Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum's Column
...expert advice on CFS, Fibromyalgia and other Health Topics.
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Monday, September 22nd, 2008:
Cancer Treatment - An Overview
by Jacob Teitelbaum MD
I sometimes joke that it is good that I helped develop an effective treatment regimen for CFS/Fibromyalgia instead of for cancer, because if I had developed a cancer cure I'd likely have been arrested. Sadly, this "joke" carries all too much truth. Although most oncologists are very well-meaning and caring individuals, chemotherapy and radiation therapy is an extremely profitable area. This makes it easy to simply go to conferences and see what the esteemed (and usually on the drug company payroll) professors are saying, promoting the newest and usually most expensive chemotherapy agents. The oncologists are assured that the treatment helps the patients, and it is profitable for the physician, so why question it. Meanwhile, it is implied that anyone proposing a natural (and therefore competing) treatment for cancer must simply be trying to "rip off desperate and vulnerable patients" and therefore physicians must protect the gullible public from these charlatans. This convenient belief system allows the medical establishment to self righteously insure that the public does not have ready access to alternative cancer therapies. Sadly, this protects the Cancer Industry's profits at your expense.
This is not to say that one should not take chemotherapy or radiation therapy for their cancer. In many cases, these can be life saving, and I recommend them along side natural therapies. In some cases, however, these treatments offer minimal benefit at the cost of enormous toxicity, and in other cases (such as blocking testosterone in early prostate cancer patients—see the research brief below) actually may offer the patient no benefit despite causing marked toxicity.
I know it is hard to know what to do when your oncologist (and most that I've met are incredibly caring and well meaning) slams taking natural therapies on one side while your natural doctor attacks the chemo as killing you. The good news is that there is really little or no conflict between natural and medical cancer treatments—just between the people offering them. The premise of "Comprehensive Medicine," which is to use the best of natural and prescription therapies, applies brilliantly in treating cancer.
I have found that knowledge is power, and that an informed patient, given expert guidance, usually does well. Because of this, I recommend that my cancer patients get a medical report on their specific type and stage of cancer from Jan Guthrie at Health Resources. It costs about $500 (cost is based on the complexity of the case), but if one has cancer it is very worthwhile. She will put together a detailed report (free of any financial bias toward either the natural or standard medicine side) of the actual studies and review articles for both the natural and chemo/radiation options. Though the studies are written in "medicalese," the study abstracts/summaries will give you a good sense of just how effective (or ineffective and toxic) various treatment options are, so you can make an informed choice. To help you interpret the report and guide you on creating an optimized treatment program, I recommend you work by phone with a health consultant who can help you interpret and make sense of these studies, and guide you in general. Though he is not a physician, I highly recommend Rev. Bren Jacobson (by phone 443-949-0409; he charges $95/hour, which is a real bargain given his expertise in sorting through the research on both standard and natural therapies). He is extraordinarily smart and knowledgeable, is very comfortable working with the technical research, and has a wonderful knack for telling what's helpful vs. nonsense and sales hype.
As you read the studies on prognosis (how long people live with the cancer), be aware that these numbers do NOT apply to those adding natural options. When people do this, they live healthier, happier and longer (often beating the cancer). What is wonderful is that in the majority of cases, I have found that the "Health Resources" reports have research studies on natural therapies for your cancer which were (often in repeated studies) shown to be very effective and safe. Sadly, these natural and effective therapies usually have one main problem. They were too low cost for anyone to pay to publicize. By adding these natural therapies and being able to make informed choices about chemo, surgery and radiation, you'll feel much better, and even have a better chance to beat the cancer. I saw this with a friend who had metastatic ovarian cancer to the neck (prognosis is often under 1 year to live). Putting together a Comprehensive Medicine program based on Jan Guthrie's medical report, the last time I spoke with her she was cancer free for ~ 10 years! In my September 16, 2008 newsletter (Research Briefs section), I reviewed a few recent studies relating to natural cancer treatment and prevention. Most cancers, in my experience, will have research on natural treatments that are very promising. These include breast, prostate, and colon cancers. In addition, cancer pain is very treatable. There is hope. You can take back control of your life—even if you have cancer!
(Used with permission from Pain Free 1-2-3; McGraw Hill 2006)
It is unacceptable for cancer patients to be in pain, and the treatments discussed in this book (Pain Free 1-2-3) can be very helpful in eliminating cancer pain as well. Most pain is coming from tissue invasion or muscle spasm. Treat these pains as discussed elsewhere in the book. In addition, nutritional deficiencies are rampant in cancer patients and can contribute markedly to the pain and disability. I strongly recommend that most cancer patients take a high potency vitamin powder. In addition, given the large body of research suggesting the role of suboptimal vitamin D in causing both cancer and poor immune function, I would recommend 2,000-4,000 units of vitamin D a day (unless one has high calcium from bone metastases, in which case it should be taken with a physician's guidance). As an aside, there are many treatments that can help cancer that your oncologist may not be aware of (usually because they are too inexpensive). I recommend that any patient with a significant cancer order a search of medical studies done on their specific type and stage of cancer from The Health Resource. They do a spectacular job (call Jan Guthrie at 800-949-0090 for more information). This report routinely turns up valuable treatment options that most doctors are not aware of. I have seen "incurable cancers" go away when the patient combines the best of the standard and complementary therapies that are found in the printout's studies.
Here are a few additional thoughts for treating cancer discomfort:
A. For uncontrollable nausea, use ABHR cream applied to an area of soft skin, such as the wrist. This prescription cream contains lorazepam, Benadryl®, Haldol®, and metoclopramide, and can be made by compounding pharmacists (who can also guide you in its proper use. For nausea creams, I recommend Cape Pharmacy 410-757-3522. Your physician can ask Tom, the pharmacist, for guidance on the best options in your case). Nausea often settles within 15 to 30 minutes after applying the medication. The cream can be reapplied every 6 hours as needed. Promethazine® 25 mg per 1/2 cc of cream is also helpful for nausea.
B. In addition to causing severe pain, cancer that has spread to bone to can also make the bones weak and susceptible to fracture. Because of this, treatments that improve bone density (see Osteoporosis and Osteopenia—Loss of Bone Density), may decrease bone pain as well. If you have breast cancer, do not use DHEA without your doctor's approval. In one study of patients with bone metastases from breast or prostate cancer, strontium gluconate (the healthy form—not the radioactive one), 274 mg daily, increased bone re-growth in areas of tumor, and often resulted in patients feeling better and gaining weight.5 I would use the 340-680 mg a day dose discussed in the osteoporosis article.
C. Cancer often triggers muscle/myofascial pain, and treating this (see the SHINE Protocol for how to eliminate fibromyalgia/myofascial pain) can result in more comfort and the patient needing less pain medicine and therefore having fewer side effects. In addition, a study by Dr. Neoh Choo Aun, a wonderful acupuncturist and friend in Taiwan, showed that using acupuncture to treat the trigger points in cancer patients was very beneficial.6
D. In one study of 12 patients with very severe neuropathic, or nerve pain, due to the cancer pushing on major nerve centers, IV magnesium was given. Half the patients received 500 mg and the other half 1,000 mg given over 10 minutes. Aside from producing a mild feeling of warmth at the time of the injection, the IV was well-tolerated. 10 of the 12 patients experienced significant relief that lasted approximately four hours.7 I would give 2 grams of magnesium over 30-60 minutes. Most patients with neuropathic pain will not need this—although it can easily be given if they have an IV in place—if they simply use the medications we discuss in Chapter 8 on neuropathies. For more information, see a summary/overview of how to treat nerve pain.
E. It takes much less medication to prevent pain than to make it go away once it occurs. Because of this, if you have chronic pain, take the medication before you expect the pain to occur, or at the first sign of it coming back, instead of waiting for it to be severe. You'll need less pain medicine and have fewer side effects. If narcotic side effects are problematic, ask your doctor to use the other pain medications we discuss in my book as well so you can find a combination that is more comfortable. In addition, chapter 22 on prescription therapies discusses how to treat many narcotic side effects. Using Fentanyl® patches can be very helpful because they give steady release of pain medication, are powerful, and can be taken even if nausea or confusion is present.
It is never acceptable to leave someone in chronic pain, and given newer options in pain management, almost never necessary. It is OK to ask your physician to consult a physiatrist (a physician pain specialist) if your oncologist is not able to get you pain free.
5. Skoryna, S.C. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 125: 703-712. 1981.
6. Aun, N.C. "Myofascial Pain Syndrome in Cancer Pain Management." Chinese Journal of Pain, 1996; 6: 111-118.
7. Crosby, V., et al. "The safety and efficacy of a single dose of intravenous magnesium sulfate in neuropathic pain poorly responsive to strong opioids analgesics in patients with cancer." Journal of Pain Symptom Management, 19: 2000: 35-39.
Used with permission from Dr Jacob Teitelbaum's free newsletters-available at www.Vitality101.com
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