The Holistic Picture on Cancer Treatment
Dr. Deidre Macdonald, ND
A diagnosis of cancer can strike fear deep within our souls. It is a very vulnerable time, when we are suddenly thrust into the confusing world of medical terms, statistics, and treatment choices. Conventional medicine will often offer some combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. In addition, cancer patients often seek information about natural medicines and dietary approaches to assist in their healing. Well meaning friends often bombard the newly diagnosed cancer patient with stories of miracles cures from a myriad of sources. All this information can be overwhelming to sort through. The internet can also be a frightening and confusing source of information. But there are ways of using natural medicine to significantly enhance the cancer treatment process
The primary goal of naturopathic cancer care is to enhance the body’s ability to fight cancer by selecting natural medicines that have demonstrated to be toxic to tumor cells, or that bolster the cancer patient’s immune response to cancer. Many such substances exist. For instance, a mushroom extract used extensively in Japan called Coriolus versicolor has been shown in scientific studies to stimulate the immune system’s natural killer cells and lymphocytes by two fold. Clinical trials of this mushroom extract have shown significantly increased survival times in patients undergoing chemotherapy for cancer. There are many other herbs and antioxidant nutrients that can play an important role in helping the body to overcome cancer and prevent metastasis (spread).
Another important role for naturopathic care is to aid in the recover from surgery and to eliminate or reduce the common side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. It is critical to select only those natural medicines that are compatible with specific chemotherapy agents or with radiation. Chemotherapy knocks down the white blood counts, sometimes dangerously impairing the person’s resistant to infection. Natural medicines can be used to enhance white blood cell production so that chemo can be continued. Mouth sores from chemo or radiation can be treated with licorice extracts, L-glutamine or Vitamin E. I had a young patient whose chemotherapy for breast cancer was causing nerve pain in her hands and feet. High doses of a natural amino acid called alpha lipoic acid solved the problem and she was able to continue her treatments. In fact she rode her bike to her appointment a few days after her next chemo session!
Once cancer has been treated, I encourage patients to engage in a program to lower the risk for recurrent tumors thereby significantly increasing the chances for sustained remission. Detoxification programs are often indicated after conventional treatments. Antioxidant nutrients and immune boosting foods and herbs can help the immune system stay vigilant against cancer. If possible, we need to search for ways to change the internal environment of the body that created cancer in the first place.
There are many possibilities in the treatment of cancer, both conventional and natural. The goal is to tailor a plan that feels right for you and will give you the best chance to overcome cancer.