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Alternative Medicines for Cancer

Cancer is an umbrella term for more than 100 different diseases that share a common trait: abnormal cells that grow uncontrollably. These mutated cells can show up on almost any part of the body, typically damage neighboring body tissue, and may spread throughout the body.

Perhaps more than any other ailment, cancer begs for alternatives to the conventional approach. America's cancer death rate continues to rise, and cancer is expected to surpass heart disease as the number one killer of American adults.

For many people with cancer, selecting a treatment approach -- whether to include elements of conventional medicine, alternative medicine, or both -- is excruciatingly difficult. These people may decide to follow a conventional treatment program, using alternative therapies to ease the side effects of radiation or drug therapy, strengthen the immune system, and improve their well-being and outlook. Still other people prefer to rely only on alternative treatments, many of which focus on restoring general health.

Nutritional Therapy for Cancer

Nutritional therapists hold that a certain diet and certain supplements are an important part of the cancer treatment process. The goals include encouraging the proliferation of healthy cells, enhancing the immune system, and inhibiting cancerous tumors from growing. In general, the diet of someone with cancer should be:

  • rich in organic whole grains, vegetables, and fruits
  • high in fiber
  • low in refined sugars and low in sodium
  • low in fat (deriving about 15 percent of daily calories from fat)

A vegetarian diet, with no meat, poultry, or fish, is recommended on the basis that it doesn't supply excess iron, a mineral that many types of tumors require to grow. The fat, chemicals, and other hormones found in red meat and chicken and the mercury and other pollutants found in fish caught in polluted water are also of great concern.

Shark cartilage -- Shark cartilage holds promise for people with cancer. Here's why: Cartilage -- whether it comes from sharks or humans -- has no need for an attached network of blood vessels to supply nutrients and oxygen and carry away wastes. Because of this, cartilage carries a substance that prevents blood vessels from forming. A cancerous tumor, on the other hand, does need a blood supply to thrive. Taking cartilage supplements can prevent the tumor from getting what it needs. Under this treatment, people with advanced cancer have reported their tumors stabilizing in size or shrinking.

Vitamin C -- High doses of vitamin C are often prescribed to cancer patients. Researchers, including the famous vitamin C guru and Nobel laureate Linus Pauling, have found that people with cancer can experience shrinkage in tumor size after vitamin C treatments. It may also reduce some of the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

Vitamin C is an antioxidant, which renders free radical compounds powerless. Occurring naturally in the body, free radicals have the ability to damage tissue and speed the aging process. Antioxidants are often recommended to prevent some forms of cancer. Other nutrients that are antioxidants include:

  • beta-carotene
  • vitamin A
  • vitamin E
  • selenium

Vitamin C functions to fight cancer in two other important ways as well: 1) It enhances the body's production of the connective tissue collagen, which can help to wall off the tumor; and 2) it enhances immune function, allowing the body to destroy cancer cells.

Other emerging supplements -- Coenzyme Q10 has been shown to be effective (at high doses) in the treatment of breast cancer. Melatonin in fairly high doses has been shown to improve the quality of life of patients with advanced solid tumors. And pH-modified citrus pectin was recently reported to aid in the prevention of metastatic (spreading) tumors of several types, including cancers of the breast, prostate, and skin. Because most cancer patients die as the result of a metastatic tumor and not the primary tumor, this is a potentially significant treatment option.

Prevention -- Diet is estimated to be a contributing factor in 35 percent of cancer deaths. A first preventive step is avoiding the possible triggers of various types of cancer, which include:

  • high-fat diet
  • lack of fiber
  • deficiency in vitamin A
  • food additives

A practitioner of nutritional therapy may prescribe a high dose of vitamin C per day, which will require monitoring by the practitioner. High doses also are sometimes given intravenously to cancer patients.

Mind/Body Medicine for Cancer

Mind/body medicine recognizes that the mind plays a vital role in healing and recovery. In cancer treatment, various mind/body therapies can be used to control pain, relieve stress and anxiety, ease depression, and fortify the immune system. If nothing else, these therapies seek to make people with cancer feel good about themselves and their lives.

Guided imagery, for example, encourages patients to picture their bodies' reaction to cancer in either medically accurate or highly personalized creative terms. Repeated use of these exercises is thought to contribute to a stronger immune system.

Other helpful mind/body therapies for cancer treatment include:

  • prayer and mental healing
  • spirituality
  • psychic healing
  • biofeedback training
  • meditation
  • hypnotherapy

Guided imagery exercises should be performed two to three times a day, for about 20 minutes each time, during the cancer treatment program. Before starting each exercise, progressive muscle relaxation can be done as a way of "warming up." It involves letting go of tension in small, isolated steps:

  • Sit in a comfortable chair or lie on a firm surface. Wear loose clothing.
  • Close your eyes and begin breathing slowly and deeply.
  • When relaxed, begin to visualize the white blood cells of your body as a large, highly organized troop of protective white knights.
  • Imagine them finding and fighting off the small and weak cancerous cells.
  • Feel this energy and activity happening inside your body.

Oxygen Therapy for Cancer

Oxygen therapy employs two oxygen compounds, ozone and hydrogen peroxide, to wipe out cancer cells, which cannot withstand high oxygen concentrations. For example, research shows that ozone therapy can reduce the size of cancerous tumors.

Hydrogen peroxide is typically delivered to a patient via an intravenous drip, which lasts about one hour. Ozone treatment, on the other hand, involves drawing less than one pint of blood from the patient, mixing it with different amounts of ozone and oxygen, and then reintroducing it back into the blood vessels. Ozone can also be delivered through the rectum.

Oxygen therapy has more acceptance in Europe than in the United States. Nonetheless, several states permit medical doctors to use it in their practices.

Other Cancer Therapies

  • Ayurvedic Medicine for Cancer -- Treatment may include herbal therapy, dietary changes, and meditation.
  • Environmental Medicine for Cancer -- Cancer may be triggered by pollutants (such as asbestos), electromagnetic radiation, nutrient deficiencies, and other factors. Treatment can include following a detoxification program or removing dental amalgam fillings.
  • Herbal Medicine for Cancer -- Iscador (extracted from mistletoe), Venus flytrap, garlic, and astragalus can be effective. Two herb formulas, Hoxsey tonic and Essiac tea, have well-known anticancer properties.
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine for Cancer -- Acupuncture, moxabustion, herbal therapy, qigong, and other therapies can be used to treat cancer. Beware that acupuncture may encourage certain types of cancer to spread.

For more information on cancer and alternative medicine, see:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.