Navigating the Cancer Treatment Hype
USA Today had an interesting article on April 28, 2017 about the false hope many patients with cancer experience when they enter into the world of modern oncology, and I would like to share some quotes from that article and address a few of its pertinent ideas.
"Patients and families are bombarded with the news that the country is winning the war on cancer. The news media hypes research results to attract readers. Drug companies promise 'a chance to live longer' to boost sales. Hospitals woo paying customers with ads that appeal to patients' fears and hopes." What this means is that you are now a health care customer in today's medical world, and unlike when you go to the store to purchase a smart phone or computer, you have little recourse to transparent information as to quality and cost of services.
'I am starting to hear more and more that we are better than I think we really are', said Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society." The article goes on to say: "Patients and their families have bought into treatments that either don't work, cost a fortune, or cause life-threatening side effects. 'We have a lot of patients who spend their families into bankruptcy getting a hyped therapy that (many) know is worthless,' Brawley said."
The article also states: "Although scientists have made important strides in recent years, and many early-stage cancers can be cured, most of those with advanced cancer eventually die of their disease."
I have two things to offer about these statements: First, if we adopt a more integrated cancer treatment approach, most people with advanced cancers can have a decent quality of life, even in the presence of an advanced cancer. Secondly, regarding early-stage cancers, it's important to understand that the timing of treatment is important: If a patient is rushed into surgery too soon, without being prepared and fortified with a good food and supplement program, even surgery can promote cancer growth which can spread after the surgery. This is also true for inappropriately or untimely prescribed radiation therapy.
The article also said, "Patients hear 'progress,' and they think they are going to be cured." The truth is, there is no cure for any advanced disease. From my perspective, it's about quality of life, staying in one's heart, and making a contribution to others through service.
In terms of progress, some of the newest cancer drugs, called immunotherapies (often advertised on TV as cancer-curing drugs), can do some good if used appropriately, but they are rarely approved unless a patient has gone through chemotherapy. (The exception to this is with melanoma that has spread to the brain.) And as noted above, these newer immunotherapy drugs can have serious side effects that can diminish quality of life--they are often given approval by the FDA when they only keep a patient alive for four to six months!
The USA Today article quoted an interview with an employee of one of the pharmaceuetical companies that makes these very expensive immunotherapies, Merck senior VP Jill DeSimone, who said, "The physician is the ultimate decider on treatment." But what if the physician is receiving free trips to conferences from the same pharma companies, or other free gifts? How objective can that oncologist or physician be? What forces are influencing them, and influencing the results of the cancer research that large pharmaceutical companies are doing?
We have to become more conscious and aware of nuances of these matters. Beware of buzz phrases like "genomic testing" and "precision cancer treatment." Again, while these may have a role to play in certain people with a more advanced cancer, they are not the be-all and end-all, as they are often portrayed. It's also about addressing your biological terrain: making your internal "soil" inhospitable to cancer growth. This is done by bathing your cells and tissues with nutrients from high-quality foods, herbs, and botanicals.
Address Underlying Causes
So, how do we navigate the maze of facts and deception that are part of the modern medical system? You have to find and awaken that place in you that enables you to observe, perceive, and sense whether there is truth in what you are being told, and it's important that you educate yourself as much as possible about the "big picture." For example, when we hear the words "targeting genetic mutations," are we aware that these mutations are activated by the GMOs and sugar we eat in our diet, and the chemicals, heavy metals and electromagnetic fields to which we are increasingly exposed? These things can often determine whether a latent cancer gene mutation will grow into a detectable cancer.
Living in today's world today means that we are constantly being exposed to many toxins, infections, and psychological stresses that can collectively undermine our immune systems and generate the type of chronic inflammation that can lead to cancers, as well as to dementia, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease--the major chronic diseases of our time. T he reason that integrative therapies work is that they support necessary detoxification, decrease inflammation, enhance immune function, correct nutritional imbalances, and minimize the side effects or enhance the effectiveness of modern oncology therapies.
Can we guarantee that the integrative therapies we offer can help you "cure" your cancer? No we cannot, nor can any other integrative or naturopathic physician, nor any physician, for that matter. When it comes to physical health and longevity, there are no guarantees. Is there proof that all this works? T here is solid published research on the effectiveness of many herbs and nutrients in cancer care (so much that it would be too much to publish in one place), and in the care of many people with a chronic condition. And there are centuries of clinical and observational experience with these approaches, as any well-trained doctor of Chinese medicine, homeopathic, naturopathic, or integrative medicine can tell you.
A Vision for the Future
We are all going to be challenged to make fundamental changes in how we live our lives and how we finance our health care. The time is coming when we are all going to have to collaborate in many ways to form a common community of providers, patients, families, and suppliers of products. It is my perspective that we are going to have to focus on creating entirely new organizations in health care that are outside of both the influence of government and the medical "industry."
There is going to be a need for building integrative and naturopathically based hospitals and clinics throughout the nation, and for finding the funds to do this. I am collaborating with others nationally and locally to construct such an achievable plan.
This is going to require a lot of work and commitment, as well as an awareness of the potentially deceptive forces that are currently at work to take advantage of our fears and vulnerabilities. But change is possible, and we exercise our power through the choices that we make--including dietary and lifestyle choices, as well as the kinds of treatments we decide to pursue and the practitioners we choose to partner with.