Since President Nixon declared war on cancer in 1971 with high hopes of disease-conquering breakthroughs, the disease continues to take its toll. More than one-third of Americans have a lifetime risk of developing cancer. Yet in the decades since the country waged its war, the standard of care for cancer patients hasn’t changed much. The incremental progress in decreasing cancer mortality contrasted with the significant, positive progress with heart disease has been frustrating and disheartening. Heart disease was, by far, the leading cause of death for decades, but cancer will soon take the top spot as our nation’s number one killer.
On the cancer front, oncologists continue to pursue surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy despite disappointing survival rates. Sending thousands of people with cancer down the narrow path of strictly conventional and purportedly “proven” therapies too often fails to bring about the desired outcomes.
Some intrepid doctors and scientists on the frontier are 15 to 25 years ahead of the slow-to-change medical industrial establishment. Many were initially exposed to or entrenched in conventional practices, but witnessed abysmal outcomes far too frequently. They sought out and discovered other non-conventional treatments and therapies, and many are bringing about significantly better outcomes. All agree that a true integrative approach with a more comprehensive treatment plan, individualized to the patient, is better suited for tolerating difficult treatment, achieving durable remissions and improving outcomes.
Unfortunately, inflexible detractors with dogmatic rhetoric discredit anything out of the norm that doesn’t conform to the conventional and strict standard of care, regardless of credible evidence to the contrary. The conventional establishment won’t accept most treatments unless they’re ‘blessed’ by the Food and Drug Administration. This involves the completion of protracted, randomized, large, double blind, placebo-controlled “Phase 3” studies. These studies cost upwards of $1 billion and often take 10 to 15 years to complete—a glacial pace for those who need treatment now.
The integrative and alternative world often uses non-pharmaceutical approaches in their treatment of patients and cannot incur the financial costs of such obscenely expensive studies to validate the efficacy of novel, alternative treatments. As a result, they tend to be shunned by the medical establishment and are not covered by insurance.
Nevertheless, real options outside conventional treatment protocols exist that can be tremendously beneficial, even when people are staring into what appears to be an inescapable abyss. It’s important to use the tools of conventional and alternative therapies selectively in a manner that best addresses the specific needs of the individual. Many beneficial tools are available. Here are some integrated approaches to consider:
1. Improving the body’s immune system. Working with knowledgeable, experienced practitioners who understand how to design evidence-based, innovative cancer nutrition regimens, combined with personalized supplemental support, can be transformational in strengthening an individual’s immunity, lessen the challenging side effects of conventional treatments, and even control or eradicate the disease altogether. Appropriate botanicals, vitamins and extracts can work synergistically with traditional protocols, or on their own, to alter the disease process by making the body inhospitable to cancer.
2. Pre-testing the effectiveness of drugs and mitigating toxicity. It’s important to get treatment right the first time or patients go through needless difficult, debilitating chemotherapy regimens for nothing. Not everyone with cancer—or even the same kinds of cancer—necessarily benefit from the same chemotherapy drugs. Progressive “chemosensitivity testing” involves testing multiple types of drugs on a patient’s actual tissue sample in the laboratory to determine what the best chemotherapy protocol or targeted drug therapy might be before applying the intervention to the patient. A lab in Long Beach, California, known as Rational Therapeutics, offers this specialized testing, which provides valuable information regarding which drugs are optimal for the individual.
Additionally, when undergoing chemotherapy, many patients are subject to debilitating side effects. Various novel methods used by integrative and alternative practitioners mitigate toxicity so that patients can obtain the benefits of therapy, tolerate the harsh effects of chemotherapy and improve responses to these challenging treatments.
3. Timing treatment to cancer cell’s circadian rhythms. It turns out that almost every drug has an optimal time of day or night when it’s most effective and least toxic. “Chronomodulated chemotherapy treatments” involve administering the drugs at the precise time when the cancer cells are dividing and are more vulnerable to cell death. Correspondingly, this is the same time when healthy cells have the least sensitivity to toxicity from chemotherapy. Common in Europe but available in only one center in the U.S., Block Center for Integrative Cancer Treatment in Illinois, chronomodulated treatment is demonstrating greater treatment response and improved outcomes.
4. Strengthening the mind-body connection. People who have beaten the odds and lived well beyond their prognosis extol the benefits of visualization, yoga, meditation, prayer, music, humor and other techniques that turn the mind toward healing. Visualizing the tumor shrinking, keeping the mind on positive thoughts, reducing stress and other mindful practices have proven to be powerful forces in the healing process.
Most people explore integrative and alternative treatments as a last resort, after strict conventional treatments have failed. Think about how outcomes might be positively impacted if safe, effective integrative or alternative treatments were implemented early on when people are first diagnosed, versus after having been subjected to harsh therapies that can seriously impact their vitality, immune system and ability to fight or control cancer.
The concept of hope is an essential cornerstone, and if followed with a comprehensive, evidence-based, multifaceted integrative treatment approach, cancer patients can markedly enhance their odds and frequently, significantly, improve their outcomes.
Rick Shapiro, J.D., a former practicing attorney, is a leading consultant, researcher and educator in the ﬁeld of safe, evidence-based, integrative and alternative cancer treatments. His new book, Hope Never Dies: How 20 Late-Stage and Terminal Cancer Patients Beat the Odds (Innovative Healing Press, Nov. 7, 2017) tells the story of the medical establishment’s flawed and misguided approach toward cancer through interviews with cancer survivors and cutting-edge clinicians. Learn more at www.HopeNeverDies.com.