|As part of our continuing series of interviews with chiropractors who work in integrative settings, we visit Jeffrey Sklar, DC, a full-time staff chiropractor with Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Dr. Sklar, who previously co-founded an integrative wellness center, has been with CTCA since 2009.
In addition to his professional experience with oncology patients, Dr. Sklar has witnessed the struggle and success of cancer survivors in his personal life. His mother and brother are both cancer survivors. His stepmother is also a three-time survivor and former co-chair of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Philadelphia.
Sklar speaks highly of CTCA’s whole-person approach to cancer care in which body, mind and spirit each play an important role. At CTCA, he says, “Every patient has an opportunity to collaborate with their oncologist and explore additional complementary therapies in conjunction with their conventional cancer treatments.”
Please tell us about Cancer Treatment Centers of America, its origins and its mission.
After his mother died of bladder cancer, businessman Richard J Stephenson was disappointed with the quality of care and options that his mother received. To keep his mother’s memory and spirit alive, Mr. Stephenson vowed to change the face of cancer care. He founded Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) in 1988.
Mr. Stephenson’s goal in creating CTCA was to provide the very best traditional cancer treatments, along with complementary therapies to heal the whole person. Looking at chiropractic, for example, not as an alternative but as an adjunct to help people who are fighting cancer, to reduce pain and other symptoms and to maximize and optimize function. So can we eradicate cancer? That would be awesome. But if we can improve quality of life, extend life and put people into remission, that’s the goal. Our goal is to get people back to the productive, quality lives they enjoyed before their cancer diagnosis.
From what you’ve seen, what are the benefits of a holistic, integrative approach to cancer?
Chemo-related neuropathy is one area where we’ve seen tremendous results among our patients. Neuropathy is a common side-effect of chemotherapy and many patients will even be forced to stop their treatment before they are able to actually benefit from it because of discomfort and painful side effects from the drugs. With our integrative approach, patients experience an improved quality of life so they are able to follow through with their treatment without interruption. This can improve and, in some cases, even extend their lives. It’s pretty amazing. Right now, we’re working on a research proposal for a study on this topic.
Most chiropractors see at least some patients with cancer but few DCs have a practice that consists mainly or solely of cancer patients. What’s different about that in your experience?
As chiropractors, it is our obligation to find and fix vertebral subluxations, and using the safest and most effective means is crucial and paramount. So when a patient has cancer or progression of their disease, we need to know that.
When I was in private practice, I certainly saw patients who had cancer but, without being able to communicate with their oncologist and learn about specific medical concerns and possible contraindications, I often had to refer the patient out.
Traditionally, if someone came in [to my private practice] with a dysfunctional shoulder and we needed to do an adjustment, if I didn’t know they had cancer and they didn’t report it or were unaware of it, we might simply do an extremity adjustment. At CTCA, I’m lucky to be part of the patient’s care team and have access to their medical records. So, before I see any patient, I look at their recent scans, recent blood work, platelet counts and any other notes from the rest of their care team. If there’s something in the humeral head, I’m not going to adjust that extremity. If there’s any type of thrombosis, we’re not going to be adjusting it. So, having the arsenal of different techniques available to the chiropractor and having the most recent diagnostic information, is really crucial.