can be receptive or participatory and is particularly effective in palliative care and inpatient settings.
To guide patients to better health through expert advice on nutrition, weight management, and individual concerns using scientifically based recommendations. Health literacy for the cancer patient is of critical importance, especially regarding the issues of herbs/supplements – drug interactions that may reduce the effectiveness of chemotherapy or interfere with surgery or radiation therapy. In addition, the Integrative Medicine Service provides free access to objective information on dietary supplements and unproven cancer treatments and their effects in the context of cancer care through our award-winning website, About Herbs, Botanicals, and Other Products.
You do not need to be a Memorial Sloan Kettering patient or family member to take advantage of integrative medicine services. Even if you are not ill or a cancer survivor, the therapies we offer can help increase self-awareness, enhance well-being, manage symptoms such as osteoporosis and anxiety, facilitate lasting lifestyle changes, and prevent health-related problems. Our outpatient center is open to anyone, including Memorial Sloan Kettering patients and their family members, those receiving cancer care elsewhere, and members of the community. Individuals who are uncertain of which services may benefit them can meet with one of our senior clinicians free of charge to learn more by contacting the center to make an appointment.
Integrative Medicine Clinicians
Donna Wilson, RN, MSN, RRT
Co-Manager, Fitness & Yoga
Master Yang Yang, PhD
T’ai Chi/Qi Gong Program
Wendy Miner, LMT
Manager, Touch Therapies; Co-Manager Fitness & Yoga
Yi Hung Chan, DPM, LAc
Co-Manager, Acupuncture Services
Lily Zhang, PT, DPT, LAc, LANA-CLT, WCC
Co-Manager, Acupuncture Services
Robert Schmehr, LCSW
Manager, Mind-Body Therapies
Karen Popkin, MA, LCAT, HPMT, MT-BC
Manager, Music Therapy Program
Donald Garrity, RD, CDN
Manager, Nutritional Counseling