Cancer is not a single disease, but rather a family of diseases characterized by abnormal cell growth. Cancer accounted for 23% of all deaths in the United States in 1998, and each year more than one million Americans find out they have cancer. In spite of victories in certain areas, there are continuing losses in others. For example, although numbers of deaths from female breast cancer are declining due to improvements in testing and treatment, the American Cancer Society calculates that lung cancer will rise to 25% of all female cancer deaths in the year 2000 (Greenlee et al., 2000).
Rapidly growing cancerous cells are termed neoplasms, meaning “new growth.” The vast majority of neoplasms are made of cells from a single germ layer. When examined under a microscope and compared to normal, healthy cells, cancer cells look damaged. When the rapidly dividing cells mass together with connective tissue and blood vessels they form tumors, which can be one of two types, benign or malignant. Benign tumors cannot invade neighboring tissues, they remain localized, and the cells are relatively normal in appearance. However, malignant tumors can spread through the system. The cells are often (but not always) primitive in appearance, irregular in shape and size, and sometimes have a large misshapen nucleus.
There are three basic forms of cancer in modern understanding:
• Carcinomas begin in epithelial tissue, the lining cells covering the surfaces and interior structures of our glands, vessels and ducts.
• Sarcomas are much more rare, and develop out of connective and fibrous tissue, or directly from blood vessels. They are usually fleshy.
• Leukemias and lymphomas are born in the blood-forming cells of our bone marrow and lymph nodes.
The most common cancers are those affecting, in descending order, lung, colon and rectal, breast, larynx, prostate, uterus, kidney, bladder, lymph tissue, mouth, stomach, blood cells (leukemias) and skin. All cancers through several stages, called initiation, promotion, progression, invasion of neighboring tissue and finally, metastasis to distant sites.
Initiating factors, known as carcinogens, cause the transformation of normal cells into cancer cells. Radiation, and certain harmful chemicals and viruses are carcinogens. They damage the body’s deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), the carrier of genetic information which resides in every cell (Tannock and Hill, 1992). The most common chemical carcinogens are chemical agents such as pesticides, herbicides and trihalomethanes, tobacco, and alcohol.
Fortunately, our body has DNA repair mechanisms, and this forms the basis of many herbal and preventative treatments. Rapid advances in genetics have identified two families of genes that control cancer in a Yin and Yang fashion. Oncogenes promote cancer, while tumor-suppressor genes inhibit tumor growth. Emerging evidence indicates that herbal medicines and nutrients can affect these genes (Niwa K et al., 1999, Hsieh TC et al., 1998, Wei and Ru, 1997). Quercetin, a flavone found in many herbs and vegetables including onions, licorice root and sophora flower, and chaga mushroom can inhibit defect formation in tumor suppressor gene p53, which is involved in cancer prevention (reported in Yance, 1999).
Natural Treatment Overview
Fighting cancer with natural medicines means to (1) strengthen immune function with diet, lifestyle changes (including mind-body methods) and nutrients (2) support your doctors chemotherapy, surgical or radiation protocols when used (3) weaken or interfere with tumor growth, (4) prevent metastasis and (5) eliminate the cancer completely. Methods used are general and cell type specific, and are broken down into categories for easier understanding of purpose and rationale. Active participation of the patient in his/her own healing is essential. It is important to note here that I strongly discourage trying to fight cancer using only natural methods – while there are many obvious problems with the purely Western approaches of chemotherapy and surgery (a subject which would require a whole chapter) – using only natural methods is simply too little too late in most cases.
This is backed up by the historical approaches used all three major herbal traditions. In Ayurveda, the doctors from around the 10th century AD began to utilize bhasmas (purified poisonous metals such as mercury and arsenic) as early forms of chemotherapy. Dr Mana confirmed to me that it was not until this time that they began to get good results. Similar medical treatments have evolved in China. Even the more famous of the Western eclectic formulas for cancer tend to contain toxic plants, i.e. mild forms of herbal chemotherapy. Even Western oncology, formerly focussed 100% on killing cancer cells, has now evolved to using anti-nausea medicines and medicine to strengthen red and white blood cells. In essence, my reading of this historical trend is that it is best to combine strengthening methods with methods that kill the abnormal cells. For these reasons I strongly discourage people trying to fight cancer only with tonic herbs and diet. Cancer treatment is perfectly fitted for combined treatment.
Immune System Therapy
Immune system therapy involves herbal medicine formulas that come primarily from the traditional Chinese category of Qi tonics. Qi tonics strengthen the digestion, restore energy, generate fluids and build the blood. Formulations made from these herbs can be used to strengthen the immune system, and are especially useful for immune deficiency problems, as well as to ameliorate side effects of cancer therapy such as nausea, fatigue and reduction in white blood cells.
Specific Natural Therapies
In addition to the general immune tonification therapies, there are numerous specific anti-cancer methods, including individual agents such as curcumin, enzyme therapy, and overall “anti-cancer” formulations drawn from around the world. These will be discuss in our other cancer sections on this website.
Supportive therapy is also immensely important – it is not all chemotherapy and supplements. Treating cancer thus also includes (1) choosing a good conventional treatment (2) dietary changes and (3) lifestyle changes.
• Choosing a Good Conventional Treatment
• Examples of Beneficial Food Products
1. Eat organic as much as possible, drink pure water, eat unprocessed foods a lot, use spices.
2, Green tea – Drink 1-2 cups per day
3. Garlic – Eat raw as much as possible
4. Modified Citrus pectin
3.Eat Gefilte fish (traditional Jewish fish product) -May reduce side effects of chemotherapy
4, Tangerines – Help to inhibit metastasis of cancer via a bioflavonoid, called tangeritin – 1 per day
5 Soy foods can help to reduce pain
6. Bone marrow soup – Cook bones for 2 hours, filter out bones to make soup stock
7. Broccoli, especially 3 day sprouts have been shown to slow mammary tumor growth
• Lifestyle Choices
1. Prayer and Meditation (talking to God and listening to God)
2. Yoga exercises or T’ai Chi exercises for stress
4. Steam Bathing (wrap head in towel to keep cool) for detoxification, a few times a week
5 Acupuncture for pain, nausea, vomiting and immune stimulation
6. Develop a support system of friends, family and church etc.