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The field of orthodox western medical oncology is becoming increasingly interested in the virtues of alternative and complementary treatment modalities. What was once regarded with suspicion is appearing to hold significant clinical merit as scientists continue to unlock and understand the unorthodox field of phyto-pharmaceuticals and energy medicine. Improved understanding of the genetic and biomolecular processes of malignant disease is encouraging new and creative ways of looking at and advancing both modern and traditional healing protocols. These same tools are also showing more clearly and unequivocally that many of the traditional herbal `cures', once regarded as the height of quackery, are actually exerting potent immune stimulating and cancer inhibiting properties. We are seeing many promising and positive results when these two traditions are blended appropriately. There are several major goals of an alternative or complementary approach to treating cancer. Whilst orthodox medicine sees removing the tumor and its bio-markers as the end point of successful treatment, it is also important to address the underlying physical and emotional terrain that permits cancer to initiate, promote and progress in the first place. Taking account of this bigger picture and focusing on the individual with illness, not just on the illness, has shown to improve survival, quality of life and help prevent future recurrence of disease.
Reducing Side Effects:
Chemotherapy and radiation both produce a variety of moderate to severe side effects, the severity of which tends to increase as cumulative doses of treatment grow. Perhaps the best known and accepted application of complementary therapies is in minimizing and eliminating these side effects, which may be severe enough to discontinue conventional treatment. Studies have shown that episodes of nausea and vomiting can be reduced with standard and electro-acupuncture, severe pain and neuropathy can also be minimized, whilst bone marrow suppression and resulting low blood counts can be elevated with appropriately prescribed Chinese herbs. Poor energy levels and reduced daily performance, often leading to feelings of hopelessness and depression can also be very effectively attenuated with acupuncture treatment. Surgical management of tumors may involve minor biopsy, lumpectomy and superficial surface excisions from which the body can easily recover. But when subjected to major internal debulking procedures, acupuncture and herbal medicine provide the body with resources that allow it to repair and heal without draining from its inherent pool of vital energy, best reserved for fighting the cancer. Most importantly, these and other benefits are achieved because complementary treatments are aimed at supporting and balancing the individual, and not simply attacking the tumor or other manifestations of cancer at all costs.
It's clear that compromised immune function can lead to an assortment of chronic and acute illnesses, including cancer. The average person is exposed to multiple risk factors every day of their lives, and it takes a properly functioning immune system to discharge these influences in an appropriate manner. Among many factors, this includes DNA repair mechanisms, metabolic enzyme functions, default metabolic pathways used by individual cells, down regulation of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins, overall hormonal/endocrine balance and pathways for detoxification and elimination of wastes. Also, as seen in the field of psycho-neuro-immunology, our state of mind and emotions may also have an impact on the prowess of our immune functions. By addressing these issues we can improve the body's ability to cope with internally and externally generated carcinogenic influences. What is not always made clear is that whilst modern chemotherapy and radiation are powerful and often effective at killing cancer cells, they are also very taxing on the immune system. We see this revealed in signs of post treatment bone marrow suppression, lowered white and red blood cell and platelet counts, susceptibility to frequent infections, low energy and poor spirits during treatment. And whilst tumors shrink and disappear and hair grows back after chemotherapy, the immune system may remain injured for many years, leading to a higher likelihood of cancer recurrence as well as other chronic and degenerative illnesses. This is why we aim to address the entirety of a patient's condition, offering therapeutical techniques, diet and lifestyle advice that seek to restore lost harmony and vitality.
The organs and pathways of detoxification are under stress in many individuals with or without a cancer diagnosis. Every food, medicine, herb, chemical and drug that is ingested, inhaled or even absorbed via the skin, must be broken down and metabolized by the body. A person may excrete waste materials via their sweat, urine, and/or feces, and it is vital to keep these pathways clear and functioning. Its important to assess the weakest and the strongest link in this chain, and to apply treatment that balances and shares the work load. The internal organs that cleanse the body include the liver, kidneys, lungs, spleen and lymphatic system, and these organs benefit from lifestyle and diet choices that reduce the total toxic load that the body must endure on a daily basis. For example, drinking less alcohol reduces the liver's work load and frees it to metabolize chemotherapy drugs, endotoxins and metabolic waste. Smoking cessation allows the lungs to properly oxygenate the blood and remove carbon dioxide from the system without the hindering mechanical injury caused by hot smoke and added carcinogens. Eating a diet of unrefined food without artificial preservatives, rancid and partially hydrogenated oils, growth hormones, pesticides and fertilizers not only reduces metabolic loads, but also promotes efficient and beneficial enzymatic pathways of metabolism. When the body has a lower circulating waste load, the lymphatic system is more readily able to traffic these products to the portals of excretion. When we see cancer lodged in the lymph nodes we consider it a sign of an overwhelmed lymphatic system unable to complete its routine purification duties that it would easily perform under normal circumstances. Add to these circumstances a body that is actively destroying a tumor and releasing its poisonous cellular debris into the circulatory system, and it becomes even more important to support the channels of detoxification.
As phyto-pharmaceuticals in cancer prevention receive more research attention, we are learning again and again that a good diet can make a significant difference in ones likelihood to become afflicted with cancer, survive and remain disease free in the future. Whilst it is known that some of the most powerful cytotoxic medications have been isolated from plants and herbs, such as Vincristine from the Periwinkle tree and Taxol from the Yew tree, it is often overlooked that many common foods contain micro nutrients that can actually inhibit the initiation and progression of many cancers. For example, cruciferous vegetables contain compounds that reduce circulating estrogens and endogenous sex hormones, an important feature for managing hormonally sensitive malignancies. Soy products contain several phytoestrogens that have a minimal hormone receptor stimulating effect, but an affinity that competitively blocks the very powerful endogenous estrogens from turning on cancer growth signals. Soy phytoestrogens also inhibit blood vessel growth to tumors, reduce cell proliferation, reduce inflammation and prevent metastatic spread of cancer. Fresh fruits, brightly colored vegetables and especially berries contain many antioxidants, vitamins and micro nutrients that can help prevent routine DNA damage, strengthen blood vessels and capillaries, and reduce systemic oxidative stress. Seafood such as herring, sardines, mackerel and salmon are rich in omega-3-fatty-acids which have been shown to slow the growth of certain cancers and reduce cachectic weight loss associated with cancer progression and treatment. Mushrooms such as maittake and shitake also contain polysaccharide, lectin and glucan complexes that can powerfully stimulate the immune system and inhibit cancer by raising natural killer (NK) cell activity. These are just a few of the reasons why a properly prescribed and adjusted diet is of utmost importance for the cancer patient.
Bringing It All Together:
When seeking cancer care, it is important to maintain an awareness of both the big picture and the fine details. The decision making process, treatment scheduling, financial arrangements, receiving treatments and relationship dynamics are the events that will enter a busy cycle of flux. However, above and beyond the task of dissolving tumors is the call to awakening that this cancer diagnosis has offered. Putting survival statistics to the side lines, this process of healing is an open invitation for a person to find the true meaning of radiant health. Be it for one day, one month or one decade. It can be found through meaningful lifestyle changes, healing of relationships and long standing conflicts, the pursuit of spiritual awareness and/or practices, and most succinctly, developing an immediate and dynamic respect and gratitude for life.
Paul Kempisty Published Article:
The Evaluation of Hemodynamics Provides a Theoretical and Clinical Link Between Traditional Chinese and Contemporary Western Medical Oncology Practice.