Cancer Prevention and Treatment: Alternative Methods
It is rare to meet a person these days who does not have a concern about cancer. Between the constant headlines, to pink ribbons on everything, to hearing that Aunt Jane was just diagnosed, it is impossible to not be aware of cancer’s presence.
The question is: what are you doing to actually prevent getting a cancer diagnosis? Or, if you were diagnosed in the past, what are you doing to prevent from getting it again?
Because if you are like most people, you are not doing much in the way of prevention; mostly, we just hope we can escape a diagnosis. Do not be fooled into thinking that doing regular mammograms is helping; statistics have clearly shown that the mammogram is being oversold in its value. The Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) test, as another example, has also been shown to not save lives, and leads to increased testing and treatments, as well as needless pain, impotence and incontinence. Additionally, early detection and screening are not prevention – despite how often people confuse the two.
Putting Cancer into Perspective
Let’s look at a few facts. First, be clear that cancer is a “modern” disease, and that traditional cultures showed little, if any, cancer. Dr. Albert Schweitzer studied more than 10,000 traditionally living Gabon natives in West Africa and never found cancer. Dr. Eugene Payne studied approximately 60,000 people for more 25 years in Brazil and Ecuador and found no incidence of cancer. The Hunza in northern Pakistan, the Inuit Eskimos – all these cultures, back when they ate their traditional diet, basically had no incidence of cancer. What’s more, all of these cultures have seen a huge increase, rivaling our own rates, after Western foods like refined oils, refined flours, processed foods and sugar were introduced into their diets.
Secondly, deaths from cancer (the only reliable statistic), have basically stayed unchanged, dropping only 5% since 1950 and in some cases rising. This is despite the hype in the news, giving people the impression that early detection equates to a possible cure because the treatments are more effective now. Rates have not changed for most cancers, and have gone up for lung cancer (substantially), as well as prostate and breast. It is often argued that since we have more testing, we therefore, have more diagnoses, but that is exactly why death rates are the only reliable measure.
Thirdly, the screening for cancer leaves quite a bit to be desired. Following are various perspectives of cancer.
Western perspectives of cancer:
Cancer begins in your cells, which are the building blocks of your body. Normally, your body forms new cells as you need them, replacing old cells that die. Sometimes, this process goes wrong. New cells grow even when you do not need them, and old cells do not die when they should. These extra cells can form a mass called a tumor. Tumors can be benign or malignant. Benign tumors are not cancer, while malignant ones are. Cells from malignant tumors can invade nearby tissues. They can also break away and spread to other parts of the body.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspectives of cancer:
Cancer is the manifestation of an underlying imbalance, and a tumor is the “uppermost branch” of the illness and not the “root.” Each patient may have a different imbalance causing the same type of cancer, it may appear.
“Cancer” is a modern day term and has no parallel word in Chinese Medicine. However, the recognition and study of “lui” (tumors) and “zhong” (swellings), was given ample discussion in one of the earliest treatises on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The three key elements, according to TCM, in the development of tumors are: Qi stagnation and blood stasis, Accumulation and binding of heat toxins, and deficiency of vital (Zheng) Qi, all of which can be treated with a combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine.
But in order to treat cancer properly, the practitioner needs to put two major concepts of TCM into play:
a) The concept of “Holism.” This means seeing the individual as a whole entity in relation to an environment and not simply a list of individual symptoms; and
b) The idea this holistic picture forms a pattern. When we diagnose in TCM, we are discerning an overall “pattern of disharmony” in the body. We take all seemingly unrelated symptoms and look at the whole picture of a life – physical, mental and emotional in relation to environment.
This is how we arrive at the root cause of disease. For cancer patients and survivors, what that boils down to is determining not only the cause of the cancer, but recognizing a path to wellness. Supporting the Vital Qi of the body is of particular importance in all stages of cancer. In the beginning when the individual is still strong and healthy and the immune system not as compromised, we are able to clear heat toxins, dampness and phlegm (also recognized as a factor) and break up Qi and blood stagnation more vigorously. In later stages of the disease and after a remission or cure has been achieved, we need to more strongly support the body’s Vital Qi (boosting the immune system), as well as moving Qi and blood so as to prevent further stagnation and hence, a reoccurrence of the tumors.
Additionally, TCM works synergistically with Western medical methods to alleviate symptoms irrespective of the patient’s physical condition or disease stage. One source of information about acupuncture and cancer is the NCI’s website, where it states, “According to a panel of experts at a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Consensus Conference in November 1997, acupuncture has been found to be effective in the management of chemotherapy-associated nausea and vomiting and in controlling pain associated with surgery.” In short, I believe using an integrated approach to cancer and cancer prevention is the future of oncology.
Qi stagnation is the fundamental root of all cancers. Qi stagnation causes blood stagnation, which in turn causes heat buildup with the possibility of toxins being formed. As a result of Qi stagnation, dampness and phlegm accumulate. Ultimately, your body is robbed of its vital energy. Stress is the No. 1 cause of Qi stagnation.
Eastern Medicine can be used to support the immune system, alleviate pain, nausea and fatigue, while at the same time, and serve as a powerful ally to chemo and radiation therapies – actually boosting the effectiveness of the Western approach. But, do not wait until you develop cancer! Prevention is what Asian Medicine is all about.
Unfortunately, in today’s world, if you are alive, you have stress. Do something about it: take a deep breath, take a noontime walk in nature, alkalize your diet, take up yoga, Tai Chi or Qi Gong practice, check into TCM and let the Qi flow!
Dietary Treatment for Cancer
The bottom line is if you want to maximize your body’s ability to fight cancer, try living the lifestyle TCM has recommended for centuries: live in tune with nature
Limit diet to quality, not quantity. Cancer cells will absorb the nutrition from food so a small diet of anti-cancer foods would be beneficial. The cancer cells reproduce faster than normal cells and they will die faster as well. A diet bringing in the minimal amount of calories to maintain the body’s metabolism is optimal. Remember, these dos and don’ts:
• Do not eat sugar
• Become a vegetarian (fish is the least harmful, make transition slowly)
• Eat good quality protein – tofu, beans, eggs, nuts, mushrooms
• Do not eat cold or bitter foods
• Do not eat foods that create damp cold or damp heat (milk, cheese, yogurt)
The bottom line is if you want to maximize your body’s ability to fight cancer, try living the lifestyle TCM has recommended for centuries: live in tune with nature. Eat veggies, fruit, nuts, lean meats, whole grains and eat a wide variety. Stay away from anything processed. Move every day. Sleep well each night.
These simple recommendations will not only help you to prevent cancer, but may also give you an edge when fighting a diagnosed cancer. By living in the manner our bodies were meant to live – eating and acting in accordance with nature – you can empower yourself and retain or restore health.
Someone once wrote on a forum I was reading: “But so-and-so did everything right and still got cancer!” The response was this: “Can you ever say that anyone has done everything right? Have they kept their Vitamin D levels optimal for years? Did they exercise day-in-and-day-out for decades? Have they always restricted their sugar? Done cleanses? Eaten good fats and nutrient-dense food?” Very few, if any of us, can say that. You will see articles touting an herb or nutrient or supplement that can reduce your chances of cancer, but there are no quick fixes here, especially if your basic health is off. PMS is an indication of hormonal imbalances and high estrogen, gas and bloating are indicative of digestive problems (and two-thirds of your immune function is in your gut). It is examples like these that are the symptoms people often ignore, but indicate that there are problems that should be addressed to help your body function in the long run.
So, if you want to take responsibility for your own health and greatly decrease your chances of a diagnosis, and receiving bad news, these recommendations would be a good foundation and starting point.