New integrative medicine program helps cancer patients heal

After several misdiagnoses, Matthew Freeman came to UF Health seeking answers and hopefully a treatment that would help. Within hours of coming to Gainesville and working with UF Health physicians he was diagnosed with throat cancer and his new treatment began a week later.

Dr. Irene Estores is the medical director for UF Health’s new integrative medicine program, which offers patients services such as acupuncture, Tai Chi, meditation and more as part of the healing process.

Irene Estores, M.D., is the medical director
for UF Health’s new integrative medicine
program, which offers patients services
such as acupuncture, Tai Chi, meditation
and more as part of the healing process.

In addition to treating his cancer with standard forms of therapy, such as radiation, Freeman also received another complement of care to help him heal. Freeman has been through acupuncture sessions to aid in his production of saliva and to help with his dry mouth, a common side effect of radiation therapy. He’s also had Tai Chi lessons to help regain strength he lost because of the disease.

It’s all part of UF Health’s new integrative medicine program. In integrative medicine, patients and practitioners work as a team and develop the most comprehensive treatment for a patient’s individual needs. Integrative medicine techniques range from Tai Chi to massage therapy to acupuncture.

Cancer patients are just one of the patient populations that is benefitting from the new program, which is housed in the UF College of Medicine and led by Irene Estores, M.D., the medical director for integrative medicine and an assistant professor of medicine. Freeman is one of her patients.

“The UF Health hematology-oncology clinic is set up in a way that promotes this line of communication and I am very grateful for the opportunity to be part of the excellent care this group provides to our patients with cancer. I hope the patients find in me a companion, someone who will support them in finding inner resources for their healing, in whatever form it may be found,” Estores said.

Freeman said the biggest benefit of integrative medicine is having more options “or another tool to speed the recovery process.” Freeman wasn’t a smoker or a drinker, so his throat cancer diagnosis came as a shock. Now he is in a recovery phase focused on “light exercise and proper oral care.”

“There is no comparison between UF Health and other hospitals, from the quick and correct diagnosis to the full range of care choices to the kindness of the nursing staff,” he said. “I feel had I not gone to UF Health I would not have been diagnosed in time to survive this illness.” — Kelsey Meany

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