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Cancer patient urges others to consider integrative, holistic treatment options

<b>Carrie Lazarus reports:</b> When you’re diagnosed with cancer, most of the time doctors will give you three options: either surgery, chemotherapy or radiation. These treatments can fight the cancer, but they can also make you sick. Along with traditional medicine, some doctors now offer what are called integrative therapies, designed to boost the immune system and improve your quality of life.
Syracuse (WSYR-TV) -- When you’re diagnosed with cancer, most of the time doctors will give you three options: surgery to cut it out, poison it with chemotherapy or radiate it. These treatments can fight the cancer, but they can also make you very sick.

Along with traditional medicine, some doctors in Syracuse offer what are called integrative therapies, designed to boost the immune system and improve your quality of life.

Last February, cancer patient Debbie was given a year to live. Doctors found cancer in her gallbladder and liver. They started chemo and she started looking for more ways to fight the cancer.

“A friend of mine called and said I know of a doctor here in Syracuse that’s doing vitamin C treatments,” Debbie said.

Debbie has vitamin C infusions twice a week. It helps reduce the side effects from chemo. Her doctors say it also strengthens her immune system and may even fight the cancer. Heidi Puc is Debbie’s oncologist. She’s also board certified in integrative holistic medicine.

“If you merge these two practices together, you can still get the benefits of conventional therapy, but alleviate these side effects that patients are experiencing and improve quality of life,” Dr. Puc said.

Along with the vitamin C infusions, Dr. Puc has prescribed acupuncture, nutritional supplements, an organic diet and exercise. The goal is to treat not just the cancer, but the person.

“There’s one thing in terms of trying to cure disease, but we’re about healing people,” Dr. Puc continued.

Debbie believes she is healing and tests show her cancer is shrinking.

“My tumor marker, which started at 4,000, dropped to 2,000, dropped to 1,000 and is dropping…it’s now 118. It’s been miraculous,” Debbie said.

Dr. Anthony Scalzo has been an oncologist for 30 years. He says things are changing.

“Too long in medicine we’ve looked at the patient as a disease, you know, this is a breast cancer, this is a lung cancer, this is a colon cancer, but I think those days are long gone,” Dr. Scalzo said.

Integrative therapies haven’t been as well studied as traditional cancer treatments and that’s why some doctors don’t recommend them. Dr. Scalzo says it’s hard to measure the mind body connection but believes in it.

“With integrative medicine becoming more important, more of that will be studied and as we understand that connection we’ll be able to exploit it,” Dr. Scalzo continued.

Debbie urges others battling cancer to look into integrative cancer treatments.

If you’d like to find out more about these integrative, holistic cancer therapies, there’s an open house this Thursday at Hematology Oncology Associates on Brittonfield Parkway in East Syracuse. It runs from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Doctors will be on hand to answer your questions.

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