When someone is diagnosed with cancer, they of course seek the help of an oncologist. The oncologist, in turn, is bound to follow what is sometimes an antiquated standard of care incorporating surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
When facing a complicated and difficult disease such as cancer, it helps to know all your treatment options. In this blog, I'd like to discuss a few ways that you can incorporate complementary therapies including herbs, diet and acupuncture, into conventional cancer treatment for the best possible outcome.
Conventional Cancer Drugs
Unfortunately, many do not realize the corruption of medical oncology by a system which rewards doctors for being pharmacists -- that is, choosing drugs for cancer patients based on profits to the oncologist.
Patients should be wary of taking the drug "Decadron" which is a steroid several times stronger than cortisone. It is used to reduce the nausea accompanying chemotherapy. But Decadron is well known to kill lymphocytes which are vitally needed for the immune system.
On the other hand, for breast cancer as well as prostate cancer, one of the most effective drugs to come along is called Herceptin. Herceptin (chemical name: trastuzumab) has been found to be an effective treatment both before and after surgery for people with HER2-positive breast cancer. It has also been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence after initial surgery.
One option that everyone who receives a cancer diagnosis should consider before undergoing conventional treatment is to send biopsied specimens of the cancer to Larry Weisenthal Cancer Group Lab located in Huntington Beach, Calif., to determine the most effective chemotherapeutic drug for that kind of cancer. The cutting edge of cancer therapy called "Functional Tumor Profiling" was developed by Dr. Larry Weisenthal, MD, PhD as a means of determining with more precision the best chemotherapeutic drug and dose to achieve optimum treatment outcomes. I recommend that you check the Weisenthal Cancer Group website at www.weisenthal.org for further information.
Herbal Support for Fighting Cancer
We know of dozens of herbs with anticancer properties, but the problem is that alone, they are generally not strong enough to treat the disease with any measurable effect. In my practice I recommend a complementary approach to the treatment of cancer, combining conventional, herbal and nutritional approaches as a superior way to treat this difficult disease.
When your oncologist warns you against the use of herbs during chemotherapy or radiation therapy, tell him or her that s/he should get up to date and read Marcia Egles, MD's "Impact of antioxidant supplementation on chemotherapeutic efficacy: A systematic review of evidence from randomized controlled trials."
Reviewing numerous research data, it is clear that contrary to what many oncologists have learned or tell their patients, antioxidants, including most herbs and supplements, have shown no adverse reaction or incompatibility with chemotherapeutic drugs. In fact, an otherwise healthy host given chemotherapy or radiation therapy is usually better able to utilize the benefits of these powerful anti-cancer treatments.
Adding to the mound of confusion with which a cancer patient must contend is the considerable amount of misinformation about both conventional and alternative cancer treatments widely available on the Internet and elsewhere. One such misunderstanding floating around in the alternative cancer community is that by somehow supercharging the immune system, cancer can be affected or even cured. According to oncologist Dr. Dwight McKee (see below for more on Dr. McKee), cancer in itself is an immune system suppressor and seems to be activated by surgery. McKee also says that some radiotherapy or chemotherapy actually injures the cancer cells and in consequence turns on the immune system against cancer.
Diet and Other Therapies for the Treatment of Cancer
What about the various approaches of treating cancer with raw foods, juices, macrobiotic diet and daily enemas? I have employed these methods and still do to a limited extent when it seems applicable. I have also investigated several other centers who have used this approach. For some there is considerable benefit. But the problem is that such a program requires extraordinary discipline that most of us do not have and not all who try these methods experience cancer remissions. What I have seen with most people who try them is some limited and selective success. In general, I regard this as a "starve the cancer by starving the patient" approach. Unfortunately, as soon as the patient with some apparent success attempts to resume a more normal, even comparatively clean, healthy diet, the cancer returns. Such an approach should never be undertaken if someone is already nutritionally deficient.
After many years of treating patients with cancer, I don't think that meat or eggs, which are primary proteins, are necessarily contraindicated for cancer patients. In advanced stages, cancer patients develop cachexia, acute physical wasting which eventually leads to their demise. Part of the aberration of cancer is a voracious need for protein in order for cancer cells to rapidly grow and multiply. That is why I recommend as much as possible, that the main protein source for cancer patients should be from beans and fish (especially sardines, which have the least amount of oceanic pollution and heavy metals with the maximum amount of anticancer and anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids).
While certain herbs already mentioned are fantastic for the immune system, fermented foods in the form of fermented vegetables, miso soup and others are among the most important foods that should be consumed for a well-functioning immune system.
Finally, many may find it very useful to learn that based on my personal clinical experience, I have found that patients undergoing chemotherapy and suffering the common nausea and generally sick feeling a couple of days after treatment will experience almost immediate recovery and energy if they have a vitamin B12 shot injected into the well known acupuncture point on the outside of the tibia below the knee known as Stomach 36 (zu san li). This is probably the most important single acupuncture point on the body. It has many uses but especially to increase energy and aid digestion.
Teaming Up: Combining Conventional and Complementary Therapies for the Treatment of Cancer
Recently I had the pleasure to meet an oncologist living in my community named Dr. Dwight McKee, MD. He received his MD degree in 1975 and practiced complementary medicine with an emphasis in nutritional and body/mind medicine before re-entering training in 1988 to complete a three-year residency in internal medicine. This was followed by three years of sub-specialty training in hematology and oncology and two years of immunology research at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla.
Dr. McKee, who presently resides and works in Aptos, Calif., (a suburb of Santa Cruz) does not currently practice oncology but serves as a consultant for cancer patients and oncologists who are seeking optimum care for their particular cancer. Dr. McKee can be personally contacted for consultation at 760-598-1700.
My own work with cancer patients is in a complementary role integrating dietary, herbal and nutritional supplements to optimize health and wellness ideally while they are under the primary care of their oncologist. After meeting Dr. McKee and seeing that he is a colleague in my community, I will be conferring with him and enlisting his valuable assistance in helping patients to achieve the best clinical result from conventional cancer treatments. I will also help direct and guide them to ask important questions of their oncologist such as their ordering the cell culture test mentioned above to determine what chemotherapeutic drug to which their particular cancer would best respond.
I describe my approach to cancer treatment in my book Healing Cancer with Herbs (Lotus Press, 2003). Individuals seeking my services can contact my clinic at (831) 429-8066. Be forewarned that the first question I will ask is if you are under the care of an oncologist, and if you are not, why. I am not licensed to serve as a primary provider for the treatment of cancer but I assure you there is much I can offer as a secondary provider, giving guidance and improving overall health.
Never forget that an otherwise healthy patient always does better undergoing conventional cancer therapies than an already unhealthy one, in part because oncologists are well trained in treating cancer but not in maintaining wellness and health. In contrast, herbalists and nutritionists are well trained in the latter so this becomes the point where the two disciplines favorably interact.