AdventHealth Cancer Institute physicians have launched the Healthy Eating Active Lifestyle (HEAL) program, which is a comprehensive lifestyle medicine program designed to decrease the risk of cancer recurrence, improve comorbid conditions, and extend the health span of cancer patients and the community.
The program, which was co-founded by Nathalie McKenzie, M.D., gynecologic oncologist, and Amber Orman, M.D., radiation oncologist, is divided into three segments. HEAL: Breast is directed at breast cancer patients; HEAL: Gynecology Oncology is open to gynecology cancer patients; and HEAL at Home is a condensed, free, virtual program which is open to the community.
According to the American Cancer Society, this year there will be more than 1.8 million new cancer cases and 606,000 cancer deaths in the United States. That’s about 5,000 new cases and 2,000 deaths per day.
“I’m passionate about this topic because I’ve used these lifestyle modifications in my own healing journey from breast cancer,” said McKenzie. “I hope our program and educational tools will lead to an improvement in the life of our patients as well.”
The program teaches plant-based nutrition, physical activity, stress management and mindfulness, relationships and connectedness, sleep, body image, and cancer-related sexual issues (for the cancer-specific programs). The team includes a registered dietitian, mindfulness coach, clinical psychotherapist, certified life coach, personal trainer, oncology social worker, and nurse practitioner, as well as the physicians.
Data from the American Cancer Society supports a focus on nutrition and physical activity for cancer prevention, claiming that a healthy diet could lower future cancer reoccurrence by 25 percent. On the contrary, following a high-sugar, high-fat Western-style diet nearly doubles the risk of cancer reoccurrence.
In addition to the education component, McKenzie and Orman hope to gather data on how well-being and lifestyle changes impact recurrence rates in participants.
“Through my college and on to medical school education, I independently studied nutrition because there was no mention of it in our curriculum. After I began my practice, my passion for the topic only grew,” said Orman. “A cancer diagnosis brings not only fear of the disease itself, but of where else in the body it may spread. The most impactful tool we have against this is to make the practical lifestyle changes we teach during our HEAL series.”
AdventHealth | October 2020