Finding the Right Functional Medicine Doctor to Ensure Optimal Health

The American healthcare system has been rated as one of the best systems in the world. In this country, there are many “conventional doctors” practicing “conventional medicine”. These doctors are experts at treating acute illnesses, such as a broken leg, a rash, or a serious wound. All types of medication can be (and is) prescribed by them. But the question I’m asking today is: how well do they treat chronic illness such as cancer?

According to the CDC, there are approximately 129 million Americans with at least one major chronic illness (cancer and heart disease, to name two). This is roughly 40% of the total American population! It begs the questions: why will an estimated one in two of us be diagnosed with cancer over our lifetime? Why haven’t we yet won the War on Cancer declared over 50 years ago (Nixon, 1971)? Why is it that we as a society seem to be sicker today and not healthier?

Facing The Facts

Health Systems Tracker estimates that the average annual health care cost in the U.S. will be $12,555 for each individual by 2022. In ten other countries with high income, the average per capita expenditure on health care was $6,651 in the same year, or about half of what we spent.

You would think that the U.S. would lead the world in quality of healthcare if it spent twice as much money, right? According to the Commonwealth Fund, however, we ranked – wait for it — LAST on the list of comparable nations in terms of quality healthcare received.

A Word About the Failure Rates of Conventional Medicine

Here in the U.S., chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery are considered standard conventional cancer treatments. But I’d like to bring your attention to a potential ally in your fight against cancer you may not have considered.

If you find yourself dealing with cancer, then I urge you to take a deep breath, take control of your health, and consider all options. Are you taking the right road? You may be surprised as I was to learn the conclusion of this shocking study published in Clinical and Translational Medicine (2018). Researchers found that chemotherapy is a cancer treatment with 90% failure rates. Further, the study’s authors stressed the importance of focusing on improving the body’s immunity in order to fight cancer rather expensive and less effective treatments like chemotherapy. They called for a revamp of the drug-development and patenting processes to speed up the availability of effective, affordable treatments.

The Contrast and Benefits of Functional Medicine

Functional medicine practitioners view the body not as separate “organs”, but as one unit. They don’t just look at a tumor, they take into account a variety of factors that may have caused your cancer — such as diet and lifestyle. Cancer is not a transmittable disease; there are root causes if you know how to look for them. Many chronic diseases are preventable with the right lifestyle, and that’s why this holistic approach has several benefits:

  • Early detection: Cancer is a disease that demands your immediate attention. Functional Medicine stresses early diagnosis and prevention of disease.
  • Customized Treatment: Treatments are tailored to meet your needs and biological makeup.
  • Root-Cause Resolving: Functional medicine always looks at resolving all underlying issues for your chronic condition.

How to Find a Functional Medicine Practitioner

Back when I was diagnosed with a deadly form of Stage 4 Melanoma over 38 years ago, I didn’t know where to turn. There was no internet, and no way I could simply “google” my questions. So I did what most people do. I put my trust in the hands of conventional medical experts. I went through a grueling experience at a major Texas hospital. And I ended up walking – more like crawling – out of that hospital in the middle of the night when I realized their treatments were not working, but were making me even sicker than I was to start.

If it hadn’t been for three special people who delivered the news I needed, I might not be here today to tell my story.  (You can read all about my experience in Chapter 3 “Three Knocks At My Door” in my book, “I Used to Have Cancer.”

I hope that no one ever has to endure the same kind of experience I did. Unfortunately, however, I’ve watched too many of my friends and colleagues not make it in their fight against cancer. It’s one of the reasons I created the Templeton Wellness Foundation. I’ve worked to add the resources and information I wish had those many years ago.

Here’s how you can locate a qualified functional medicine professional:

  • Our online Resource Directory is a great place to begin if you want to find a functional/integrative physician.
  • Ask for referrals from friends, family or healthcare professionals familiar with Functional Medicine.
  • Explore our Expert Interviews – interviews with many of the foremost cancer experts from all around the world. Many of them accept patients via telemedicine appointments. And even if you don’t choose to work with them, I promise you’ll find the information they freely share to be life-changing.

Functional Medicine and Cancer Prevention

A functional medical practitioner is able to offer proactive and comprehensive health care for anyone interested in cancer prevention. This is particularly important if you’re at high risk of cancer:

  • Integrative Testing: Functional medical practitioners use advanced tests in order to identify cancer markers early. It allows for preventive measures before cancer occurs.
  • Nutritional Support: Functional medicine practitioners can create customized nutrition plans that include anti-cancer foods and supplements that you may not be aware of.
  • Detoxification: Functional medicine practitioners understand the role of regular detoxification protocols in reducing cancer risk and can guide you in safe detoxification methods.
  • Stress management: Chronic anxiety is a known factor in cancer. Functional medicine doctors can guide you to benefit from a variety of simple, yet effective, stress-reduction techniques.
  • Check for Compatibility
  • How well do you relate to the doctor? You’ll want to find someone who is open to discussing preventative measures and testing, not just conventional treatments.
  • Consider Practicalities
  • Take into consideration the location of the provider, their availability and the telemedicine consultations they offer (a real advantage).

Functional vs. Fear-based Medicine

I know for a fact what it feels like to wait for a phone call I’m promised to let me know the results of a test for cancer. I thought the phone would never ring and when it did, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to answer it.

I’m one of many who came to realize that the conventional medical approach to fighting cancer may not work for everyone. It can lead to an excessive reliance on medications, surgery, chemo and radiation, without addressing the root causes. And I’m also one of many who now understand the approach of functional medicine practitioners. Their focus is not on treating symptoms, but rather the underlying causes of disease. Functional medicine specialists with experience in prevention and testing can help you maintain and achieve good health. And, in my opinion, that’s exactly what you need if you’re battling cancer.

The Bottom Line

Functional medicine specialists who are experienced in testing and prevention treatments can help you achieve and maintain good health. Functional medicine focuses on preventative care, and the causes of problems. I urge you to check out our online Resource Directory and our Expert Interviews as a start in finding an integrative, functional healthcare practitioner.



Maeda H, Khatami M. Analyses of repeated failures in cancer therapy for solid tumors: poor tumor-selective drug delivery, low therapeutic efficacy and unsustainable costs. Clin Transl Med. 2018 Mar 1;7(1):11. doi: 10.1186/s40169-018-0185-6. PMID: 29541939; PMCID: PMC5852245.

Siegel RL, Giaquinto AN, Jemal A. Cancer statistics, 2024. CA Cancer J Clin. 2024 Jan-Feb;74(1):12-49. doi: 10.3322/caac.21820. Epub 2024 Jan 17. Erratum in: CA Cancer J Clin. 2024 Mar-Apr;74(2):203. doi: 10.3322/caac.21830. PMID: 38230766.

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