Integrative Medicine and Wellness


At Penn Medicine, complementary or integrative medicine and wellness services supplement traditional cancer treatments. Integrative Medicine may supplement the traditional treatment services, such as chemotherapy, surgery and radiation therapy, provided to cancer patients. Integrative Medicine may offer patients ways to enhance the quality of their lives, minimize or reduce side effects of cancer and cancer treatment, and promote healing and recovery.

The physicians at Penn Medicine are knowledgeable and supportive of complementary cancer treatments. The cancer team works with patients and families to integrate these supportive programs into the overall care plan, while ensuring the safety and health of patients.

Penn's range of integrative supportive services is designed to help patients cope with the cancer experience and improve their overall sense of well being. Services include:

Reiki Team
The Abramson Cancer Center's Reiki Volunteer Program awarded the Team Building Award from Penn Medicine' Volunteer Services

Penn's range of integrative supportive services is designed to help patients cope with the cancer experience and improve their overall sense of well being. Services include:

Integrative Medicine and Wellness Research and Education at Penn

Research being conducted at Penn Medicine tests the effects and mechanisms of promising health behaviors and integrative therapeutic approaches for symptom management and wellness promotion in cancer.

Additionally, through educational programs at Penn, patients are empowered with the information to make the informed decisions about their cancer care.

Researchers are Penn are exploring ways to best incorporate integrative therapies safely and effectively into the conventional medical therapies to create patient-centered care for optimal health and healing.


Acupuncture

At Penn Medicine, complementary or integrative medicine and wellness services supplement traditional cancer treatments. Acupuncture, in conjunction with ongoing cancer treatment and survivorship, can enhance general quality of life by reducing the side effects of cancer and cancer treatments, and can help to promote an overall sense of balance and well-being.

About Acupuncture

Acupuncture originated in China, and has been practiced for more than 2,500 years. It is a technique in which hair-thin needles are inserted through the skin to treat a variety of conditions.

Patients often require a series of six to 10 treatments to experience benefits for specific conditions. Acupuncture sessions typically last between 20 to 30 minutes. Most people who receive acupuncture treatment feel minimal or no pain from the needles. Some people feel more relaxed following a treatment, and others may feel more energized.

While it is not fully understood, the mechanism of acupuncture for pain and symptom distress may involve helping brain to release neuro-chemicals such as endorphins and regulating the autonomic nervous system.

The Advantage to Patients

Acupuncture is safe and can assist cancer patients with:

  • Anxiety
  • Dry mouth related to radiotherapy
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Overall sense of wellness
  • Pain
    • Arthritic/muscle pain
    • Back/Neck Pain
    • Chronic shoulder pain
    • Headache
    • Neuropathy related to chemotherapy

Acupuncture should not be used as a sole treatment for cancer; however, clinical studies have found it may help relieve many of the symptoms and side effects caused by the cancer treatments. Acupuncture is very safe and does not interact with cancer therapies. The most common side effects are mild pain associated with needling and bruising.

The Penn Difference

Penn integrates acupuncture directly into conventional cancer therapy. Acupuncture services at Penn Medicine are provided by a nationally recognized physician and acupuncture scientist.

Penn is one of the few centers in the world that is actively conducting rigorous research to investigate the specific efficacy and mechanism of acupuncture for symptom management in cancer.

Scheduling an appointment

There is a fee for acupuncture services at Penn Medicine. For more information, or to schedule a visit, please call 215-615-5858, extension #4.

Acupuncture services are located on the 4th floor, west of the Ruth and Raymond Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine.

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Diet and Nutrition

Penn Medicine offers individual and group counseling about diet and nutrition to help cancer patients during and after their treatments.

Nutrition Counseling

Penn Medicine's experienced registered dietitians counsel patients and families on such issues as weight and strength, improving nutritional status, and enhancing energy level and overall sense of well-being.

Nutrition is important during and after cancer treatment. Penn Medicine's experienced nutritional counselors help patients and families with:

  • Managing treatment side effects that may affect the ability to eat.
  • Finding ways to obtain adequate hydration.
  • Suggesting foods to help maintain weight.
  • Identifying easy food preparation steps to help patients conserve energy..
  • Analyzing drug/nutrient interactions between chemotherapy medications and herbs or nutritional supplements.
  • Providing guidance for using complementary therapies and cancer diets
  • Suggesting alternative forms of nutrition

The make an appointment with the Abramson Cancer Center's Nutritional Counseling Program, call 215-615-0534.

Nutrition Classes

Penn offers nutrition classes for patients beginning cancer treatment. The classes provide educational information, specific guidelines and recommendations, and important nutritional guidance during cancer treatment and survivorship. Registered dietitians from Penn's Abramson Cancer Center teach these classes.

For more information or to register, please email Sandy Slaughter or call 215-615-0534.

The Penn Difference

Registered dietitians at Penn Medicine are experts in cancer nutrition. They present at national conferences and regional events. Penn dietitians are also featured experts for the nutrition section of Ask the Experts on Oncolink, the Abramson Cancer Center's award-winning cancer resource on the web.

As an exceptional center for research, as designated by the National Cancer Institute, Penn's nutrition experts participate in a variety of research projects. These research areas focus on weight gain following cancer treatment, the impact of a weight loss and exercise program on cancer-related fatigue, and the effect of nutritional intervention in gastrointestinal cancer patients.

Penn dietitians have prepared a variety of fact sheets containing helpful information about nutrition and cancer.

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Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction

Mindfulness-based stress reduction may supplement traditional treatment services, such as chemotherapy, surgery and radiation therapy, provided to cancer patients. The Penn Program for Mindfulness can enhance the quality of patients' lives, minimize or reduce side effects of cancer and cancer treatment, and promote healing and recovery.

Mindfulness-based stress reduction includes simple, clinically proven methods for relaxing the body and mind. The techniques are simple to learn and are uniquely effective in coping with the side effects of cancer and cancer treatment.

The Penn Program for Mindfulness has workshops and programs specifically designed for the cancer patient.

The program uses these methods to cultivate mindfulness:

  • Mindfulness Meditation, a traditional method of meditation that uses the breath as a way of focusing awareness and remaining in the present moment.
  • A curriculum that includes relaxation techniques, physical exercises and cognitive behavioral approaches implemented by qualified instructors.

The Advantage to Patients

The known benefits of mindfulness-based stress reduction include:

  • Decreasing stress, anxiety, fear, frustration, depression and anger.
  • Improved psychological functioning.
  • Enhanced communication skills.
  • Greater resiliency and coping.

Scheduling an appointment

To schedule an appointment, learn more about the program, or to get a copy of the Meditation for Cancer Patients CD, patients should call 215-615-2774, or e-mail stress.management@uphs.upenn.edu.

Patients may also ask their nurse for a copy of the CD.

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Massage at Perelman Center and Penn Therapy and Fitness at Radnor

Massage is a hands-on therapy using light or rigorous touch, strokes, stretching, tapping, deep circular movements, vibrations or application of pressure.
Massage therapy is tailored to support existing therapies, maximize benefit , keep the patient safe from injury harm, and respect a patient's sensitivity to touch.
Our practitioners have specialized training in oncology massage and will tailor the session to meet your needs.

Scheduling an Appointment

We also offer fee-based, 30, 60 or 90 minute massage or Reiki appointments at Penn Therapy and Fitness at Radnor, as well as in the Perelman Center, located behind the boutique on the first floor of PCAM. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call 215 662-4242 (Perelman Center) or 610-902-2300 (Radnor).

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Reiki and Massage at Penn Hospice at Rittenhouse

Reiki and massage are supportive, complementary therapies offered free of charge to patients, caregivers and staff at Penn Hospice at Rittenhouse.

Reiki

Reiki is a gentle, completely non-invasive practice that promotes balance and well-being. Reiki involves light touch of the practitioner's hands on or slightly above the patient's body.

Massage

Massage is a hands-on therapy using light or rigorous touch, strokes, stretching, tapping, deep circular movements, vibrations or application of pressure. The intensity and application of the techniques are adjusted to meet the needs and preferences of the patient, and to keep the patient safe from injury or harm.

Benefits of Reiki and Massage

Many people report that Reiki or massage helps:

  • Reduce anxiety
  • Increase relaxation
  • Relieve stress
  • Promote feelings of peace, wellness, and balance
  • Energize and rejuvenate the mind and body
  • Relieve pain and discomfort
  • Relieve some of the side effects of conventional treatment
  • Provide additional nurturing and support
  • Create a calm and positive atmosphere
  • Ease transition

More about Massage and Reiki at Penn Hospice at Rittenhouse

  • Patients can always choose whether or not to receive massage, Reiki, or a combination of the two therapies. Participation is completely up to the patient.
  • Patients are in complete control of the sessions; deciding if and where they want to be touched.
  • Patient comfort is the top priority
  • Reiki has no contraindications; it is regarded as a completely safe and gentle practice.
  • Reiki sessions are natural and holistic; there is no physical manipulation, nothing is ingested and nothing is applied to the skin.
  • All massage sessions are adjusted to avoid possible contraindication or harm; patients should speak with their practitioner about conditions or issues they may be experiencing that could impact the complementary therapy.

Reiki and massage are performed by qualified practitioners at no charge. To make an appointment, talk to the nursing staff at the unit.Sessions last anywhere from 10 to 60 minutes, and are offered 2 days a week.

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Reiki at Abramson Cancer Center - Perelman Center and HUP

At Penn Medicine, complementary or integrative medicine and wellness services supplement traditional cancer treatments. Reiki therapy may supplement the traditional treatment services, such as chemotherapy, surgery and radiation therapy, provided to cancer patients. Reiki may offer patients ways to enhance the quality of their lives, minimize or reduce side effects of cancer and cancer treatment, and promote healing and recovery.

Reiki is a gentle, completely non-invasive practice that promotes balance and well-being. Reiki involves light touch of the practitioner's hands on or slightly above the patient's body.

The Advantage to Patients

Many patients report Reiki helps:

  • Reduce anxiety
  • Increase relaxation
  • Relieve stress
  • Promote feelings of peace, wellness and balance
  • Energize and rejuvenate the mind and body
  • Relieve pain and discomfort
  • Relieve some of the side effects of cancer treatment
  • Bring additional nurturing and support to the treatment visit
  • Create a calm and positive environment

Scheduling an Appointment

Currently, there are multiple ways to receive Reiki sessions.

Sessions are offered free of charge to patients receiving cancer treatment. Sessions are provided by a team of volunteer Reiki practitioners and are available to patients based on space and availability of Reiki practitioners. Sessions generally last 10-30 minutes and are provided at the Abramson Cancer Center during chemotherapy treatment (or other infusions), before or after radiation oncology/proton beam therapy, or at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania during an inpatient stay.
Patients interested in receiving a free session should speak with their nurse.

For questions about the program, referrals to practitioners in your area, or to schedule a longer, fee-based appointment during an inpatient stay, contact Program Coordinator Sharon Edelman, 609-320-2654.

We also offer fee-based, 30, 60 or 90 minute massage or Reiki appointments at Penn Therapy and Fitness, located behind the boutique on the first floor of the Perelman Center. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call 215 662-4242.

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Yoga for Cancer Patients and Survivors

At Penn Medicine, integrative medicine and wellness practices like yoga offer patients currently undergoing cancer treatment and survivors ways to enhance the quality of their lives, minimize or reduce side effects of cancer and cancer treatment and promote healing and recovery.

Yoga is an ancient practice of linking breathing to movement to create an overall sense of wellbeing and balance. Yoga can be practiced by people of all ages in any physical condition. One of the oldest known mind-body practices, yoga dates back 5,000 years originating in India. It has been reported that yoga promotes relaxation and has been shown to lower stress, anxiety and fatigue.

The Advantage to Patients

A basic principle of yoga is to cultivate self awareness by balancing body, mind and spirit and never pushing beyond one's limits. With regular practice, yoga's benefits for cancer patients and survivors include:

  • A sense of well-being
  • Incorporation of relaxation and stress reducing techniques into everyday life
  • Reduction of fatigue
  • Relief from anxiety

Registering for a Class

Free yoga classes are now offered every Tuesday and Thursday at 2 pm at The Patients and Family Service conference room, located in the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine, 1st . floor, West Pavilion (behind the store).

Classes will combine chair yoga with a simple flow of standing poses (when suitable) and relaxation design to meet individual needs.

Hands on feedback is used to activate or engage weak muscles in the body. Using this technique (specific to each person).

Eischens yoga get your body into better alignment which results in heightens levels of energy, reduces stress, alleviates pain, and restores calm. Eischens yoga, is a unique and integrative style of yoga rooted in Iyengar yoga and influenced also by Taoist yoga.

For more information please contact Tali Mazar Ben-Josef at AvitalMazar.Ben-Josef@uphs.upenn.edu.

The Cancer Support Community of Philadelphia also offers yoga classes to cancer patients. To register for a class, or for more information, contact Program Director Kathleen Coyne, MSS, LCSW, or Assistant Program Director Karen Neyer, MSW, LSW.

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Good Shepherd Penn Partners/Penn Therapy and Fitness

Physical, occupational and speech therapy services at Penn Medicine are provided by Good Shepherd Penn Partners. The partnership between Penn Medicine and the Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network provides specialized long-term acute care and inpatient and outpatient physical rehabilitation throughout the Philadelphia region.

About Cancer and Exercise

Having cancer and receiving treatment for it changes patients bodies. Exercise is one of the best ways for patients to maintain strength, energy, mobility and cope with cancer-related fatigue.

Because each diagnosis and treatment is different, patients should find an exercise they feel is right for them. A physical therapist at Good Shepherd Penn Partners or a qualified trainer can assist patients with exercise.

As always, patients should consult with their physicians before starting any exercise program.

Managing Fatigue

Cancer-related fatigue is one of the most common and difficult side effects of cancer and its treatments. Research shows that exercise can be an effective tool in decreasing cancer-related fatigue.

Physical therapists at Good Shepherd Penn Partners have specialized training in the management of cancer-related fatigue. They can provide:

  • An individualized assessment of strength, balance, endurance, and fatigue.
  • An individualized exercise program based on the results of the initial assessment.
  • A supervised exercise program in which vital signs are monitored.
  • A home exercise program.
  • Education on energy conservation techniques.

Managing Lymphedema

Lymphedema refers to the swelling that can occur in the arms and legs. Lymphedema is chronic swelling that happens when the fluid from the lymph nodes is not moving properly. It occurs as a result of poor function of lymph nodes or lymph vessels. Lymphedema results in chronic swelling that leads to tissue inflammation and scarring. The swollen body part feels harder to touch and heavier than the non-swollen side.

The best recognized treatment for lymphedema is complete decongestive therapy (CDT). CDT has four parts. After evaluation, a customized treatment plan is developed and discussed.

  • Manual lymphatic drainage: A light skin stretching technique that stimulates the lymphatic system
  • Compression: Layered bandaging with foam or specially fitted garments that support the swollen area to control swelling.
  • Exercises: With compression, special exercises help to pump lymph out of the swollen area.
  • Skin care: Keeping the skin clean and moisturized helps prevent infections that can happen with lymphedema.

Studies have shown that some cancer patients with lymphedema benefit from exercise. Patients should consult with their physician before beginning any exercise program, and consult with a physical therapist or a qualified trainer to develop a safe program.

About Good Shepherd Penn Partners

Good Shepherd Penn Partners provides world class post-acute care services and specialty services, in the following locations:

Patients benefit from outstanding rehabilitation care customized to meet their individual needs through every step of the rehabilitation process.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Integrative Medicine and Wellness

Penn Medicine believes that educated patients are empowered patients. It's important for patients to understand the facts about integrative medicine and how they might benefit from integrative therapies during and after traditional cancer treatment.

What is integrative medicine?

Integrative medicine is the practice of medicine that focuses on the whole person. It is informed by evidence-based research and combines the expertise of healthcare professionals with practices and products not considered to be part of conventional medicine. Therapies are usually performed by practitioners outside the conventional system of medical doctors, doctors of osteopathy and by allied health professionals such as physical therapists, psychologists and registered nurses.

As more medical centers and schools begin introducing these therapies into the conventional medical system, the definition will continue to evolve.

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) refers to the use of non-conventional therapies that complement conventional medicine. Types of CAM may include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Yoga
  • Nutrition
  • Mindfulness-based stress management
  • Reiki
  • Massage
  • Use of natural products

While many CAM approaches such as acupuncture, massage, yoga, and stress management may help manage cancer-related symptoms; others such as specific herbal treatments/supplements may interact with cancer treatment in unknown ways.

Who uses integrative medicine and complementary therapies?

Based on a recent Penn study, an estimated 66.5 percent of U.S. cancer survivors have used integrative therapies. Cancer patients and survivors often use integrative therapies to help cope with symptoms of cancer or treatment side effects (e.g. nausea, pain, fatigue). In the process of exploring integrative therapies, cancer patients may feel they have greater control of the illness trajectory and develop newer ways of coping with the distress and uncertainty of illness.

How should patients select a provider?

It is important for patients to discuss integrative medicine and selecting a provider with their cancer physician. Because integrative medicine is meant to supplement, or integrate non-traditional therapies with conventional therapies, it's important for patients to discuss their decisions with their doctors. Also, a physician or health care provider may be able to provide a referral for a provider.

As when choosing any health care provider, patients should contact practitioners they are considering for basic information. Patients might ask about:

  • Education, training, licenses, and certifications – Patients should compare the provider's qualifications with the standards for that profession.
  • Areas of specialization – Patients should ask practitioners about their experience treating patients with cancer, and their philosophy of care.
  • Research – Patients might want to discuss studies that support the treatment's use for their condition.
  • Cost –Find out what they charge per session and cancelled appointments costs, and payment options including insurance coverage.
  • Office locations – Are they near public transportation? Do they have parking or elevators?
  • What to expect – Learn what happens during an appointment, and how long it will last to help alleviate any anxiety about the visit.

Will insurance cover a complementary and alternative medicine visit?

Patients with health insurance should check with their provider about coverage for supplemental therapies. Insurance may pay for all, part, or none of the visits. Also, patients should ask practitioners if they participate in a particular insurance plan. Patients may consider using a health spending account to offset some of the cost associated with visiting these practitioners.

Who can benefit from integrative medicine?

While many complementary approaches such as acupuncture, massage, yoga, and reiki may help manage cancer-related symptoms, others such as specific herbal treatments and supplements may interact with cancer treatment in unknown ways. Patients need to discuss integrating therapies to conventional care with their health care providers.

The most important thing for cancer patients who are undergoing active cancer treatment (e.g. chemotherapy, radiation, surgery) is that the herbs/supplements should not interfere with the efficacy of those treatments.

Many patients who receive complementary therapies report feeling more balanced and rested, experiencing relief from pain and helping manage side effects of conventional therapies.

What about the natural cures listed on the Internet?

It's important for patients to be educated. There are unsubstantiated claims on the Internet regarding cancer cures. These cures may cause financial hardship for patients and lead to physical harm.

It is vitally important to learn integrative medicine information from credible sources and discuss individual needs with health care providers.

Integrative medicine is about thoughtfully evaluating the information to combine safe and potentially effective complementary and conventional therapies together. Patients should be educated and empowered, and discuss information they find on the Internet with their doctors.

Learn more information about integrative medicine at Penn

Focus On: Integrative Medicine and Wellness is an annual conference hosted by the Abramson Cancer Center.

Listen to podcasts, see presentations, and view information from past conferences here.

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Boutique Services at Penn Medicine

Penn Medicine boutiques offer products and services designed for the unique needs of female cancer patients.

The Faith and Hope Boutique

The Faith and Hope Boutique at the Abramson Cancer Center offers prosthesis, bra, and wig fittings as well as, hats, scarves, and other articles that have been chosen specifically for women with cancer.

The staff at the Faith and Hope Boutique can help patients find the personal items that can help them look and feel their best:

  • Books and journals
  • Breast prosthesis and bra fittings
  • Chemo-Care Packs and Mastectomy Mates
  • Handcrafted jewelry and gifts
  • Lymphedema sleeves
  • Selected mastectomy-styled wear: full, partial, post-surgery breast forms, shells, and nipples, customized silicone breast forms and nipples, camisoles and sports bras
  • Skin sensitive creams and lotions
  • Hair alternatives such as wigs, hats and scarves
  • Seasonal clothing
  • Scarf- and turban-tying techniques
  • Wig fittings

Location: First floor, west of the Ruth and Raymond Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine
Hours: 10 am to 4 pm, Monday through Friday,
Website: Visit the Faith and Hope Boutique online
Insurance: The Faith and Hope Boutique accepts Medicare and Blue Cross/Blue Shield to help patients with the cost of some products. Ask a staff member at the boutique, or call 215-615-3321 for more information.

Solutions for Women

Solutions for Women at Pennsylvania Hospital features specialty women's health, cancer, maternity and breastfeeding support products. Solutions for Women at Pennsylvania Hospital is a one-stop-shop offering a variety of distinctive, life-enhancing health care items.

Staffed by certified professionals, Solutions for Women offers:

  • Head scarves and wigs
  • Skin sensitive creams and lotions
  • Accessories and gifts
  • Health care products

Solutions for Women stocks a wide array of products to help women achieve a positive sense of self.

Location: 721 Delancy Street, on the Pennsylvania Hospital campus

Hours: 10 am to 2 pm, Monday through Friday

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