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Treating the Whole Patient

John Gibson discovered a few weeks following surgery that his cancer had progressed to stage 4 melanoma. That was last year, before he began treatment at the Beverly Hills Cancer Center, which he visited after a suggestion from a friend.

“As [my doctor] walked in the room, his gigantic smile and upbeat personality helped me to immediately realize, ‘Yep I want him to be my oncologist.’ And then he spent the next 30 minutes reviewing my case, discussing options, including immune therapy, and answering all of my questions,” said the 44-year-old Los Angeles resident.

With a team that seeks to combine innovative technology and an all-encompassing holistic approach to care — treating all aspects of a patient; mind, body and spirit — the Beverly Hills Cancer Center in Los Angeles has become a leading facility for all-encompassing cancer treatment.

“Cancer care can be very fragmented,” said Dr. Ari Gabayan, medical director of radiation oncology and imaging. “Here we have everything in one place. And we don’t just treat with radiation or chemotherapy and call it a day. We take a holistic approach to cancer while prioritizing person-to-person, doctor-to-patient  interactions.” Most importantly, the staff does not “treat people like a number,”  he said.

Gabayan and his staff are proud to provide access to a wide range of comprehensive services under one roof. Nutritionists, dieticians, acupuncturists and psychotherapists are available. And  if a person comes in with an interest in pursing naturopathic care on top of the more traditional Western cancer therapies, physicians can safely incorporate those treatments into the regular health regimen plan.

“Rather than saying, ‘We don’t do that’ or ‘We look down on that,’ our theory is that it may be OK to do some of those things,” said Gabayan. “We don’t want patients doing things on the side without our knowledge. We want to be onboard.”

Also at the forefront of holistic cancer treatment, the Roy & Patricia Disney Family Cancer Center at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank offers a host of treatments that combine healing Mind-Body Therapies with cutting-edge medical technology, with special programs for adolescents and young adults. 

“We see all types of patients here and get them involved in a comprehensive multidisciplinary program focused on improving quality of life," said Dr. Tatevossian, a physician at the Disney Family Cancer Center.  "These may include physical therapy, psychological therapy, acupuncture and eastern therapies such as qi gong.” 

This approach is similar to that of the Chopra Center based in Carlsbad. The facility offers a variety of programs and retreats for people seeking physical healing, emotional freedom and higher states of consciousness.

“We deal with a wide variety of issues,” said Dr. Sheila Patel, medical director at the Chopra Center. “What we try to do is look at a person with the mind-body-spirit perspective and help people to get to the root cause of issues.”

The Chopra Center focuses on a wide-range of issues (not just cancer). But no matter the situation, Sara Harvey, the center’s chief operating officer, said guests tend to be seeking something beyond the traditional Western model of medicine.

“There’s a growing demand among people to consider the emotional and spiritual elements of health care, along with the physical,” Harvey said. “Patients are asking their doctors about it, so the doctors are actually coming to us, as well, to learn more.”

Staff at the center seeks to help guests become more attuned to their bodies so they can identify the signs that something might be wrong and then make proper lifestyle choices. 

“You can begin to listen to the tap, which is your body’s inner wisdom that lets you know pretty early when something is amiss,” Harvey said.

 -- Mikaela Conley, Brand Publishing Writer

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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