Let's Learn About Cancer

Did you know that cancer is the leading cause of premature death in Canada? Clearly this is a disease that ends up affecting every single one of us at some point in our lives. Statistics show that 1 in 2 Canadians will get cancer in their lifetime.  This means that either you will get cancer or someone very close to you will. The reality is that one day it’s going to be a part of your life whether you like it or not. So, why not do something about it? Learn about cancer, actively do things to prevent it and be ready to fight it when it does decide it wants to show itself in your life. These are all things we should be doing and are all things that a naturopathic doctor can help you achieve.  Interested in knowing how?

What is Cancer?
Everyone has heard about cancer, but not everyone really knows what it is. As you know, our entire body is made up of cells. These cells are replicating and growing everyday, they are also differentiating into specific kinds of cells depending on what their role will be in the body.  Different factors known to cause cancer such as UV rays, poor diet or smoke exposure can cause a mutation in your cells and cause them to reproduce uncontrollably or become undifferentiated to not know their role in the body. If enough mutations occur on a single cell it will become cancerous by having the ability to replicate as much as it wants into a mass of undifferentiated cells other wise known as a tumor.  A tumor left untreated will slowly steal resources from surrounding healthy cells or grow so large that it interrupts the proper functioning of your body.
How can naturopathic doctors help you prevent cancer?
You can think of NDs as prevention doctors. If you decide you want to take charge of your well-being and be responsible for your own healthy future, seeing a ND is a great place to start. It’s often difficult to know what to eat, what to avoid and where to begin when it comes to cancer prevention. The media pumps out new studies everyday and it can be overwhelming to try and decipher them all. A naturopathic doctor will analyze every factor involved in your life and help you focus on changing or adding things, which will benefit you as an individual, to the areas that matter.  These changes could include anything from changing your diet and prescribing a cancer prevention protocol, to helping you de-stress and educating you on what products or habits to avoid. All of this is done while keeping your individual case in mind. 
How do naturopathic doctors treat cancer?
Even though there are some NDs who treat cancer primarily by natural means, most NDs use naturopathic modalities  as adjunctive treatment to conventional cancer care. In other words patients undergoing mainstream cancer treatment would also visit their naturopathic doctor for supplementary cancer care.  Patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy often present with many undesirable side effects such as nausea, vomiting or severe muscle wasting. A naturopathic doctor can address these side effects and provide a better experience for the patient. Maintaining the overall vitality of the patient during treatment is very important and often underestimated. There are also many naturopathic strategies that can be used to fight the disease itself which usually depend on the type of cancer present. In general, these approaches are much gentler on the body and focus directly on inhibiting the cancer instead of being toxic to all the cells of the body such as many of the mainstream forms of chemotherapy.  A very common naturopathic treatment for cancer is intravenous vitamin C, which has been shown to have cytotoxic (cell killing) action against cancer cells. Naturopathic approaches also include incorporating an anti-cancer diet as well as lifestyle changes. It is important to keep in mind that all of these strategies are used in conjunction with a mainstream treatment protocol and are designed not to interfere in any way with primary treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy or radiation. 

The question to ask yourself is, why wouldn't you take advantage of the things NDs can offer you for cancer prevention and treatment? You really have nothing to lose and your whole life to gain.  

Please leave a comment!

Jamie Smellie

1. Canadian Cancer Society
Accessed on: Nov 13th 2011
2. Jonathan Prousky, ND, Naturopathic Clinical Nutrition, CCNM Press 2008.


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