If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with cancer, you are almost certainly confused about which treatments you should pursue. Should you have surgery? Is chemotherapy going to make you sick? How important is nutrition? Do you need to be juicing? How important is exercise?
During my initial consultations with new patients, they are understandably overwhelmed by all of the information out there. What they have been told by their doctors and what they have read online are frequently at odds. One of my most important tasks is to help them sort out what to prioritize and what to leave off of their treatment protocols.
Many of you have heard me discuss my approach of “open-minded skepticism.” This means that I am open to any potential treatment which will help in our fight against cancer, but I also balance that with a healthy level of skepticism. On the one hand, just because a treatment is not yet the standard of care does not mean that it doesn’t work. However, on the other hand, just because something supposedly worked for one person doesn’t mean that it actually works (or that it will work for you!).
Here is the process I go through in my clinical decision-making. I am sharing it here because I think you will find it helpful.
- What type of cancer does the patient have? This is important, because each type of cancer should not be treated in the same fashion.
- What stage of cancer does the patient have? This is also very important, because a stage I cancer is very different from a stage IV cancer.
- What is the patient’s quality of life like? This is valuable because the treatments recommended should not harm the patient’s quality of life. Ideally, the treatments we choose should improve the quality of life.
- What are the patient’s treatment goals? Some patients are in a position to rid themselves of cancer entirely, while others should focus more on quality of life issues and extending life.
- Is the therapy under consideration supported by good scientific evidence? If the answer is yes, proceed to step 2. If the answer is no, the treatment should not be considered further. It is important to note that “good scientific evidence” means high quality scientific studies, ideally performed on humans.
- Is the therapy under consideration generally recognized as safe? If the answer is yes, proceed to step 3. If the answer is no, the treatment should not be considered further. Safe does not mean that it can’t cause side effects, but rather, that the risk of side effects is low and/or side effects which do arise are easily remedied.
- Is the therapy under consideration legal? If the answer is yes, proceed to step 4. If the answer is no, then the treatment should not be considered further.
- Is the therapy under consideration thought to be compatible with other therapies in the protocol? If yes, proceed to step 5. If the answer is no, the treatment should not be considered further.
- Is the therapy under consideration doable? In other words, is it something that the patient can obtain from a qualified physician, or obtain on their own and do at home under the supervision of a qualified physician? If the answer to this fifth and final question is yes, then we should consider it further.
I strongly encourage you to use these steps when evaluating potential cancer treatments. Once you begin applying these standards, you will see that most therapies you hear about do not fulfill these five criteria.
I want to leave you with a few final points:
- The therapies we consider as part of the standard of care are included for a reason. Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation are used by many doctors around the world because they have undergone extensive research and testing to validate their use. These therapies are not perfect, which is why I advocate using them in novel ways which minimize side effects (e.g., fractionated chemotherapy). However, to refuse them completely is a huge mistake. Please don’t do that.
- There are many therapies outside the standard of care which have value. We do not have enough research on them to rely on these as stand-alone treatments (e.g., IV vitamin C), but we do have evidence to suggest that they provide benefit and are generally safe. These are ideal as supportive treatments, to enhance therapies in #1 above.
- There are no known natural cures for cancer. There is not a conspiracy theory to suppress natural cancer cures and hide the truth from you. However, there is a lack of awareness in conventional medical circles of the potential value of many of these natural therapies. That is a shame.
- You don’t need to rush into making critical decisions about your cancer treatment, but you don’t need to waste time either. Take the time you need to do your research, ask questions, and get multiple opinions. Then commit to your chosen treatment path and put forth 100% effort. I have seen too many people wait too long to begin treatment, either because they were trying to avoid conventional treatments like surgery and chemotherapy, or because they felt that using only natural treatments would be enough. Please don’t make that mistake.
- Don’t underestimate the importance of advanced testing. In addition to biopsies (for proper diagnosis) and imaging (for proper staging), utilize lab testing to provide guidance on which chemotherapy agents are likely to work best, which organ systems are stressed, which nutritional deficiencies exist, and which environmental toxins might be an issue. There is much, much more which needs to be measured besides the routine labs.
As you can see, the best approach is to combine conventional treatments with natural treatments. For example, if you are a surgical candidate, have the surgery! This removes the “weed” (tumor) from the garden and shifts the playing field in our favor. Then you can get to work addressing the “soil” (the body as a whole). This is when we utilize chemotherapy, IV vitamins/minerals, detoxification, stress reduction, nutrition, and supplementation, to name a few. Anyone who has weeds in their yard knows that if you only pull weeds, they will come back, but leaving the weeds and trying to eradicate them by simply treating the soil doesn’t work either. You must do both!
I encourage you to view cancer through this lens. Doing so is the key to ensuring that you are making smart decisions about your treatment and being as proactive as possible. I believe it also gives you or your loved one the best chance of success.