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Prevention, treatment and integration. (An Update On Cancer).

Few illnesses create as much concern and anxiety as the diagnosis of cancer, and few diseases can benefit as greatly from an approach using the most sophisticated technologies of modern medicine together with the best of natural and complementary medicines. Conventional medical therapies, even under the best expectation of outcome, can have devastating and destructive effects on a person, frequently to the extent of being life-threatening in and of themselves. While natural therapies, which are fairly well-tolerated and frequently life-enhancing, can be somewhat unpredictable in the response the person receives.

The Impact of Cancer

Cancer is a significant illness in our society. The lifetime chance of developing cancer is now about 44% for men and 38% for women. Overall, though, the incidence of cancer and dying from cancer has been going down about 1.1% each year over the past ten years. This speaks of progress but is most likely due mainly to slightly less cigarette use and the resultant impact on lung cancer, showing how greatly our efforts to take care of ourselves has an impact. Cancer is also a normal part of life gone out of balance. Cancer cells are mostly normal functionally and genetically. Each of us produces several thousand cancer cells per day which our immune system normally recognizes, repairs (in the case of some types of mutations), or destroys. We have the inherent ability to heal cancer within us and within our society. But how do we get the healing done?

The Role of Science

In many ways, various tools of modern medicine have been our ally in the challenge of understanding cancer in our society. Beyond the unfortunate political agendas of some organizations and corporations, the evaluative and research efforts of well-intended investigators have been able to demonstrate the links between diet, quality of our food sources, environmental exposures, and their strong relationship to developing cancer. For one example, the scientific literature keeps showing that foods high in antioxidants--primarily dark green vegetables and brightly colored vegetables and fruits--consistently impart a beneficial effect in decreasing the risk of cancer.

At the same time, studies are not demonstrating as clear a relationship between supplementing with anti-oxidants in isolated form and prevention of cancer, probably due to missing aspects of the whole food or varying responses to megadoses of various supplements. In another aspect of cancer risk, the recent controversy over allowable levels of Arsenic in drinking water (50 ppb vs. 10 ppb) was answered by clear scientific evidence of the risk of multiple forms of cancer from exposure, resulting in a reversal of the current administration's political position.

As well, these same statistical tools are finally being applied to natural and alternative strategies to treat cancer so we can start to take advantage of the best that herbal, nutritional and mind/body strategies have to offer in the healing process. It is clear now that conventional and non-conventional approaches are not necessarily mutually exclusive. There are many examples of individuals with cancer who have survived and thrived by taking advantage of strategies from both sides of the fence, so to speak. The scientific literature is starting to support this as well. More studies are demonstrating that, in contrast to the general beliefs of most cancer doctors, anti-oxidant vitamins and supplements can be supportive to the patient receiving chemotherapy and radiation therapy and may actually improve outcome, both in terms of decreased ide effects and enhanced impact on the destruction of cancer cells. There are some clear exceptions to this. For example, several types of cancer agents rely on oxidation to have their tumor reducing effect; bioflavonoids can negatively impact on the effectiveness of Tamoxifen; Selenium above a certain range can interfere with radiation therapy. But there is something deeper occurring with the healing of patients using more natural or supportive therapies which requires detailed investigation. More and more examples of patients with clearly better than expected outcomes are generating significant interest by the National Cancer Institute and NIH's Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine to look more closely at the best case scenarios of a variety of alternative practitioners who have worked successfully with cancer patients--most notably; Dr. Gonzalez's work with pancreatic cancer patients and Dr. Bryzynski's work with neoplastons.

As well, the trend is changing in the research community. There is now a greater attempt to study these alternative approaches as the original practitioners designed them to be followed instead of fitting the approach into a conventional research model and missing the unique key's to a successful outcome by that practitioner. In conventional research, usually a method will be analyzed, taken apart and studied in pieces to assess the effectiveness. As with whole foods, if you tear them apart for what seems to be most important by our current understanding, you can miss the effect of the whole. This is one reason many alternative protocols are so strict. The reason it works may not be completely understood and to alter a piece can have unpredictable results.

What else can we say about modern medicine and complementary therapies? The tools of laboratory tests have given us a way to monitor well and more closely therapeutic impact. For example, certain forms of colostrum, as well as larch extract, Coriolus, or MGN-3 have all been shown to enhance a particular white blood cell, the Natural Killer (NK) cell, a key piece in the immune system in its ability to fight cancer. High dose (intravenous) Vitamin C, among other unique actions, can influence another set of white blood cells, called LAK cells. By measuring before and after values of NK cell and/or LAK activity, one can make clearer decisions on the proper therapy and see if the particular supplement used is doing the intended job. Oxidation can be measured indirectly so we can assess the impact of our antioxidant therapies. Also, advances in monitoring tumor markers in the blood for various cancers can give an earlier clue to how effective an overall alternative strategy is working.

On the Horizon

Within the next few years, the evolution of technologies and approaches will make the detection and treatment of cancer less invasive, less toxic, and more effective. Adjustments in chemotherapy and radiation will be more individualized based on premeasuring the cancerous tissues' response to dosage and method. Thus, minimum effective doses can be determined and if the specific person's cancer cells are susceptible or resistant to a variety of treatments. This can limit exposure to treatments that are known in advance to be effective against that line of cells. Individualized antibodies will be produced to enhance the body's ability to recognize those specific abnormal cells, a function that is weakened in most individuals with cancer. Undoubtedly, integrative approaches and purely non-conventional therapies will be explored and more readily incorporated into any program for treating cancer, for the evidence continues to bear out the need for the person's system to he as strong, well-nourished, and balanced as possible, a role that cannot be played by drugs and radiation. Therapeutically designed diets, supplements, and injectable natural substances, such as Mistletoe, Chelidonium, and high dose vitamins will be utilized. The role of Chinese Medicine, Ayurvedic Medicine, and energy therapies will become clearer to the conventional medical communities at large as the higher rates of success with using these methods becomes obvious.

What to Keep in Mind

Meanwhile, the person who has found out they have been diagnosed with cancer does well to be pro-active and well-informed, even in the midst of such an emotionally wrenching life event. There are some critical questions to ask on the path to the right decisions for you. What are all my options? Many times there are several ways to proceed in addressing cancer. How effective are these therapies in leaving me cancer-free? At times, your care provider may couch expectations more positively in an effort to protect a patient from losing hope. But evidence bears out that a clearly informed patient can carry hope better and may even respond better to therapies than one who suspects that accurate information is being obscured. What are the chances of the cancer progressing or returning with the therapy? without the therapy? Frequently, complementary approaches are done after the initial medical treatment. This information may help you to decide how strongly you need to consider a comprehensive alternative approach.

What are the more serious consequences of the therapy--short term--on hair, skin, digestive and immune systems? Long term--causing another type of cancer, immune system does not recover, sexual function organ system impairment? What are all my options to remedy these side effects, either during or after therapy? For example, Glutathione can be given to help protect the digestive system when receiving chemotherapy or radiation therapy for non-digestive system cancers since it is not absorbed significantly enough to have any potentially (though theoretical) negative effect on the therapy itself.

In addition, it can be helpful to know how your chemotherapy or radiation therapy works. Many people with cancer have successfully used visualization techniques to aid the therapy in accomplishing its intended use.

The keys to our inherent health and healing are vital to invoke for true healing to be able to occur. In The Journal of Clinical Oncology, in an article entitled "Must We Kill to Cure?," it was noted that "the host response [that is, the patient's immune response] is critical and determines long term survival." What are these inherent keys? Well, as noted, the immune system is the most critical key, And this vast system relies on many other keys: spiritual focus, a solid nutritional strategy, a sound endocrine system, relaxation approaches and stress reduction, and eliminating toxic loads to our bodies and minds. No wonder embarking on a path to heal from cancer is typically so life changing!

Certainly, regardless of your choice in therapy, be proactive and open to discovering your own path to healing. The experience of cancer is unique to each individual and so is the path to healing. But, as important is to recognize whether the path to healing is the search for recovery or the search for completion. The road to developing such an illness has been long and hard met for many and for many the body is saying it is time for peace outside this earthly existence, time to bring to resolution the as yet scattered and unresolved pieces and to say goodbye. Regardless of one's beliefs, we can go softly into the night or fight against it. It can only be answered by our own hearts and the meaning each of us has found in the world in how we exit this world. In this lies the beauty and art of each of our lives.

Dr. Salvatore D'Angio has a practice in Asheville, NC. He can be reached at 828-253-3140.
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Author:D'Angio, Salvatore
Publication:New Life Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2002
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