I have recently been working with several client-friends who have Western medical diagnoses of cancer. Each person has a different particular type of cancer, but in each person's case I encounter a similar gap between standard medical treatment planning and my herbal/holistic nutrition/Ayurvedic perspective. This happens so regularly that I am no longer dismayed or frustrated, because together we all have gotten a lot more practice helping people sort out the tools at hand and deciding which ones are best to combine and apply to their health goals. I am more of a family practice herbalist though, not a cancer specialist. So each friend and each diagnosis and each question sends me back to the books and the research and the notes from my medical, nursing and herb trainings and teachers. And back to the foods and herbs themselves.
For example, my friend has a recent diagnosis of endometrial cancer, “Stage 3”. She called me and asked, “That's bad, right?” For part of this question, standard medical resources has detailed information. Refer below to the American Cancer Society's specific criteria for staging endometrial cancer.
Standard medical thinking is, I think, appropriately less specific about those all-important questions, how do I stay alive and healthy and enjoying life, and what are the measures most likely to increase that possibility? With any person and any living tissues, it isn't possibly to predict exactly what will happen with any treatment option over time.
On reading the standard literature, it seems that “Stage 3” needs further definitions, and cross-referencing with other evaluation criteria. So I would have that as first questions for my oncologist. I would not be surprised if hormone replacement prescriptions, chemotherapy and/or radiation are recommended. But I also read things that make me think, “File in brain under possible integrated nutritional and herbal treatment”. Here are areas where my knowledge base might add to the effectiveness of any treatment program:
endometrial cancer is linked to PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) which can be associated with metabolic syndrome. This ecology of diagnoses can be gently and effectively treated over time with nutritional improvements and supportive herbs that address both inflammation and the coordinated functions of liver and pancreas in controlling blood sugar and related metabolic products.
Estrogen/progesterone ratio and “estrogen dominance”. Even post-oophorectomy, herbs and foods can support all endocrine hormone production, and avoid the signs and symptoms associated with too much estrogen and/or not enough progesterone. Part of my friend's treatment decisions might be what standard prescriptions would help achieve this. And part of my homework would be what herbs and foods would help achieve this.
So for my friend, I would
get the skinny on specifics of staging, to get a better idea of what treatments might be best
2. Look at nutrition and herbs that improve liver and overall digestive function (treat yourself like a Type 2 diabetic which is something all of us American SAD diet types should be doing anyway) and decrease inflammation.
Look at prescriptions, herbs and foods that support a gently appropriate relationship between estrogen, progesterone and related hormones.
These are the areas that can be safely included in treatment plans even with chemotherapy, radiation or prescription hormone regimens. But I fantasize that every person (and their family) with a cancer diagnosis gets a weekly “kitchen medicine” meeting where yummy, nourishing and nurturing recipes are made and sampled....
More soon from other, non-standard Western healing perspectives. Of course if anyone has concerns, disagreements or questions about this article don't hesitate to comment. We are here to figure this out together.