Cancer is huge. It’s not a single disease with a specified line of treatment. The treatment for a particular patient varies with type of cancer, stage of diagnosis, age, current health condition and maybe even non technical aspects like beliefs and financial conditions.
In medicine, many different types or “cultures” of medical care are found around the world. Conventional, naturopathic, integrative, functional, anthroposophic and traditional medicine approaches each create distinct cultures and views of food, nature, spirit, relationships and other physical and mystical elements and how these relate to health. Traditional medicines from many cultures may approach medical care with more spiritual, relational or holistic views than modern Western medicine.
Standard Conventional Treatment
Conventional Treatment options for cancer include –
- Surgery – Cancer tumor/cells are removed from body surgically
- Radiation Therapy – Uses high doses of radiation to kill cancer cells
- Chemotherapy – Drugs used to target and kill cancer cells
- Immunotherapy – Helps your immune system to fight cancer
- Targeted Therapy – Targets the growth factors of cancer cells
- Hormonal Therapy – Typically used where cancer cells grow using hormones ex Breast & Prostate Cancer
Conventional cancer care’s main successes are in improving early detection of several cancers and in curing or producing long-term remissions in a few distinct cancers, especially some of the cancers common in children and young adults:
- Hodgkin’s disease
- Some childhood leukemias and non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas
- Adult cancers:
- Early stage prostate cancer
- Breast cancer
- Papillary thyroid cancer
- Testicular cancer
- Cervical cancer
Conventional cancer care has also succeeded in controlling a few types of advanced cancers, such as metastatic breast cancer, such that in many cases these can be treated more like chronic rather than rapidly terminal illnesses. Some cancers can be controlled for months or even years by conventional cancer care.
Concerns and Limitations
Conventional treatments and approaches often involve serious limitations:
Limited effectiveness: Despite advances, the most common and deadly cancers remain difficult to cure unless they’re detected early. During a patient’s course of treatment, a therapy or treatment may become less effective over time. Newer understanding of cancer biology also suggests that some patients may simply not be responsive to some therapies that cure or control disease in others.
Side effects: Conventional cancer care often comes with side effects, including some that are debilitating or even life-threatening. Some side effects may persist for years (such as cognitive deficits in childhood cancer survivors) while others may surface only months or years after cancer treatment (such as heart disease or secondary cancers).
Expense: Conventional cancer care is often expensive and, even with health insurance, may pose a considerable financial burden on patients and their families.
When the cancer is diagnosed, the most common approach is to sign up for Chemotherapy to kill cancer cells. However, chemotherapeutic drugs do more than just kill cancer. They kill healthy cells and have adverse side effects. The intensity of side effects depends on the type and strength of drug, age and health condition.
This is why we are advocating the Integrative cancer care where you combine chemotherapy with other healing therapies so as to reduce the side effects and improve the quality of life while living with cancer.
Clinical Trials and Experimental Therapies
Clinical Trials are experimental studies which investigate effects of new drugs and therapies (including complementary and alternative medicine, CAM) on different types of cancer. They can be regarded as the leading edge of cancer care. They are usually popular in United States.
According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI)(Part of United States Department of Health and Human Services) –
“Clinical trials are research studies that involve people. Through clinical trials, doctors find new ways to improve treatments and the quality of life for people with disease…Researchers design cancer clinical trials to treat cancer, find and diagnose cancer, prevent cancer, manage symptoms of cancer and side effects from its treatment. Trials are available for all stages of cancer. It is a myth that they are only for people who have advanced cancer that is not responding to treatment.”
Clinical trials is not entirely a concept in United States. The Clinical Trials Registry- India (CTRI) maintains the registry of all the experimental studies going on in India. If you are interested in knowing more about cancer related clinical trials in India mail us your query on [email protected]
Palliative care is a specialized field of medical care focusing on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious illness. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family.
The word “palliative” comes from the Latin word “palliare” which means “to cloak.” Palliative care specialists help cloak or suppress/relieve symptoms, even when the cause of the symptom can’t be removed or cured. Another important service of palliative care is advance care planning: helping people think about and plan and communicate how they’d like to be cared for should they not be able to speak for themselves.
While some patients, and even some healthcare providers, might think of palliative care as end-of-life care, relief from suffering and improvements in quality of life certainly do not need to be reserved for the end of life. Assistance with managing many unpleasant symptoms is available throughout the course of treatment and recovery.
If your healthcare providers do not address symptom management care, consider asking for a referral to a palliative care specialist.
Essential Components of a Palliative Care Service:
- What you can expect a palliative care consultation to do or provide:
- Rapport and relationship building with you and your caregivers
- Symptom, distress and functional status management (for example, pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, sleep disturbance, mood, nausea or constipation)
- Explore your understanding and any needed education about your illness and prognosis
- Clarify treatment goals
- Assess and support coping needs (for example, provision of dignity therapy, psychotherapy to relieve psychological and existential distress in patients at the end of life4
- Assist with medical decision making
- Coordinate with other care providers
- Provide referrals to other care providers as needed
Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Cancer treatment also includes complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) cancer therapies which depend on different cultures, traditions, spiritual and holistic approaches. Traditional methods include Chinese, Indian Ayurveda, Tibetan and Homoeopathic to name a few. This website is dedicated to unconventional cancer treatments available in India and we invite you to follow through the following important links related to Integrative Cancer Care.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), traditional medicine (TM), is “the sum total of the knowledge, skills, and practices based on the theories, beliefs, and experiences indigenous to different cultures, whether explicable or not, used in the maintenance of health as well as in the prevention, diagnosis, improvement or treatment of physical and mental illness.
- Integrative Cancer Care
- Questions for your care providers
- 7 Healing Practices
- List of all the therapies
- Traditional Chinese medicine
- Ayurvedic medicine
- Traditional Tibetan medicine
- Homeopathic medicine
As the range of cancer spreads, the methods to deal with the disease broadens as well according to the science, classical cultures, traditions and lifestyle of the communities and countries. Though the approaches are diverse, the goal remains the same – to fight and win over Cancer.
References & More Information
- Credit: Beyond Conventional Care Therapies
- Cancer Treatment Types
- What are clinical trials?
- Complementary and Alternative Medicine
- National Cancer Institute. What Are Cancer Clinical Trials? National Institutes of Health. June 27, 2016. Viewed February 1, 2018.
- National Cancer Institute: Complementary and Alternative Medicine
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Thinking about Complementary & Alternative Medicine: A Guide for People with Cancer
- American Cancer Society: Complementary and Alternative Methods and Cancer
- Ann Pietrangelo and Kristeen Cherney: The Effects of Chemotherapy on Your Body
- Ralph Moss, PhD: The Moss Reports
- Michael Lerner: Choices In Healing: Integrating the Best of Conventional and Complementary Approaches to Cancer
- National Comprehensive Cancer Network
- Carole O’Toole and Carolyn B. Hendricks: Healing outside the Margins: The Survivor’s Guide to Integrative Cancer Care
- Lorenzo Cohen and Alison Jefferies: Anticancer Living: Transform Your Life and Health with the Mix of Six
- Keith I. Block, MD: Life over Cancer: The Block Center Program for Integrative Cancer Treatment
- Clifton Leaf: The Truth in Small Doses: Why We’re Losing the War on Cancer-and How to Win It
- Lise Alschuler, ND, FABNO, and Karolyn Gazella: The Definitive Guide to Cancer, 3rd Edition: An Integrative Approach to Prevention, Treatment, and Healing
- Neil McKinney, BSc, ND: Naturopathic Oncology, 3rd Edition
- Donald I. Abrams, MD, and Andrew T. Weil, MD: Integrative Oncology, 2nd Edition
- American Society of Clinical Oncology, CancerNet Patient Information: Palliative Care
- Raymond Chang, MD: Beyond the Magic Bullet: The Anti-Cancer Cocktail
- Center to Advance Palliative Care: Palliative Care for Caregivers.
- NHPCO: CaringInfo: Palliative Care and Caregiving