It makes more sense to lead a healthy lifestyle and to consume a healthy whole foods diet from a young age if we are interested in preventing the development of cancer as we age.
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Everybody Knows Somebody With Cancer
Cancer is an area that has touched each and every one of us. Almost certainly you will have heard of, or know someone, who has been diagnosed with cancer. Increasing numbers of people around the world are personally touched by a cancer diagnosis. In 2004 in the country where I live, New Zealand, around 16,000 people were diagnosed with cancer and around 7,500 died from it.
Among women, cancer is now the leading cause of death in New Zealand, accounting for an incredible 26 percent of deaths. In the past decade alone, the incidence of breast cancer has increased by 21 percent. Each day in NZ, 44 people are diagnosed with cancer, and on average 22 will die of cancer (that’s nearly one person hour). Prostate cancers have increased by an incredible 200 percent since the 1950’s; breast cancer by 64 percent and childhood cancers by 35 percent. Cancer is now expected to strike one in two men and over one in three women in their lifetime.
This beautiful country has a problem with its bowels: New Zealand has one of the world’s highest rates of female bowel cancer, and the world’s second highest in bowel cancer amongst males. As a population, we clearly need to make a change, and most practitioners in general will be quick to tell you this: cancer is hard to treat, it really needs prevention. People in general need to be more pro-active about their own health, by educating themselves, by changing and improving their diet and lifestyle.
Cancer Treatment, It’s About Choice. Your Choice.
Patients first confronting cancer want to live, and in order to live, they obviously need to find the best possible treatment for themselves. In some instances, treatment will only involve visiting an oncologist after a referral, in other instances conventional cancer treatment will be rejected and natural medicine favoured, but I have found in most cases, a combination of natural and Western medical treatment options is eagerly sought after by many Kiwis.
The successful combination of natural and conventional medicine is creating a new model of cancer care world-wide, a model based on promoting and maintaining a state of wellness rather than just ‘killing cancer’. It is a model in which patient and practitioner work in a partnership to find the treatment best suited to the patient. This approach encourages patients to assess their own health and well being, empowers them and, in many ways, provides great preventative care. Offering not only significant cost savings, ‘integrative’ medicine will most likely be the medicine of the future. It will offer the patient the wisdom of nature with the skill of science and technology, truly the best of both worlds. I have always told cancer patients who come to visit me that it makes sound common sense to look at all your treatment options. It is important for a cancer patient to explore all their options, if prevention is not an option anymore. It is really all about priorities: if you need surgery urgently for an invasive tumour, there is no point in taking an echinacea pill.
And if you have exhausted all Western medical treatment options, and you hear your oncologist say “I am sorry, there is little more we can do for you”, there may still be some benefit to be derived from a natural approach. I am not pro or anti any treatments, it is really about personal choice. You make up your mind and consider what is right for you, be careful. You are more emotionally vulnerable now with cancer, and fear has a powerful way of consuming you and making you believe that you have very little time (or the intelligence) left to make any personal choices.
In my experience with cancer patients for over the years, I have found the following to be true: the cancer patient is often quite vulnerable, and some well meaning friends, family members, doctors (and even natural therapists) are calling all the shots in terms of what is ‘right or wrong’ for the patient. They tell them what to eat, what pill to take, some even ‘scare’ them about some treatment options, they almost ‘baby’ the cancer patient. How would you feel, if you lost your freedom, your power to choose what is right for you?
Cancer Does Not Mean Having A Mental Disability
If you do have cancer, it is important to plan a meeting with your family and friends and tell them you want to consider ALL your options, and that you want to try and keep fear and other overpowering emotions out of your decision making. Then gather up all the facts about your particular cancer, read up on ALL the treatment options, consider all the costs involved, consider the urgency/priority of treatment of your particular cancer, go online and perhaps get into some cancer discussion groups. In other words, become very well informed, don’t become a passive back seat passenger, drive your own vehicle. After all, you are making decisions regarding your most priceless asset: your health and future well being.
Remember how much time it took in terms of planning, discussion and stress when you bought your house? There were the real estate people, the solicitors, the bank, the mortgage, the moving, etc. And this house is just a house, not your health. My guess is that people spend more time planning a two-week summer vacation than they would planning their cancer treatment options! They let other people do the majority of the planning for them.
Much Cancer Is Preventable
A major cancer symposium was held in France in the early 1990’s. The world cancer experts at the time proclaimed that about 90% of all cancers could be prevented……by diet and lifestyle alone. Drugs are still used in an attempt to “cure” cancer, it is no wonder that patients are given the impression that cancer is just ‘another disease to be conquered’, and that they themselves play no role in the development and progression of their cancer. Science has done nothing to save us from cancer, in fact, since president Richard Nixon in America first declared” the war on cancer” in the 70’s by way of medicine, the incidence has actually sky rocketed globally to be one of the biggest causes of death in the developed world.
Will medical science save us all from cancer? Yeah right. Given the extremely poor success rate for treatment of most common cancers, it seems most logical to me to focus our attention on ways to prevent cancer occurrence.
Natural Medicine and Cancer
A growing number of people are beginning to realise the benefits offered by natural medicine as a means of not only cancer prevention, but as a treatment as well. Some of the natural methods provide help by strengthening the body and controlling the side effects of conventional treatments. Other approaches, because of their gentle non-invasive nature, may in some cases be preferred over more orthodox treatments offered by modern medicine.
I have found that in some instances the side effects and problems caused by radiotherapy and sometimes extensive chemotherapy can be so detrimental to the well being of the cancer patient, that one needs to carefully weigh up the risks versus any real benefits gained long term.
Most natural therapies have a common theme. Many are based on the belief that a truly healthy body is much less vulnerable to cancer and more able to fight off and kill cancer. They emphasise that cancer develops as the result of a problem with the immune system and or an imbalance in the body in the first place.
Many people believe the imbalance is created by too much filth and waste in the body from improper lifestyle habits and poor dietary habits. And don’t forget the multiple stresses we are all under, in the 21st century. We use cell phones, computers and all manner of electronic gadgets which were not even conceived when I was a kid growing up in the 60’s. Did we have cancer? Sure we did when I was a kid, but it was not the leading killer of women in this country back then.
Naturopaths consider the tumour to be merely a symptom of the cancer. They are concerned with what caused the tum or to grow in the first place. It is more logical to fix the cause(generally poor lifestyle & dietary habits) than to attack the tum or itself. If many people consulted a naturopath in the first place (remembering that 90% of cancer can be prevented by way of diet and lifestyle modifications) this country could be seeing in a few short years a considerable reduction in the amount of cancer cases, expensive treatment options, and a lot of grief and suffering in the first place.
Television and the promotion of cancer
Smoking damages just about every organ in the body, is linked to at least 10 different cancers, and accounts for some 30% of all cancer deaths. Many people still smoke, in spite the fact that it costs many millions of dollars of wasted health care spending each year. This would be good to see, instead of the advertisements on TV which focus merely on drink-driving (a rather immediate way of dying), they could also highlight smoking, junk food diets, inactivity, obesity, and other numerous aspects of poor diet and lifestyle habits which potentially cause cancer long term. For example: “If you smoke cigarettes and expect to maintain good health throughout your life, then you are an idiot”It is time to have a stronger message, we try to shock people on the TV to slow down their speed on the road, to wear seat belts, but what about the more subtle, insidious things we do which undermine our health. It is about time that we now use shock tactics on cigarette packets: “smoking kills”.
But it is time to move this message to the box., and to do the complete opposite that we did in the 60’s, remember the Marlborough man, riding off into the sunset with a fag in his mouth on horse back? Remember all the movie stars with smoke in their eyes? We have stopped selling booze and smokes on TV, but today we are still putting out the wrong kind of messages: junk food is OK for kids, pharmaceutical drugs are OK to take, violence and drugs are cool, etc. What about this one (placed on junk food packaging): “Warning, this food could make you sick, fat, develop diabetes, and potentially cancer”
Antioxidants And Cancer
Data exist in the scientific literature showing reduction in the risk of cancer occurrence achieved by the use of nutritional and other natural medicines such as herbs. Appropriate use of supplemental nutrition, along with attention to correct dietary and lifestyle risk factors, comprise for the average person perhaps the best presently available strategy for prevention of the common types of cancers. Research in 1999 has revealed that the effects of using antioxidant supplements along with chemotherapy and radiation are actually synergistic, (contrary to what the doctor or the oncologist will tell you). I place patients on high quality supplementation prior to them receiving radio and/or chemotherapy.
These are the patients who tend to have an easier time with the conventional cancer approach, they suffer much less fatigue and digestive problems.These are the three exceptions, however, and patients on these drugs below are cautioned with taking supplements at the same time as these drugs: – Flavonoids with Tamoxifen – N-Acetyl Cysteine with Doxorubicin and Beta-carotene with 5-Fluorouracil
There is absolutely no clinical or scientific evidence to date showing that natural antioxidants interfere with conventional cancer therapeutics in the body. Studies have shown that patients treated with antioxidants, with or without chemotherapy and radiation, have many benefits. Patients have been noted to tolerate standard treatment much better, experience less weight loss, have a better quality of life, and most importantly, live longer than patients receiving no supplements! The drug-based cancer monopoly should discontinue, it really is high time to research the role of these agents in conventional oncologic treatment in NZ, rather than dismiss them as a class based on theoretical concerns.
According to Dr. Davis Lamson, cancer nutritional expert from America: “Physicians need to remain aware of the large body of evidence showing a most positive effect of antioxidants in the period following chemotherapy administration. The general protocol with standard oncologic therapies is to follow a watch-and-wait strategy after therapeutic administration is concluded. This is a period when supplemental therapies are highly indicated and have been demonstrated to result in a higher percentage of successful outcomes”.
According to research, certain types of cancer are more preventable using nutrients than are others. Lung cancer, for example, appears to be extremely difficult to prevent with nutritional supplementation methods. Prevention of recurrent colon cancer has been achieved in some trials, but overall the data have been inconsistent.
Prostate cancer, however, appears to be much more readily preventable by nutritional methods. A final conclusion based on these data is that the most effective nutritional interventions for cancer prevention have shown a roughly 50-percent reduction in the risk of cancer occurrence or recurrence.
This elevates nutritional intervention to approximately the same level as the most effective drug based strategy devised for cancer prevention Tamoxifen. Tamoxifen treatment can be associated with severe, even life-threatening, adverse effects (increased risk of cancers, cardiovascular disease). Nutritional supplementation, on the other hand, generally has been well-tolerated in clinical trials. Given its record of efficacy and safety, it is my belief (as well as the opinion of people far more expert than myself in cancer) that nutritional supplementation is, along with dietary and lifestyle risk reduction, the treatment of choice in the primary and secondary prevention of the common malignancies.
So, what do I take to prevent or treat cancer?
Like all conditions, cancer is no different. We treat the whole person, not just the cancer. You need to consult with your professionally qualified natural therapist like a naturopath and work out a treatment plan which best suits your needs, as well as your pocket. Make it clear what you can afford, and come armed with test results, reports, etc. Expect a consultation which (should) be about 1½ hours. It often pays to bring a close friend or family member. I always recommend that it is best to consult with a registered health care professional when you have cancer, it is too easy to walk into a health food shop and purchase products, but then you are self-prescribing, which is something I feel is not appropriate for the cancer patient. Remember all the emotions, fear, etc? Are you really making the right decision?By all means study up yourself, but then consult with the professionals and work out what you really need. I have run out of space this month, but I think a follow up article would be good to outline some nutrients and herbs which I have found favourable in terms of prevention and treatment of cancer.
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