Comprehensive Cancer Care of the Future
Feb 26, 2015 09:23PM
Integrative medicine combines the best of so-called “conventional” and “non-conventional” medicine. This artificial division is dissolving as medicine worldwide moves toward a comprehensive approach to healthcare, which is based on good science and outcomes-based results. Already we are seeing a trend toward research into outcomes-based treatments which include not only surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, but also many kinds of “alternative” interventions which are supported by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). For instance, “alternative” approaches to the treatment of cancer such as mindfulness meditation and nutritional interventions have shown great promise, and can be considered as important adjunctive care for any cancer victim who is facing surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
Dividing the myriad of choices for cancer treatment and management into three categories can help to simplify matters. They are:
1) Strategies which have been shown to be supportive or effective for all cancer management and treatment. These include strategies such as detoxification, healthy lifestyle changes (sleep, exercise, stress management, etc.) and refocusing on psycho-spiritual matters.
2) Strategies such as functional medicine and nutrigenomics which identify the individual’s unique risk factors and allow very targeted interventions. For example, identifying and addressing a broad range of risk factors including nutritional, immune, endocrine, toxicity-related, infectious (e.g., dental, gastrointestinal), allergic (especially foods), metabolic (e.g., blood sugar factors--as cancer loves sugar) and genetic.
3) Strategies of treatment which are unique to the type of cancer diagnosed. This includes what most consumers are familiar with: surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, which are the bread and butter of modern oncology.
There is also promise for nutritional and other strategies, to enter this arena. Conventional medicine strategies shine when it comes to the third category—treatment strategies which are unique to a specific type of cancer. Many astonishing new treatments which target just the cancer cells and lessen collateral damage to the immune system and other healthy tissues have come into vogue and are on the horizon.
Integrative, holistic and complementary/alternative practitioners who treat cancer can find it valuable to keep up with advances in oncology because these advances offer insights into the weaknesses of certain cancers, which can then be exploited by altering the patient’s nutritional status and oxidative stress levels.
A problem in most conventional cancer treatment is that so much attention is devoted to treating the specific cancer that the overall care of the individual often takes a back seat. This is certainly understandable. How hard can you work and where do you focus your limited resources?
The idea that can get lost in the stress of tribulations of difficult clinical work, is that regardless of the effectiveness of chemo- or radio-therapies or surgery, the patient’s immune system still shoulders the lion’s share of the burden of making cancer cells die (called apoptosis). Strengthening the patient’s immune system is the forte of complementary and alternative medicine treatment approaches, and many conventional cancer treatment centers are beginning to address these issues.
Functional medicine and nutrigenomics goes far beyond the complementary/alternative treatments studied and supported by NCCAM. Functional medicine and nutrigenomics is not easily categorized as holistic, nonconventional or alternative, because it relies on the latest science advances and cutting-edge, laboratory, diagnostic technologies. A typical functional medicine and nutrigenomic workup of a patient with cancer will involve assessing many hundreds of independent metabolic, nutritional, toxicological, immune, allergic, infectious and genetic risk factors, which identify many of the unique strengths and weaknesses of an individual’s capacity to prevent and destroy cancer cells in their body.
Usually, a functional medicine and genomic assessment can determine the unique biochemical and immune weaknesses that obviously opened the door to cancer in the first place. A functional medicine and genomic assessment can even be important for long term cancer survivors who had received only conventional treatment, because their rates of developing cancer a second time in their life is far higher than normal individuals—the risk factors are still there. Such risk factors can be identified and modified or significantly negated with a comprehensive functional medicine and genomic assessment.
So, what does the future hold? Ultimately, the basic supportive strategies which are helpful in all cancer treatment, the strategies unique to the individual, and those unique to the treatment of certain cancers will be combined into one kind of medicine, based on good science and constantly improving outcomes.
Dr. Chas Gant, M.D., Ph.D., is an author, physician and practitioner, specializing in functional medicine, molecular health and healing. For more information, call 202-237-7000, ext. 120, or visit DoctorChas.com. See ad, page #.
To hear Dr. Chas speak on this topic, attend a free seminar/webinar at 6 p.m. on March 30 at the National Integrative Health Associates, 5225 Wisconsin Ave. NW. Click here to register.