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Stopping the Process: A Few Thoughts on the Treatment of Cancer

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The development of cancer is more of a process than a disease, and one that takes decades to develop in most cases. In his book “The Emperor of All Maladies,” Siddhartha Mukherjee describes the evolution from a healthy cell to a cancerous one as being a protracted, glacial event characterized by the healthy cell “kicking and screaming” and firmly resisting being pushed over the cliff.

This is an encouraging image because if cancer is a process and not a disease, then it cultivates the notion of having room to maneuver. That is to say a process implies an inherent ability to change and a built-in capacity to heal.

Cancerous cells are in fact ubiquitous and everyone has them. When you consider that millions of cells are being replaced every second, it comes as no surprise that an egregious DNA copying error can happen here and there. Happily, the vast majority of the time, we never know about these mistakes because a healthy immune system quickly dispatches the rogue cells. In addition, any cell that begins to multiply out of control is programmed to commit suicide in a process called apoptosis. For cancer to arise, both the immune system and cellular repair mechanisms have to become overwhelmed. Therefore, the best way to prevent cancer is to take specific steps to keep your immune system functioning optimally, and to avoid the environmental and dietary stressors that can trigger cell mutations.

It is imperative for these components -nutrition and therapies that facilitate optimal elimination- be a part of any treatment plan for those who have been diagnosed with cancer. Unfortunately this is rarely the case. Every day I speak with patients who have been told by their oncologist that diet and exercise do not matter. “Ice cream and doughnuts are fine,” they are told, “as long as you are not overweight.” This is a direct quote. During chemotherapy, patients are often comforted with a plateful of cookies! It is a huge dilemma when mainstream physicians complacently ignore the plethora of studies proving that lifestyle adaptations are proven to halt the progression of cancer.

To be fair, we’ve made progress in the area of targeted therapy such as immunotherapies, which work to stimulate the immune system to attack cancer. However, it is unclear as to whether these therapies extend life more than a few months. These drugs should be used judiciously, and validated through personalized genomic and chemosensitivity testing prior to use. Such tests use either blood or tumor tissue to estimate the likelihood that a particular drug will be effective in that individual patient. In the hands of the experienced, open-minded physician, these panels will enable you to receive a highly individualized protocol, complete with nutritional and botanical recommendations that will encourage your body to recognize and eliminate the cancer cells. Further, if it is determined that mainstream therapies are necessary, such a protocol can help immeasurably by both reducing the likelihood of side effects and making radiation and/or chemotherapy more effective.

“But those tests take time!” you may want to shout, “I want this cancer out now!” If you’ve received a cancer diagnosis, I encourage you to curb your emotions and explore all your options. Of course it is hard to slow down once you have received this news; our culture has inculcated in us a horrific fear of cancer. However, the reality is the decisions you make concerning how your cancer is treated will have profound effects upon how the remainder of your life will play out. Most cancers have been growing for years. It is absolutely worth your while to take a little time to look past the standard recommendations of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. This is not to say these therapies should not be used; only that there are far more thorough and comprehensive protocols to consider before rushing forward.

Our bodies have evolved to heal; if you do not have cancer but are concerned you one day might (perhaps because of a family history) please take the time to learn more about the power of prevention. The informative, responsible tests discussed above are capable of detecting cancer up to two decades before it will be identified on any blood test, mammogram or MRI! If you do have cancer, or are a cancer survivor, be sure to have a physician on your team who is experienced with such tests.

Please remember! Cancer is a process. It is one that is inherently treatable.

Dr. Daniel Smith practices at Bear Creek Naturopathic Clinic. His office is on 2612 Barnett Ave.  He specializes in naturopathic oncology, but still maintains a strong family practice, treating all manner of conditions. He can be reached at 541-770-5563 or at drdanielnd@gmail.com. If you would like to schedule an appointment, please ask specifically for Dr. Dan.




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