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Slow Down, You Move Too Fast

By Dr. Robert Zieve, MD

Many of you who have sought my assistance for treating your cancer have probably heard me say this, many times. I have heard from so many people who have just been diagnosed with cancer that they need to get scheduled for surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy soon.

Slow Down, You Move Too Fast

Permit me to give some guidance on this: You most often have time to prepare for whatever oncology therapy you are going to undergo.


As far as surgery is concerned, there are, as far as I am aware, only three reasons to do surgery on an urgent basis once you are diagnosed with cancer:

1. If a cancer is blocking an organ or putting pressure on other internal organs that causes pain. Example would be: a large cancer mass in one of the intestines, or if a woman has a large ovarian mass in the pelvis that is blocking bowel function.

2. The second reason for urgent surgery is if the cancer has led to a rupture of an organ, most likely the intestine.

3. The third urgent reason is significant bleeding or hemorrhage. This can happen in some women who have a uterine cancer, or in someone with a stomach cancer which is leading to uncontrolled bleeding.

So unless you fit into any of these categories, take your time with your physicians, do some more thorough lab evaluations, begin making food changes, and start on a guided supplement program with herbs and nutrients which can help you attain a better outcome if indeed you do need to undergo surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. Another thing to keep in mind about surgery is the consideration that sometimes surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and immunotherapy can stimulate tumor growth /metastatic spread and decrease survival of patients in certain subgroups. There is some evidence that suggests that removal of a primary tumor may not extend life or increase quality of life. It is actually possible that removal of a cancerous tumor can indeed spread cancer.

There is one published article entitled: "Could Surgery to Remove Breast Cancer Tumors Actually Increase the Risk of a Relapse." A small group of respected researchers suspects that in a significant number of women, surgery itself may trigger the rapid growth of smaller tumors elsewhere in the body. "With (surgical) intervention, we may in some cases make things worse," says Michael Retsky, a researcher at Harvard Medical School and Children's

Hospital in Boston. Retsky argues that more than half of breast cancer relapses may be accelerated by surgery and says the phenomenon may apply to surgery for other types of cancer.

Removing a tumor does not change the internal terrain of the body, the alteration of which makes it less favorable for a cancer to proliferate. In fact, in some cases, removing a primary tumor can affect changes in the internal environment that cause further tumor growth and metastases. I am not saying that surgery isn't one very important part of the toolbox for cancer treatment, but we need to plan carefully when surgery should happen and prepare a person by both strengthening them with anabolic (building-up) and immune-enhancing botanicals and immune-nutrients, as well as target the cancer systemically for an appropriate period of time before, as well as after the surgery. It's all in the timing.

Surgery itself and the associated neuroendocrine stress response have a negative effect on the immune system due to depressed cell-mediated or Killer T cell immunity. Even after complete excision of the tumor, circulating tumor cells released during the surgical procedure may eventually lead to recurrence or metastases as they escape immune surveillance. Surgery is also associated with the release of growth factors that can permit remaining cancer cells to grow and spread.

Let me be perfectly clear here: I am not suggesting that surgery is not necessary if someone has a cancer. On the contrary, in an early cancer that has not spread, it can be life-saving. What I am speaking to here is the rush to surgery that many surgeons, oncologists, or urologists urge for their patients.

Take your time and prepare for your surgery, mentally, emotionally, and physically. My twenty-plus years of experience with cancer has also brought me to the same belief: that after surgery, (other than in cancers of a more benign-like behavior, such as a slow-growing basal cell cancer on the skin, or some breast tumors), cancer will not only return, but spread and become more aggressive.

This is especially true in the more aggressive cancers, such as renal cell (kidney), and pancreatic. If one is going to have surgery, and must, they should begin with the formulation of a thorough pre-op and post-op protective plan. This consists of an aggressive systemic protocol that targets the health of the person, the specific nature of the cancer, and is based upon natural compounds that suppress angiogenesis while simultaneously promoting healing. There is a place for surgery in cancer treatments, but in todays medical oncology practice it is not reserved for the few cases in which it is the most favorable option. If one has been successful with employment of a balanced aggressive systemic treatment plan, i.e. shrinking the tumor and building up the healing energy, then surgery can successfully be employed without generating a more metastatic environment.

There are three reasons for implementing a well-planned, systemic oral program first and letting it take hold:

1. If you have been successful at shrinking the tumor, or removing it entirely, your long-term prognosis is good; but if you remove the tumor then start a systemic program, you have no way of knowing how you are affecting the cancer.

2. If you have shrunk the tumor, surgery becomes easier, less invasive, and often spares the need for breast reconstruction if you have breast cancer. The smaller the tumor, the less aggressive the surgery often needs to be.

3. Because cancer is a systemic disease, treating systemically upfront reduces the risk of metastasis.

Always do a pre- and post-surgery protocol using adaptogenic herbs and anabolic (building up) nutrients, as well as nutrients that promote healing and inhibit infection. Adaptogens, such as Panax ginseng, have an ability to simultaneously promote healing, build vitality, inhibit cancer growth and suppress angiogenesis (the capacity of cancer cells that remain after surgery to promote new blood vessel formation so they can spread). 

Bottom Line: If you have been diagnosed with cancer, do not rush into surgery.

If you can, spend some time and resources preparing for it.

~Dr. Robert Zieve, MD

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