Cancer Supportive Care I
Cancer is becoming more and more prevalent in our society, most likely due to our lifestyle, diet, and environmental pollution. I recall seeing a statistic that almost one in four of us will develop some sort of cancer during our lives. At the same time, current conventional cancer treatments remain one of the more disappointing areas of modern medicine. To be sure, huge advances have been made in the past decade in terms of safer and more effective treatments. However many cancers still carry poor outcome potential, even with the latest therapies. Furthermore, conventional treatment options such as chemotherapy and radiation frequently carry significant and debilitating side-effects including: body wasting, loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, mouth sores, pain, neuropathy, anemia, and bleeding.
Despite this, many, many people opt for conventional treatment, and I can’t say that I blame them. Ignoring medical advice in a potential life and death situation is very difficult and stressful for many of us. It is, in fact, so stressful and frightening for most people that I think they are probably better off undergoing the treatments rather than always worrying about having done the right thing. It puts people’s minds to rest knowing that they have done all they can, and the rest is up to, well, somebody else. That piece of mind is invaluable in terms of their long term survival.
However, there are other things that can be done to enhance outcomes and make long term survival much more probable when undergoing conventional treatments for cancer. This month, I will introduce you to some of the supplements and lifestyle changes that are wonderfully helpful when used with conventional treatments, and next month I will review a general program for continued care after the treatments are over.
I must stress that the purpose of this program is supportive in nature and is not meant in any way to replace conventional cancer therapies, but rather to enhance them.
As far as diet and lifestyle goes, the advice is relatively straight forward. Saturated fat (red meat), Monounsaturated fat (margarine), white sugar, and refined grains (white bread, bagels, pizza, etc) should be eliminated (or at least significantly reduced). It is also important to identify and eliminate any food intolerances that may be present. Fish, fruits, and vegetables should all be increased. Depending on the type of cancer, there may also be other specific dietary advice. At least 2 liters of water should be consumed per day. Exercise should be done without being over done - do not fatigue yourself. It is also important to consider joining a support group in order to optimize your mental/emotional health.
The following list contains supplements that can act in one of two main ways to support quality of life and survival potential. Some compounds counteract side effects and others are able to enhance the effectiveness of either chemotherapy or radiation, while others can actually do both. All statements are backed by research.
Selenium - Both animal and human studies have found selenium to reduce the adverse effects of chemotherapy and enhance its effectiveness by reducing cancer’s resistance to drugs. It has also been shown to reduce the mortality of several types of cancer.
Vitamin C - has also been proven to have a dual effect. It can both increase the cancer-killing effect of certain drugs and reduce the side effects of those drugs. Vitamin C can also “kill” certain types of abnormal cells itself.
Fish Oil - Many studies have found fish oil (EPA and DHA) to enhance the ability of chemotherapy drugs to kill cancer cells. Fish oil also helps maintain normal body weight and supports the immune system in cancer patients. It can also extend survival time in terminal cancer patients. Breast cancer patients are more likely to respond to chemotherapy when they have good tissue concentrations of fish oils.
Glutamine - is very useful for reducing the gastrointestinal side effects of chemotherapy as it is the primary fuel for intestinal cells. As an added bonus, it has also been demonstrated to improve the efficacy of some chemotherapy agents. It is particularly useful to combat radiation side effects as well.
Enzymes - Enzymes can increase absorption of drugs and improve tissue diffusion, thus making the drugs more effective. In Germany, the combination of enzyme therapy and chemotherapy was shown to produce more rapid remission rates and reduced side effects.
Melatonin - can increase survival time of cancer patients regardless of tumor type. It can act as an antioxidant and protect normal cells from chemotherapy thus reducing side effects without lessening the drug’s antitumor actions. Melatonin can also help support normal weight.
Chinese Herbs - A number of human-based studies have found that certain Chinese herbal formulas can improve survival in cancer patients receiving chemo while simultaneously reducing adverse effects. I have used Chinese formulas successfully for this purpose.
Alpha-Lipoic Acid, Vitamins E,A, and D, Quercetin, and Green Tea extract have all been demonstrated to either enhance the effectiveness of chemotherapy and/or reduce side effects and improve quality of life.
In general, the greatest effects are seen when combinations of relatively large doses of these supplements are used. They seem to work best when they are used together. As always, it is so important to undergo a program like this under the care of a health care practitioner who knows what the appropriate dosages are and who has access to the highest quality supplements. This type of therapy is not inexpensive. Its probably about $200 per month for a good effective program, but the help could very well be priceless.