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Your Cancer Toolbox

I once heard it said that we need to hear the same thing seven times in different ways in order to learn and apply it in our lives. So here goes:

You have a good toolbox available to you to use as part of your cancer treatment program. I have spoken of this many times in local and radio talks, but it never hurts to hear it again, as most of us are so information overloaded and overwhelmed with the responsibilities of life that we forget many of these important parameters of healing. Keep this "holy trinity" of cancer treatment in mind whenever you are consulting with and receiving therapies from your oncologist. (Much of what is in this article I have borrowed from one of my national mentors, Donald Yance of the Mederi Foundation.) The three goals of this toolbox are to address: Imbalances in yourself: energy, sleep, pain, anxiety and depression, GI function, appetite, exercise, neuropathy, and other symptoms that impair your quality of life and can impair being able to heal and respond to therapies.

Tumor micro-environment: This means the biochemistry and physiology in your body, and in the tissues and organ where the cancer is growing. We can evaluate this mostly through lab tests that evaluate inflammation, Vitamin D levels, immune system markers, tumor markers specific to a particular cancer, and blood clotting markers.

The cancer itself: This is the primary focus of modern oncology, and this is why many people either do not have good results from using only modern oncology therapies, get recurrences of their cancers years after treatment, or have worse quality of life. Yet even most oncologists do not often run the type of tests on biopsy slides that can help him or her learn more about what therapies might work on your cancer, such as targeted therapies and immunotherapies, let alone what chemotherapies might be effective. I attempt to order this testing on all patients with cancer whom I evaluate. The testing is Medicare approved if ordered by a Medicare doctor (your oncologist). The most common and respected national lab is called Caris, in Phoenix. You can ask your oncologist to order this test. For those of you with private insurance and are under 65, it is covered by most insurance plans with a co-pay. In my humble opinion, it is worth doing this testing if you have a cancer, regardless of the stage.

To quote Siddhartha Mukherjee, the author of The Emperor of All Maladies, like humans, "All cancers are alike but they are alike in a unique way." Mr. Yance has called this " Personalized-Adaptive Medicine." Imagine a pie cut into many different pieces. Diet: This is of foremost importance, because without addressing this it's going to be difficult to heal from any cancer. Many of you before seeing me have already started to change your diet by eliminating refined carbs and sugars, in spite of your oncologist telling you that sugars do not promote cancer. (Many of my patients have told me this, if you can believe it!)

Botanical: There are many herbs that can help in cancer treatment and prevention. Most of you are familiar with turmeric, from which we get curcumin supplements, but there are many, many more herbs that are helpful. These include ginkgo, St. John's wort, kava, ginger, boswellia (from frankincense), and wormwood/artemesia. I can virtually guarantee you that your oncologist will warn you not to take any of these, because as they understand it, herbs can interfere with chemotherapy or radiation. While there may be some evidence that in high doses this can be true, in the doses we suggest it's hardly ever an issue.

Nutritional: This includes vitamins, minerals, probiotics, and enzymes. In terms of vitamins, there's Vitamin D, of course-- and most people under-dose this important vitamin for cancer, heart issues, brain issues, and bone problems. Enzymes, taken away from meals, digest and break down cancer cells rather than the food you eat. Supplemental magnesium and zinc are important, as most people today are deficient in these are essential nutrients, and there are many others. Also included here is taking bicarbonates like aluminum-free baking soda to better alkalize your body.

Lifestyle: This includes exercise, stress reduction, and far-infrared sauna therapies. Exercise can help lower stress levels and also improve outcomes in many cancers. Stress reduction can include taking mindfulness meditation classes here with Paula, taking low-dose naltrexone, taking certain herbal products, and/or working with a therapist, which is almost always good.

Last but not least is Pharmaceutical therapy, which is often very important, whether this be chemotherapy, targeted therapies, immunotherapies, or oral drugs that are helpful for many patients with cancer, including Metformin, cimetidine (Tagamet OTC), and others. Also included in this category are naturopathic IV therapies like Vitamin C, glutathione, mistletoe, ozone therapies, and many others. In subsequent articles I will clarify and compare chemotherapy, targeted therapies, and immunotherapies, which all have their role in cancer treatment, again depending on the cancer as well as the person, and of course, insurance/Medicare approval for specific cancers. Oncology today is getting more and more complicated by the day, so the more that you embrace what I am advising in this article, the better your chances are of improvement and of having a good quality of life. "The complexity of things--these things within things--just seems to be endless. I mean, nothing is easy, nothing is simple." -Alice Munro Best of health and well-being to you.

-Robert Zieve, M.D.

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