Synergy Lifestyle Medicine Uses a Functional Medicine Approach to Cancer Treatment

When it comes to treating cancer, it doesn’t have to be a one-size-fits-all approach.

Traditional cancer treatment can be helpful in extending someone’s life for a few months or a couple of years, but it is riddled with harsh side effects and neglects addressing the underlying cause of cancer.

This is why we are adamant about offering an alternative to traditional cancer treatment. At Synergy Lifestyle Medicine, we subscribe to functional medicine to help our patients fight cancer and address the underlying cause.

Side Effects of Chemotherapy and Radiation

As you’re probably aware, chemotherapy and radiation treatment is one of the foremost ways to treat cancer clinically. There’s a long list of drastic side effects associated with chemo and radiation, with the tradeoff being that this type of treatment has a chance to extend your life – although it rarely expels the cancer completely.

The side effects commonly associated with chemotherapy and radiation treatment, according to the American Cancer Society, are:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Either diarrhea or constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hair loss or thinning – all over the body
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Infertility
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Anemia
  • Nerve and muscle tingling, weakness or numbness
  • Bleeding and clotting problems
  • Immunosuppression – increasing risk of infection
  • Cognitive problems – memory, concentration, reasoning, etc.
  • Mouth, gum and throat sores or irritation
  • Bladder and kidney irritation or damage
  • Skin problems – redness, itching, peeling, rashes, etc.

Granted, many of these symptoms subside eventually after the treatment stops, but it’s a big undertaking anytime a cancer patients goes in for chemo and radiation.

What’s the Success Rate of Chemotherapy?

Although the study is a little old now, a 14-year study of Americans and Australians published in 2004 still shapes our view of how effective chemotherapy is for cancer. Researchers at the Northern Sydney Cancer Centre studied nearly 155,000 Americans and Australians with cancer, all of whom received conventional treatments, such as chemotherapy.

The five-year survival rate that can directly attributed to cytotoxic (toxic to cells – cancerous and healthy) chemotherapy was slightly more than 2 percent in both Australians and Americans.

It is important to note, however, that some forms of cancer respond better to chemo than others. For example, the five-year survival rate for testicular cancer patients who received chemo was 41.8 percent, and patients with Hodgkins Disease lived for at least five years at a 35.8 percent rate.

Many forms of cancer – such as pancreatic, kidney and bladder cancers, and melanoma – had a 0 percent success rate after five years with chemotherapy. This is what brought the average down so significantly.

The takeaway from the study was if you have cancer, you’re going to have, at best, a 42 percent chance of living five more years (no guarantees after that), at least according to this study. Some cancers give you no chance at all. Even so, we must acknowledge that chemo can extend your life a few days or months and give you a little more time with your loved ones.

Surgically Removing Cancer

Another popular clinical way of treating cancer is by surgically removing the tumor – or a portion of the organ or gland that carries the tumor. These procedures show promise in eliminating the threat, extending the patient’s life and mitigating the chance of the cancer returning, but it’s important to make lifestyle changes afterward.

The good news is, as you look at recurrence rates across different cancers after surgical removal, most cancers only tend to return at a rate of 15 percent or lower within five years. It’s only higher in cases such as colorectal cancer. A study conducted in Tehran, Iran from 2004 to 2013 found that colorectal cancer returned in 15 to 30 percent of patients within two to five years after they underwent surgical resection.

How Functional Medicine Plays a Role in Cancer Treatment

At Synergy Lifestyle Medicine in Mesa, AZ, we use functional medicine to supplement any traditional cancer treatment a patient has received. Functional medicine is also highly effective in preventing cancer from ever forming, and in keeping it from coming back – if the patient has had this disease before.

Functional medicine is more of a mindset than a specific set of treatments, and it guides everything we do at Synergy Lifestyle Medicine. This alternative approach taps into the body’s natural ability to heal. By digging into and addressing unhealthy aspects of a person’s life, we can reverse the factors that are currently putting them at risk of getting cancer, or having it come back.

Three of the primary goals of our functional medicine approach to cancer treatment are:


We spend extended time with each new patient to learn about their medical history, diet, lifestyle, job conditions, relationships, home environment, sleeping patterns and many other variables in their life. The goal is to get to the root causes of their current ailments. This is especially important if they have had cancer before or are currently battling it.

Many doctors simply treat the specific condition or symptoms presented to them, and then move on. They rarely try to make holistic changes in the patient’s life to prevent recurrence of the symptoms. Each conversation they have with a patient typically only lasts between 5 and 15 minutes.

Instead, we believe in speaking with each patient for up to 2 hours (sometimes even longer) in their first consultation to learn all about them and to discover how we can help them find a higher quality of life.


We teach patients about their risk factors for disease and steps they can take to reverse those risks and manage any condition they already have. This involves creating an individualized plan from them to follow to foster healing and greater well-being.


Functional medicine is a patient-centered approach to care. It puts them in the driver’s seat of their own healing, as guided by the recommendations and plan we have presented to them.

Of course, part of their care plan will involve customized treatments at our facility. Potential cancer treatments include colon hydrotherapy, low-dose chemotherapy, acupuncture, lymphatic drainage, IV therapies and much more. Past that, the patient is in charge of taking steps at home to boost his or her own wellness and establish a healthier lifestyle.

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See What Our Functional Medicine Approach Is All About

If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer before, worried that you might be at risk for it, or just struggling health-wise and not finding the right solutions, schedule your initial consultation with our functional medicine physician today. We would love to take the time to sit down and learn about you, and then recommend treatments or lifestyle changes that will fortify your health.

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