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Integrative Pediatric Oncology

We work to ensure the well-being of patients, to improve their quality of life, and to have a positive impact on their prognosis.

The Integrative Pediatric Oncology Unit (IPOU) at SJD Barcelona Children's Hospital is the first in Spain. Our professionals offer the patient a holistic, patient-centred approach, based on scientific rigour and medical criteria to reduce treatment toxicity and improve the quality of life of children and adolescents with developmental cancer. This is a pioneering project in our country and its approach is unique within Europe, because at our centre the complementary treatments are integrated in the therapeutic plan and in the global patient approach.

The IPOU was established in September 2019 to respond to the needs of patients and their families, who are concerned about their children's well-being, during and after oncological treatment.

Acupuncture treatments
600
during the first year of activity
Average number of sessions per patient
4.5
during hospitalization, in the day hospital, or in external consultations
Nutritional monitoring and advice
90
weekly assessments a year

Complementary treatments we offer

Integrative oncology attends to the physical and emotional needs of the patient according to existing scientific evidence, within the conventional treatment. We offer children and adolescents with cancer all the evidence and the knowledge that we have to provide treatment that ensures recovery, well-being and quality of life, in all the phases of the illness and regardless of the prognosis

The main treatments we offer are oncological nutrition and pediatric acupuncture, which have been proven to be of significant benefit in oncology. According to the Society for Integrative Oncology (SIO) clinical evidence guidelines, acupuncture is recommended as an adjunct treatment for poorly controlled pain and nausea or vomiting associated with chemotherapy. Relevant studies on the implementation of integrative oncology carried out by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health in the USA (NCCIH) have concluded that:

  • Cancer patients who receive integrative treatments while in the hospital experience less pain and anxiety.
  • The importance of an appropriate nutritional status during and after cancer treatment to improve adherence to treatment, quality of life and survival.

Pediatric acupuncture

From diagnosis, this in included in the treatment plan during all stages of the disease. We use painless techniques to relieve side effects (asthenia, nausea, pain and anxiety). It is a safe, effective, and very well tolerated treatment.

It is not covered by public health

Nutrition plan

It is created according to the patient's needs in order to improve tolerance and adherence to treatment and improve eating habits. Proper nutrition from diagnosis can improve the survival of patients with developmental cancer.

It is not covered by public health

Support therapies

We offer other complementary treatments under medical criteria, such as essential oils and reflexology, to improve physical and emotional well-being. In the context of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, some therapies are not being performed for safety reasons

It is not covered by public health

Personalised treatment

At the time of diagnosis, each patient is assessed as to what type of nutritional support and complementary treatment they will need. We design personalised integrative therapeutic plans around the treatment period and potential sequelae.

It is not covered by public health

Safe environment

Many families seek complementary treatments outside the hospital and may resort to poorly regulated settings that do not adhere to scientific rigour. The IPOU enables us to cover this growing demand in a safe environment with medical supervision.

It is not covered by public health

Multidisciplinary care

The pediatrician in charge of the Pediatric Integrative Oncology Unit works in coordination with the medical team, dietitians, nutritionists and all the healthcare teams involved in the care of children and adolescents with cancer.

It is not covered by public health

Objectives of integrative pediatric oncology

We offer patient-focused treatment with a holistic approach in order to:

Reduce secondary symptoms

Secondary symptoms of the disease, adverse effects, treatment toxicity, polypharmacy and professional intrusion.

Increase well-being

Safety, treatment adherence, physical and emotional well-being, and the quality of life of patients.

Promote reliable information

An optimal nutritional status, accurate and reliable information for families, and evaluation, regulation and research.

What makes us different?

We are a pioneering unit in Spain inspired by reference centres for pediatric oncology in the United States, where integrative oncology has been part of the service portfolio for years and is an indicator of healthcare excellence. This is the case for Boston Children's Hospital, the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Presbyterian Children's Hospital. We stand out from other centres in our country because we offer complementary treatments integrated into the therapeutic plan in a safe environment. We work with highly trained professionals with the aim of improving the quality of life of patients and helping families avoid unnecessary travel, expenses, or unwanted effects. 

For which patients is it indicated?

The complementary treatments offered by the Integrative Pediatric Oncology Unit are available to any patient receiving treatment in the Oncology Department, whether an outpatient or inpatient, depending on their needs. Nutritional advice, acupuncture and essential oils are included in the therapeutic plan of all children and adolescents with cancer in active treatment or follow-up.

Medical acupuncture is performed by a pediatrician specialised in this discipline. Painless techniques and specific pediatric materials are used, and it has been consolidated as the main non-conventional treatment, from diagnosis and throughout all stages of the disease (including the survivor phase), due to its excellent tolerance, efficacy and safety. During hospital stays, acupuncture and essential oils are integrated, as part of a protocol, to alleviate very common side effects such as nausea, digestive disorders (diarrhoea, constipation), pain and anxiety.

During external consultations, outpatients and survivors are assessed for nutritional advice and to promote healthy living habits. Complementary therapeutic strategies are offered that provide a better quality of life, relieve or resolve sequelae associated with the treatment received, such as functional pain, asthenia, anxiety and digestive disorders.

The effect was almost immediate; after the first session I started to relax more and more. As well as giving you drugs and chemotherapy, they should offer these treatments.
Arnau Alpáñez, patient at SJD Barcelona Children's Hospital
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