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What is Integrative Medicine:

Complementary and alternative medicine is defined by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine as a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not normally considered to be conventional medicine. Included in this type of therapy are herbs, acupuncture, chiropractic, and massage, among others. Use of these therapies is common in the general population.

The use of integrative medicine is widespread and increasing. Multiple studies have found that within one year, up to 90 percent of patients with cancer used an integrative medicine approach for at least a part of their therapy. However, patients may not reveal the use of complementary medicine unless specifically asked. In one study, disclosure of the use of these therapies increased from 7 to 43 percent when directed questions were added to standard history taking. Unfortunately, communication between oncologists and patients about complementary is poor, infrequent, and mostly initiated by patients or their kin.

Users of integrative and complementary medicine are generally not dissatisfied with conventional medicine but find alternatives to be more congruent with their own values, beliefs, and philosophical orientations toward health and life. Factors reported to be associated with use of CAM therapies in cancer patients include:

  • Increased psychosocial stress (eg, anxiety, depression) 
  • Being given a less hopeful prognosis
  • Having the feeling of "nothing to lose"
  • Attending support groups 
  • Age (younger versus older) and gender (women more than men)

Despite the current popularity of CAM, most mainstream oncologists have little understanding of these therapies. However, patients with cancer report feeling that their doctors "should be more interested in, more informed about, and more willing to discuss unconventional therapies".

Commonly used complementary medicines and treatments include Essiac, Mistletoe, PC-SPES, Sho-saiko-to, St. John's wort, Astragalus, Melatonin, Shark and bovine cartilage, Hydrazine, Coenzyme Q10, Thymus extracts, Shiitake mushroom extract, Acupuncture, Hypnotherapy, Behavioral intervention, Relaxation therapy, Aromatherapy , Self-help and support groups, Ginseng and fatigue, Fish oil for symptom control , vitamins, and immunostimulating herb.

Here, Dr. Tony Talebi discusses the general concepts of what is integrative medicine with Dr. Eugene Ahn, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Miami Comprehensive Cancer Center and a specialist in integrative medicine.

Dr. Ahn credentials:

Certifications American Board of Internal Med-Infectious 

DiseasesAmerican Board of Internal Med-Medical Oncology


  • Hematology/Oncology - Internal Medicine


  • Assistant Professor

Clinical Interests

Breast cancer, Infectious Diseases

Research Interests

Impact of cognitive and spiritual therapy as adjuncts to standard of care for metastatic, incurable cancer on long-term outcomes including survival and quality of life.


2007 Fellowship
University of Miami
2000 Fellowship
University of Miami
1999 Residency
University of Utah
1998 Internship
University of Utah
1997 M.D.
University of Miami School of Medicine
Yale University