Foundation Funds Complementary Breast Cancer Care

Angela Johnson, a practitioner of Chinese medicine in the Cancer Integrative Medicine Program at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, IllinoisBy Angela Johnson

In a beautiful and quiet space of the 10th-floor Rush University Cancer Center, a team of integrative medicine providers helps people diagnosed with cancer heal in mind, body and spirit.

The Cancer Integrative Medicine Program team recently received exciting news: The Susan F. Lasky Cancer Foundation has provided funding so that patients with breast cancer can participate in a series of acupuncture, massage, nutritional counseling or yoga sessions, at no charge. The Cancer Integrative Medicine Program team is honored to receive this donation, as it creates opportunities for people who may not otherwise be able to afford our services, with a chance to be involved in their own care.

As the practitioner of Chinese medicine for the Cancer Integrative Medicine Program, I am thrilled to have this resource available to breast cancer patients. For those who elect acupuncture, the ability to receive a series of weekly treatments can make a significant impact in helping reduce the side effects related to cancer and cancer treatment. As one of the most studied forms of complementary medicine, acupuncture has been found to be safe, and play a very useful role in symptom supportive care. In research studies, acupuncture supports the immune system, and is known to help with symptoms like fatigue, depression, pain, vomiting, radiation-induced xerostomia (i.e., dry mouth), and chemotherapy-induced hot flashes.

If you or someone you know has a breast cancer diagnosis, and is interested in integrative medicine, please contact the Cancer Integrative Medicine Program at (312) 563-2531 to learn more about this wonderful opportunity.

Angela Johnson, Dipl OM, MSTOM, MPH, LAc, is a practitioner of Chinese medicine with the Cancer Integrative Medicine Program at Rush.

Tips for Breast Cancer Patients With Hot Flashes

By Angela M. Johnson

As a practitioner of Chinese medicine with the Cancer Integrative Medicine Program, I have the privilege of providing care for many women with breast cancer. In my discussions with patients, hot flashes are among the most common symptoms people ask for help with, as they cause both physical and emotional distress. In observance of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, here’s a little more information about hot flashes, and some helpful tips on how to reduce the heat — inside and out.

Hot flashes are sudden, and many times, an intense sensation of heat in the body. They are often accompanied by a red, flushed look on the face and sweating. Many women also experience sweating at night (aka night sweats), a rapid heart rate and chills after the night sweats subside. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), they are “a problem for many menopausal women and a common side effect of breast cancer treatment.” Unfortunately, hot flashes aren’t just quick bouts of heat sensations that come and go quickly. They vary in intensity, duration and frequency, and interrupt sleep, often causing a sense of discomfort, anxiety and decreased quality of life. Continue reading

Why I Nominated Rush’s Team of the Year

Erin Schneider (right), a patient navigator at Rush, with Rush social worker Deirdra Soohov.

Rush’s Cancer Integrative Medicine Program staff was recently honored as the 2011 Bradley G. Hinrichs Team of the Year at Rush. Erin Schneider, a social worker and patient navigator for the Rush University Cancer Center, explains why she nominated the Cancer Integrative Medicine Program team.

By Erin Schneider

When you hear the words, “You have cancer,” many thoughts go through your head all at the same time. “Am I going to die?” “Where should I get my treatment?” “What kind of treatment will I need?” “How am I going to feel?”

Eventually, once the shock has worn off, you are able to start piecing things together and answering all of those questions. However, even when everything has fallen into place and patients are receiving the best possible care, they can feel out of control because someone else is making decisions regarding their health. Their surgeon says they need this surgery, and their oncologist says they need this chemo; they have little choice in the matter because these are the treatments that have been proven to cure their disease.

Fortunately, here at Rush we have the Cancer Integrative Medicine Program, which offers patients complementary therapies to help fight their cancer and the side effects from treatment. When patients can choose to receive acupuncture to help alleviate  pain and nausea, rather than relying solely on medications that their doctor prescribes, they regain some control of their health. Feeling in control can improve outcomes. Continue reading

Headache? Complementary Medicine May Help

By Angela Johnson

Do you ever experience dull-achy head pain or discomfort? Or how about a sensation of tightness or pressure on the front, sides or back of your head? If so, you may be experiencing what’s called a tension headache. It’s the most common form of headache and can last anywhere from 30 minutes to an entire week. Yikes. If this type of headache is occurring more than 15 days in any given month, it’s considered chronic.

If this sounds like something you struggle with, you are not alone. Surveys estimate that 45 million Americans suffer from chronic headaches. You should contact your medical provider if your headaches are sudden, severe or disrupting your life in any way.

To help manage pain, as many as 38 percent of American adults and 12 percent of children turn to complementary medicine (also referred to as integrative medicine), including acupuncture. A recent review of studies found that patients who used acupuncture, in addition to their standard care (e.g., medications, etc.) had fewer headaches than those patients who only relied on standard care. When performed by trained practitioners, acupuncture is a safe treatment, and can be helpful for pain and other chronic health conditions.

For more information on how acupuncture may be of help to you, contact me via email at or call (312) 563-2531.

Angela Johnson, MSTOM, Dipl OM, MPH, LAc, is a nationally board-certified diplomate of Oriental medicine at Rush University Medical Center.

Talk to Your MD About Integrative Medicine

Examples of integrative medicine include acupuncture, biofeedback, nutritional/herbal supplements, relaxation, meditation, massage, yoga.

Saturday, January 23, is International Integrative Medicine Day.

By Angela M. Johnson

Did you know that as many as 50 percent of Americans, of all ages, use some form of integrative medicine (IM) to help enhance health or well-being?  For those who suffer from chronic illness, as many as 80 percent incorporate IM in their care. Examples of IM include acupuncture, biofeedback, nutritional/herbal supplements, relaxation, meditation, massage, yoga.

Do you use IM? During your last doctor’s visit, did you have a conversation about it? If you haven’t talked with your doctor, you’re not alone. Surveys show that as many as 50 to 70 percent of patients do not talk with their doctors about IM use because (1) their physician never asked; (2) the patient didn’t feel like the MD needed to know; (3) there wasn’t enough time during the office visit.

The term “integrative medicine” includes healing-oriented medicine that takes the whole person (e.g., mind, body, spirit) into account. It emphasizes:

  • a respect of the body’s own ability to help enhance the healing process
  • the importance of the relationship between health care practitioner and patient
  • a consideration of all factors in life that may influence health, wellness, and disease
  • inter-professional collaboration between IM practitioners and conventional health care professionals (MDs, RNs, etc)
  • use of integrative medicine modalities that, in scientific studies, have been found both safe and effective.

While it can be helpful and empowering to use IM, it is extremely important to talk with your health care providers about it. If you’ve never done so before, make a commitment to yourself to do so at your next visit.  Why?  Well, even though some IM modalities, such as herbs or supplements, are marketed as “natural,” there is a possibility that they could cause drug-herb interactions. Continue reading

Patients Needed for Acupuncture Study

By Angela Johnson

Rush University Medical Center is currently enrolling patients in a pilot study exploring the role of acupuncture for pain management in pediatric patients.  You may be eligible to participate in this study if you are 5-20 years of age and experiencing pain.

According to research studies, 30 to 70 percent of pediatric patients with chronic illness experience pain. To help manage pain, 12 to 84 percent of pediatric patients utilize complementary medicine.

Studies demonstrate that acupuncture has been found to be helpful in reducing pain in several adult and pediatric conditions. Additionally, studies show that in pediatric patients, acupuncture is feasible and accepted as a supportive therapy, and considered safe.

To inquire about your eligibility, please contact me at (312) 563-2531 or via e-mail at

Angela Johnson, MSTOM, MPH, Dipl OM, LAc, is a nationally board-certified Diplomate of Oriental Medicine providing acupuncture for patients at Rush University Medical Center.