Peter Bennett ND, RAc, DHANP
There's no easy answer to cancer treatment
There's no easy answer to cancer treatment. But when a family member gets diagnosed, it's important to know that there are many different strategies for managing this health challenge. One patient may decide to go on a comprehensive natural program to fight the cancer. Another patient may decide to undergo chemotherapy, radiation or surgery, knowing the risks of these forms of treatment.
Many doctors who specialize in alternative cancer treatment have patients who fit into this second category, and the best strategy in this case is to develop a health program that protects vital organ systems from the chemotherapy or radiation. There is a strong case to be made for the combined efforts of an oncologist and naturopathic physician working in tandem to give optimum results. Thus, many naturopathic physicians emphasize the importance of using nutritional therapies to reduce the side-effects of conventional therapy.
Hodgkin's lymphoma is one cancer that has been shown to respond to chemotherapy. Prognosis for Hodgkin's is especially good if there is no liver or bone involvement. One recent study in the European Journal of Cancer showed complete remission in all patients after a 10-year follow-up. Given these results, it is hard for a conscientious doctor, conventional or alternative, not to recommend chemotherapy with this diagnosis. In this type of situation, the best approach is to choose a combined approach to cancer therapy where surgery, chemotherapy or radiation is used at the same time as complementary medicine.
The case of Binty Massy, who developed Hodgkin's disease, is an example of a patient choosing to use chemotherapy in conjunction with natural healing approaches.
Vincent Massey, or "Binty" to his friends, is a happy-go-lucky married man in his early 40s, the father of two beautiful children and a passionate sports enthusiast. In January 2001 he called me from his home in Whistler mountain and asked about his neck pain. It was severe and would not go away with physiotherapy, rolfing, chiropractic and acupuncture. Worst of all, it was preventing him from snowboarding.
I gave him a treatment with acupuncture and cranial manipulation and suggested he see his medical doctor for an X-ray.
A MRI was done in March 2001 and a mass was seen in his spine in the area of his neck. A biopsy was done and the pathologist confirmed that it was Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Like other lymphomas, Hodgkin's is a malignant disorder that begins in the lymph nodes and spreads to adjacent nodes, then the liver, spleen and bone marrow. Most patients with Hodgkin's disease are men and about half the cases occur between the ages of 20 and 40, with less than 10 percent of cases occurring in those less than 10 or older than 60. The cause is unknown, although some researchers believe there is probably an infectious component. This is important because other types of lymphomas, called "non-Hodgkin's lymphomas," have been shown to have a strong correlation to environmental poisoning.
Hodgkin's lymphoma does not appear to have the environmental risk factors of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and that reason may answer why it is so effectively treated with chemotherapy. Therefore, some of the standard alternative cancer therapies that stress detoxification may not be applicable to the alternative treatment of Hodgkin's lymphoma. I recommend that alternative medical therapies be focused on supporting the patient getting through the chemotherapy and minimizing the side-effects such as cardiomyopathy (heart disorder), anorexia, immune suppression, liver damage and neurological damage.
Back to Binty's case, the big fear of his oncologist was that Binty might get sick while on chemotherapy. In fact, during regular monitoring, his white blood cells went down to dangerously low levels. When this happened, I added some extra vitamin A, thymus and mushroom extracts and the levels bumped up quite quickly. After this brief crisis, he was fine.
"I never got sick even though my kids got colds and a flu came through the house," Binty said.
Binty's combination program was as follows:
Binty went snowboarding just three months after ending chemotherapy. He said, "Up here, I am a mountain man, and life is so worth living." Today, Binty is impressed he is alive. He acknowledges that he owes his survival to the effects of the chemotherapy but also feels the alternative program helped him to rebound quickly with a renewed feeling of wellness.
The Philosophy of Healing
Many people may wonder why a naturopath may choose to advocate chemotherapy. But examining the philosophy of healing reveals that my approach accords with the highest in naturopathic thinking. Naturopathy has always stood for healing through natural means of all kinds in the appropriate application. Prima non nocerum is the Hippocratic injunction dictating that the physician care for a patient so that self-healing mechanisms can engage. This ancient phrase means "don't disturb the organism's ability to heal itself."
However, some diseases are so powerful that they overrun the self-healing mechanisms of the body. In these cases, "suppressive" drugs and surgery are indicated. There are many examples of this in medicine. If you have a badly infected appendix, what will you do? If you are crushed by a car, what will you do? If you have rectal carcinoma blocking the rectum, what will you do? The job of the physician is to determine when the body's defence mechanisms have lost the ability to respond to disease and to respond with appropriate recommendations for medical intervention.
Source: P. Bennett