Integrative medicine offers relief and comfort to metastatic breast cancer patients

Metastatic breast cancer (MBC) patients face unique challenges including uncomfortable side-effects from their treatments. For over 25 years, Charlotte Maxwell Clinic, located in Oakland, California, has been working to heal the side-effects of underserved women with metastatic breast cancer through integrative medicine techniques. Charlotte Maxwell Clinic receives Safety Net support from the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade and is a beneficiary of the Avon-Pfizer Metastatic Breast Cancer Grants Program.

It all started with a woman named Charlotte Maxwell. At the age of 56, Charlotte was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and given a grim prognosis. Charlotte’s friends, among whom were several women practitioners, gathered around her to offer support, including alternative complementary medicine to treat her throughout her cancer diagnosis. These alternative treatments made the end  of Charlotte’s life more comfortable.  Per Charlotte’s request, her friends decided that this type of medicine should become an established part of treatment for cancer patients, and knowing many were underserved in the Oakland area, they decided to create the Charlotte Maxwell Clinic.

At Charlotte Maxwell Clinic there are two main goals: to extend survival time and improve quality of life for underserved metastatic cancer patients.  Charlotte Maxwell sees around 20 patients a day and has over 200 volunteers who offer integrative medical therapies. The organization remains open only on the weekends as it has found more success with volunteer availability during that window of time and does not interfere with other conventional care appointments for cancer patients.

“The great part of our volunteer practitioners is that most have been with us a long time,” says yvonne charles, Executive Director of Charlotte Maxwell Clinic. “We know cancer care. We know exactly what we’re doing.”

A vast majority (around 95%) of the patients that Charlotte Maxwell Clinic serves come from referrals from hospitals. Many don’t understand their treatment plan and often have some type of language barrier. To address this barrier, Charlotte Maxwell Clinic offers services in English, Spanish, Cantonese and Mandarin. The staff works with patient navigators to help patients understand their treatment plan and to identify what symptoms need to be addressed.

In order to help heal those symptoms, there are a multitude of services offered including guided imagery, homeopathy, herbs, massage, bodywork and acupuncture. These services, all free, provide a glimmer of hope for metastatic breast cancer patients as well as ease crippling side effects that are associated with long-term treatment plans. The clinic has found that patients immediately benefit from the relief and comfort provided through these integrative techniques and as a result, their quality of life greatly improves.

In addition, Charlotte Maxwell Clinic also provides financial, legal, and emotional resources for underserved metastatic breast cancer patients, especially those who are struggling to provide for their family while in treatment.

But Charlotte Maxwell not only provides quality care, it provides a safe haven for MBC patients to relax, sleep and interact with women going through a similar journey.

“We provide a safe and comfortable healing space,” says charles. “Our waiting room can be filled with laughter and noise. We have a few clients whose partners come in and take naps – people know they can come in and rest.”

To learn more about the Charlotte Maxwell Clinic visit To learn more about the Avon-Pifzer Metastatic Breast Cancer Grants Program visit