Innovative BC cancer care program grows in popularity


More and more, Canadians are looking for new approaches in health care. Recent surveys are finding that Canadians are increasingly interested in making healthier nutritional choices, and are also more curious about complementary therapies in addition to, or instead of, traditional conventional options. Within this trend, Canadians living with cancer are actively searching to empower themselves with new tools and approaches that will assist them in their healing process.

In British Columbia, growing numbers of cancer patients are wanting treatment programs that offer a whole-person, holistic approach to healing. Unique to Vancouver is The Centre for Integrated Healing, Canada’s first and only complementary cancer care centre. Here, an increasing number of patients are exploring the many health and healing benefits of this innovative approach.

Co-founder and CEO Dr. Hal Gunn reports, “Conventional cancer therapy is obviously very important, but there is a growing body of evidence to show that adding an integrated approach that empowers the person, addresses the underlying causes of cancer, and supports the mind, body, spirit and immune system, results in substantial improvement in quality of life and may reduce recurrence and increase survival.”

The Centre for Integrated Healing was founded to help people with cancer and their families explore complementary healing approaches in a supportive environment, and to facilitate the safe integration of these modalities with conventional treatments. Part of the Centre’s innovative approach is a 12-hour, 2-day workshop that includes nutrition and lifestyle counseling, mind-body awareness, information on the use of vitamins and supplements, and an introduction to healing modalities that have a record of enhancing the healing process (such as massage, energy healing, sound and music therapy, Naturopathic medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine). The Centre, a non-profit organization with charitable status, is funded by the Medical Services Plan of BC, the Canadian Cancer Society, private foundations, and corporate and individual donations.

Dr. Gunn adds: “A big part of our approach is prevention and addressing the underlying causes of cancer and illness. It is important to make everyone aware that they can reduce the risk of getting cancer – or a recurrence of the illness – by making simple changes to their lifestyle and diet. There is considerable emphasis on these factors to prevent heart disease, and there is substantial evidence that they apply equally to cancer treatment. By doing this we will be addressing causes and not just treating the end result of the illness.”

The Centre has launched a fund-raising drive with the vision of being able to both expand its programs and hire more physicians. Such measures would reduce the Centre’s waiting list and meet the growing demands of cancer patients who desire this integrated approach. Dr. Gunn states, “the rapid increase in demand for our services over the past few years shows clearly that there is a very real need in BC for this type of integrated care for cancer patients and their families. That’s why we are now setting a fund-raising goal of $1.5 million to support expansion of our programs to meet at least some of the additional demand.”

Dr. Gunn points out that an integrated approach to illness is cost-effective and takes pressure off the conventional health system. “British Columbians are increasingly embracing self-empowerment and taking responsibility for caring for their own health. Self-care is a very important and largely untapped resource that can have a very important impact on health, illness prevention and disease outcome. We work in cooperation with and have the support of both the BC Cancer Agency and the Canadian Cancer Society. Our mutual objective is to provide patients with the best possible overall treatment and healing and to reduce the incidence and impact of cancer.”