Integrative Cancer Care
Cancer is one of the greatest medical challenges of our time, both for the individuals afflicted with it and their treating physicians. While conventional medical approaches like surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy can have a fantastic impact on certain cancers, their use does not fully guarantee remission or the prevention of a recurrence. Similarly, while many natural therapies have been shown to exert potent anti-cancer effects they alone cannot be relied upon to deliver absolute results. Integrative oncology is the combination of both fields, taking the best tools the medical community has to offer. Indeed, when conventional and natural therapies are combined, both research and clinical experience show the greatest benefits for the patient.
The Scope of Integrative Oncology
Integrative oncology can and should be applied to any type of cancer diagnosis. Working with a medical oncologist will bring into place the necessary conventional treatment options and requisite blood work and diagnostic imaging. Concomitantly the patient consults with a naturopathic doctor (ND) with a specific focus on cancer management. The ND will discuss the diagnosis and conventional therapy options to determine the best course of naturopathic treatment. Many nutritional supplements and intravenous therapies have strong anti-cancer effects, either by directly killing cancer cells, enhancing chemotherapy and radiotherapy, stimulating the immune system to remove cancer, and/or stimulating cancer-suppressing genes. However, if certain supplements are taken at the wrong time or with the wrong chemotherapeutic agents they can have an opposite effect. As such, a detailed treatment protocol needs to be outlined by the ND to ensure safety and maximal efficacy.
Naturopathic Cancer Interventions
Diet is of great importance in fighting cancer, reducing risk of recurrence, and working to prevent it from arising initially. Cancer feeds on inflammation and high levels of sugar, thus a non-processed foods diet with a low glycemic index is ideal. Protein intake is important, and most should come from non-animal sources like nuts, beans, lentils, and seeds. Any food sensitivities should be identified and avoided to further reduce inflammation. Nutritional supplements are crucial as well for many of the benefits mentioned above. Generally, supplements should support chemotherapy effects, work to reduce side effects, boost energy, and destroy cancer cells. Certain supplements are of prime importance during procedures that can damage the system such as biopsy (necessary for diagnosis but can also facilitate cancer spreading) and radiotherapy (reduces cancer spread but can lead to depressed immune function, skin irritation, and anemia).
Parenteral Cancer Therapies
Parenteral therapies are amongst the most potent natural anti-cancer treatments available. In my practice I strongly advocate the use of mistletoe extract (known as Helixor or Iscador) for its potential profound benefits of killing cancer cells, activating the immune system against cancer, reducing pain, improving energy and mood, and enhancing the benefits of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Mistletoe is administered subcutaneously (like insulin) and can be done by patients at home. Intravenous high-dose vitamin C also has a great impact on the health of cancer patients. It does so by elevating the level of hydrogen peroxide in all of the cells of the body, which kills cancer cells as they are deficient in the enzyme catalase. Without catalase hydrogen peroxide accumulates in the cancer cell, leading to their demise. Benefits of high-dose vitamin C can include improved energy, less fatigue, and improved cancer status.
A diagnosis of cancer almost always marks the beginning of a battle for survival, a battle in which cancer cells do not hold back. An integrative approach to oncology affords cancer patients the greatest levels of anti-cancer activity and personal comfort during their treatment. It is my belief that with so many tools available we would do well to use them to their full extent.
Mistletoe: A Natural Chemotherapy Enhancer
A great deal of time, effort and focus is spent on cancer treatment and research. This is of crucial importance because cancer is one of the most prevalent and elusive medical conditions that affects our society. Fortunately, advances are being made in conventional oncology to help improve the prognosis and extend the lives of patients diagnosed with this disease.
Advances are also being made in integrative medical approaches to cancer, including dietary, herbal, nutritional, and more advanced interventions. Among these, one of the most powerful is mistletoe therapy. Mistletoe contains molecules which exert a variety of anti-cancerous effects: direct killing of cancer cells (similar to chemotherapy), enhancement of the immune system so it can remove cancer cells more effectively, and reduction of blood flow to cancer cells to impair their growth.
To date over 30 human clinical trials have been conducted on mistletoe therapy in cancer patients showing an additive benefit on top of conventional treatment compared to placebo. In a 2010 study in the journal Current Molecular Medicine, patients with pancreatic cancer showed a 50% increased survival time and 70% reduced incidence of chemotherapy-induced side effects when treated with chemotherapy plus mistletoe versus chemotherapy alone.