Cancer is a group of diseases characterised by uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells, which can result in death. Cancer is caused by both external factors (e.g., chemicals, radiation, viruses) and internal factors (e.g., hormones, immune conditions, inherited mutations). Causal factors may act together or in sequence to initiate or promote carcinogenesis. Ten or more years may pass between carcinogenic exposure or inheritance of a mutation and detectable cancer. Today, cancer is treated with surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, hormones, and/or immunotherapy. Neoplastic disease can develop in virtually any organ system. This unregulated growth injures and compromises organ systems that are functioning normally. Cancer-related diseases are often treated with therapeutic modalities that, in themselves, compromise normally functioning organ systems.
Causes / Risk Factors
Different kinds of cancer have different risk factors. Some of the major risk factors include the following:
- Cancers of the lung, mouth, larynx, bladder, kidney, cervix, oesophagus, and pancreas are related to tobacco use, including cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, and snuff. Smoking alone causes one-third of all cancer deaths.
- Skin cancer is related to unprotected exposure to strong sunlight.
- Breast cancer risk factors include several factors: age; changes in hormone levels throughout life, such as age at first menstruation, number of pregnancies, and age at menopause; obesity; and physical activity. Some studies have also shown a connection between alcohol consumption and an increased risk of breast cancer. Also, women with a mother or sister who have had breast cancer are more likely to develop the disease themselves.
- While all men are at risk for prostate cancer, several factors can increase the chances of developing the disease, such as age, race, and diet. The chance of getting prostate cancer goes up with age. Prostate cancer is more common among African-American men than among white men. (We do not yet know why this is so.) A high-fat diet may play a part in causing prostate cancer. Also, men with a father or brother who have had prostate cancer are more likely to get prostate cancer themselves.
Overall, environmental factors, defined broadly to include tobacco use, diet, and infectious diseases, as well as chemicals and radiation, cause an estimated 75% of all cancer cases in the United States. Among these factors, tobacco use, unhealthy diet, and physical activity are more likely to affect personal cancer risk. Research shows that about one-third of all cancer deaths are related to dietary factors and lack of physical activity in adulthood.
Signs and Symptoms
- A tumour mass grows to such size that it partially or completely occludes an essential conduit – coughing, dysphagia etc.
- A mass discovered by palpation or x-ray may be a presenting finding, as in breast carcinoma.
- Ulceration on the skin or on an epithelial surface can lead to blood loss and occasionally can serve as a portal of infection.
- Pain is commonly thought of as a surrogate for cancer, although this is mistaken. Most cancers are initially painless. Pain occurs when a tumour invades, presses on, or stretches a nerve, or when proximal smooth muscle contracts in an attempt to bypass an obstructed or dysfunctional distal segment of a conduit.
- Unexplained weight loss may first indicate an unsuspected cancer, and when combined with grumbling low grade discomforts, malaise, and fatigue, is a cause for particular scrutiny.
- Pleural or pericardial effusion caused by cancer can lead to dyspnoea and discomfort.
- Fever of unknown origin that persists for more than 1 week must include cancer among its possible causes.
- Occasionally, patients present with symptoms of specific endocrine hyperactivity that turn out to be caused by cancer.
Diet and Lifestyle During Chemotherapy / Radiotherapy
- Smoking cessation is the highest priority in currently smoking patients
- Stress management techniques, such as yoga, meditation and exercise are advised
- A diet high in fresh fruit, vegetables, essential fatty acids and lean protein sources provides essential phytonutrients, antioxidants, magnesium and helps to control inflammatory processes.
- Minimise intake of saturated animal fats (meat and dairy products), refined foods, caffeine, and alcohol. Limit salt intake.
Hormone–dependent Tumours (eg Breast, Prostate)
- Eliminate foods that increase oestrogen levels in the body and the liver’s ability to metabolise it. These include non-organic poultry, dairy, red meat, sugar, white flour and refined foods, and methylxanthines (coffee, tea, chocolate, colas).
- Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, etc.) enhance glutathione activity which is important for the detoxification of hormones.
- Eat only organically raised foods to avoid hormone-potentiating pesticide residues.
- Include detoxifying foods such as beets, carrots, yams, garlic, dark leafy greens, lemons, and apples.
- Fibre facilitates the excretion of metabolised hormones and toxins.
- Soy may be protective due to its phytoestrogenic compounds.
- As it is reasonably common for patients to develop mouth ulcers, it is advisable that food be soft, well cooked, bland and easy to eat. Avoid dry, rough, acidic and spicy foods as they may injure and irritate the mucosal membranes.
Foods and Supplements to avoid / use with caution
- Antioxidants and herbs that are strongly antioxidant should be avoided during active treatment with radio- or chemotherapy. They can be used before, after and in between cycles.
- Folate should be avoided during active treatment with Methotrexate. In long term use for non-cancer conditions, it should be used daily to reduce drug toxicity, but the patient should be monitored for drug effectiveness.
- Immune enhancing herbs, such as Echinacea, Andrographis, Astragalus, Garlic, Korean and Siberian ginseng should be used with caution when patient is administered immunosuppressant medication (e.g., cyclophosphamide)
Integrative Treatments Overview
In order to obtain optimal results, the patient might consider a holistic approach that integrates several treatments to address biochemical, physiological, energetic, emotional and/or spiritual imbalances. These treatments can include Allopathic Medicine, Complementary Medicine, Biomedicine, Nutritional & Environmental Medicine, Functional Medicine, Orthomolecular Medicine, Energy Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Naturopathy, Ayurvedic, muscular-skeletal support, Psychology and more. It’s important that treatments are overseen by experienced and certified practitioners who are able to work in teams (see below for where to find one).
For Treatment options see Treatments menu at mindd.org
Nutritional & Environmental Medicine Overview
Nutritional & Environmental practitioners focus on cellular health by optimising nutrient uptake while minimising toxic exposure. Biomedicine, Functional Medicine and Orthomolecular Medicine are all subsets. The overall goal is to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress which are key drivers in chronic modern disease (e.g. asthma is inflammation of the lungs, arthritis is inflammation of the joints, eczema is inflammation of the skin, IBS involves inflammation of the gut and ADHD and Autism include inflammation of the brain). A combined approach of diet, lifestyle and natural therapies supports the body’s innate ability to heal and prevent disease by maintaining homeostasis (balance).
It is recommended that a patient consult a certified practitioner to assess their symptoms and case history and explore their individual need to:
- Screen for food sensitivities and allergies
- Implement dietary intervention geared to the individual (e.g. GAPS, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Soy-Free, FodMAPS, Evolutionary, low oxalate/salicylate, Ketogenic)
- Supplement with vitamins, minerals, amino acids and probiotics
- Improve gastro-intestinal health to support the vagus nerve and brain and immune function
- Support neurotransmitter function
- Supply fat soluble nutrients for brain structure and function
- Reduce toxicity and heavy metal accumulation
- Minimise infections (e.g. bacteria, yeast, virus, parasites) to reduce immune response and nutritional deficiencies that can impact on mental and physical health
- Regulate blood glucose and establish healthy eating habits
- Use energy healing (acupuncture, homeopathy, kinesiology, Emotional Freedom Technique)
Where can I find a certified practitioner?
Finding a well-trained Integrative practitioner requires research. You can reference the lists below for one in your area and should consider checking references and interviewing several before you select one.
The World Anti-Aging Academy of Medicine can help you find Integrative practitioners throughout the world.
The American Academy of Anti-Aging has a directory of doctors, spas, clinics and products that support Integrative treatments for all disease.
The American College for the Advancement in Medicine (ACAM) trains practitioners in Complementary and Integrative Medicine.
Generation Rescue has a list of Integrative practitioners who specialise in childhood neurobiological disorders (Autism, ADHD, allergies). If they do not treat adults or your condition, they might be able to refer you to someone in your area who can.
Australia & New Zealand
Mindd Foundation trains Integrative practitioners in Australia and New Zealand and is partnered with the Medical Academy of Paediatric Special Needs (MAPS).
The Australian College of Nutritional & Environmental Medicine (ACNEM) trains in Australia and New Zealand.
The British Society for Ecological Medicine has a list of practitioners in the UK
Mindd Foundation gratefully acknowledges the contribution of Metagenics in supplying the Definition, Causes and Diet & Lifestyle Considerations for this page.