Being diagnosed with cancer can be very scary, confusing and overwhelming. The name itself conjures up fear, even though cancer is not one disease but many, with different types, stages, treatment options and outcomes. Depending on the type of cancer and the stage at diagnosis, mainstream treatments may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy and a host of other treatments specific to certain types of cancer or after genetic testing.
It takes active participation in one’s care to understand the best treatment approaches as well as how to support conventional treatments that may have significant side effects. Some people think they have to choose between conventional and alternative treatments. In fact, many nutritional and herbal treatments have been shown to be supportive of conventional care, helping manage treatment side-effects as well as having conventional cancer treatments work better. NDs have the expertise to select adjunctive therapies wisely so as not to interfere with treatment types and goals.
Naturopathic Doctors are Trained in Cancer Support & Care
As naturopathic doctors (NDs), we are trained to know how to care for people with a variety of different cancer diagnoses as well as different treatment protocols so we can help you stay as healthy as possible without interfering with your conventional treatment choices. We believe that an integrative approach is often the best choice for those fighting cancer in order for treatments to be as effective as possible while maintaining health.
Naturopathic therapies can be effective adjuncts to conventional cancer treatment options. Naturopathic medicine’s main goals are to support the body’s ability to heal itself, thus improving the success of chemotherapy and radiation therapies, and at the same time helping to prevent and reduce their side effects. More specifically this involves improving immune function, maintaining good nutrition and promoting overall health.
Naturopathic cancer care is customized to the individual, the type of cancer, your conventional treatment plan, and your specific health status.
Our NDs help you understand your diagnosis and the pro’s and con’s of your different treatment options. We can help you choose the therapies that are right for you.
We recommend that people utilize an integrative approach from the very start, beginning with prevention, continuing through treatment and then health restoration. This can help reduce or alleviate harmful side effects, enhance quality of life, and perhaps even extend it.
Proper Nutritional Support is Vital
Nutrition is a cornerstone of cancer support. Low levels of nutrients as well as outright nutrient deficiencies can contribute to cancer risk as well as treatment outcomes.
Researchers and clinicians are beginning to observe and understand that low levels of nutrients may be “prioritized” by our bodies for immediate needs while higher levels allow for broader function. Let’s take Vitamin D for example. It is known to have many functions in the body including promoting bone health as well as immune enhancement. If our levels are low or borderline, our bodies may use available Vitamin D for bone health as a first priority. Levels that are higher within the normal range allows further use for immune support which has been demonstrated to be a preventive factor in many types of cancer.
Additionally, many cancer treatments have side effects including nausea, loss of appetite, changes in taste, and other effects that result in poor nutrition and cachexia—weight loss associated with cancer and cancer treatments. Our naturopathic doctors can help you improve your diet and nutrition as well as provide appropriate supplementation to keep you well nourished. We also support this with IV nutritional therapies designed to provide proper nutritional support at various stages of cancer treatment, including high dose Vitamin C and cachexia formulas containing vitamins, minerals and amino acids.
Pre- and Post-Surgery Support
Naturopathic medicine offers many supportive treatments for pre- and post- surgery. Preparing the body for surgery involves enhancing the immune system while providing specific nutritional therapies for wound healing, fighting infection, controlling inflammation, and reducing adhesions and scars. These therapies may also decrease bruising and improve recovery time.
Acupuncture is a very effective pain management tool and can also help improve circulation and immune function.
Herbal medicine is often used before and after surgery to help with bleeding and bruising as well as pain and healing time.
While there are some nutritional supplements that should be avoided prior to surgery to decrease bleeding, others that can be added pre- and post-surgery to aid in healing. Our doctors can help you decide which are right for you.
Support During Chemotherapy and Radiation
Both chemotherapy and radiation have side effects that can be as damaging and debilitating as the cancer. Naturopathic therapies can be used to help increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy as well as help reduce its side effects thus aiding in preventing long-term complications and reducing the risk of secondary cancers. For example, the use of acupuncture and Chinese medicine has been proven to reduce nausea and fatigue associated with conventional therapies.
Fish oil has been shown to help prevent malnourishment and weight loss. IV nutrient/vitamin therapy can help reduce the issues of poor absorption and assimilation of vitamins and nutrients caused by chemotherapy as well as help prevent weight loss. It can also be used to improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy. Naturopathic therapies can also be helpful during radiation and help prevent the damage to healthy cells while supporting the body through treatment.
Support After Conventional Treatment
After the completion of conventional cancer therapies, naturopathic medicine offers many ways to help your body detoxify and repair. Depending on the type of treatment used, we can customize detoxification programs to gently help your body eliminate residual toxic effects as well as help rebuild the immune system. By continuing with an immune-enhancing diet, proper supplements and stress management, we can help you in your recovery and return to good health.
As you can see, you have options as you consider your care after a cancer diagnosis. Our doctors at SFNM are here to help you make the best choices for you. We want to help you optimize your chances of treatment success based on the best that conventional medicine offers combined with evidence-based integrative therapies.
Carl Hangee-Bauer, ND, LAc
SFNM Clinic Director