Cancer Care: Looking at the Whole Person
Although October is the declared the official “Cancer Awareness Month”, I’ve decided that every month will be dedicated to cancer awareness. One of the leading causes of death worldwide, cancer took over 8.8 million lives in 2015 alone. New cases of cancer are expected to rise 70% over the next two decades. According to the American Cancer Society, in 2018, 1,735,350 new cancer cases and 609,640 cancer deaths are projected to occur in the United States.
What is Cancer?
Dr. Otto Warburg, a famous biochemist, received the Nobel Prize in Physiology of Medicine in 1931 for the discovery of metabolism of malignant cells. He discovered that dysfunction in the power houses of our cells (the mitochondria), were known to change the cells DNA/genetic makeup, leading to what we know today as cancer. A lot of theories in the past have termed cancer as a genetic cause, but what more research is finding is that genes are mostly a secondary cause and are ‘turned on’ based on the stress to our cells. This is where I get to use my favorite quote, “genes load the gun, environment pulls the trigger”. We can have unfavorable genes in our body, but for some people they can stay turned off their entire lives, and for others they are switched on and can create disease based on the environment they live in.
Exposures to chemicals (ie. cleaning products, cosmetics, plastics, pesticides, flame retardants, cigarette smoking), heavy metals (lead, mercury, aluminum, etc.), bacteria/virus/pathogens (ie. HPV virus linked to cervical cancer), biotoxin illnesses (ie. mold) and ‘leaky gut’ (a dysregulation in our gut microbiome) can all cause inflammation and eventually lead to chronic disease and cancer.
Current Cancer Treatment
Cancer therapies in Western Medicine consist mostly of chemotherapy, radiation and surgical removal of cancer cells and tumors. Although these methods are used to saved lives, they are not the end-all-be-all to a person’s diagnosis. Chemotherapy and radiation are actually carcinogenic (cause cancer) in nature. The goals of these treatments are to kill the cancer cells so they do not replicate in the body. As the therapies kill off the bad cells, they also create oxidative stress in the body to the healthy cells, decreasing immune function, damaging DNA and ultimately increasing inflammation in the body.
These therapies have saved many lives. My goal is to help people optimize their cellular function before cancer mutations even occur. If someone does have cancer, we use an integrative approach to help their body repair mitochondrial function, increase oxygenation to the cells and detoxify the body to help clean up the environment that the cancer developed in in the first place. As I mentioned in part 1, 80% of the patients I work with, use a form of Western Medicine (chemotherapy, radiation, surgery) and synergistically use integrative medicine for the multitude of benefits.
I want to let people know that they do not have to be labeled as a disease or diagnosis, so that they can take charge of their bodies and live a life they desire to live. In Part 3, we will talk about complimentary options to help kick start the anti-cancer body. This is good to do whether a person is healthy, has an active cancer diagnosis or they have had cancer in the past.
Stephanie Grutz, ARNP, FNP-C