Recently there have been a surge in patients seeking alternative cures for cancer after watching the popular series “The Truth About Cancer”. This series does an excellent job of raising awareness about various natural therapies but it does patients a great disservice by discouraging patients from using conventional therapies. This documentary has given patients a biased view point and as a consequence they feel very polarized in their opinion against conventional care. The problem is that the best treatment plan involves integrating these two worlds together. Both conventional therapies and natural therapies have a lot that they can offer patients but they must be used together in a synergistic way for optimal results.
Patients have the right to choose what ever treatment plan they want. As a Naturopathic physician I have always respected my patients choices, even if I disagree with that choice. It is not my job to force the patient to choose a treatment plan, it is my job to give them the information and then they choose the treatment plan that feels right to them. When developing a treatment plan the key word is “integrative” not “alternative”. This means using natural tools safely and effectively in conjunction with conventional therapies. An integrative approach is what any licensed naturopathic doctor would be recommending and unfortunately this documentary confuses the public by giving them the impression that naturopathic doctors are against conventional cancer treatments. By presenting such a polarized view it often discourages patients from seeking true integrative care that could really benefit them.
Make no mistake about it, I am a big believer in the healing power of nature but this series greatly exaggerates the effectiveness of many natural therapies. Of course there are home runs with simple natural therapies. I have personally witnessed on many occasions where patients have dramatic responses to the simplest natural therapies. Although these responses are amazing and they require further investigation, it does not mean that everyone should abandon all conventional therapies in favour of an alternative approach. What the documentary fails to document is the many people who chose to pursue only alternative therapies and had poor responses. Cancer is unforgiving of delays and poor choices. It is true that chemotherapy, radiation and surgery have side effects but cancer has side effects too.
Many of the natural therapies that this documentary chooses to highlight are not commonly recommended by experts who work in the integrative oncology field. Things like baking soda and apricot seeds are not mainstream natural cancer therapies and have virtually no evidence of being effective. There are countless natural therapies which are more effective than this and which are well supported by scientific evidence. Not all cancers the same and you must have professional guidance when developing a plan. Many natural therapies are completely contraindicated in certain cancers and just because it is natural does not mean that it is universally safe.
Of course there are times were the use of chemotherapy is questionable. In some circumstances the cancer is unlikely to respond to the drug and intensive therapies are being recommended to only slightly extend life expectancy. In these cases the lowered quality of life must be weighed against the increased life expectancy. There are certainly cases like this where the medical oncologists are only recommending such therapies because there are no other options. It is not unreasonable for patients to resist conventional care in some of these extreme circumstances.
The key thing to recognize is that this does not apply to all cases of cancer. Conventional cancer treatments save lives when used in a timely fashion. The study cited in the series that states the ineffectiveness of chemotherapy is not presenting this information properly. This study is questioning the use of chemotherapy in the context of 5 year survival rate. By the time many of these cancers in the study were diagnosed, the disease had already greatly progressed and it is unlikely that anyone would live for 5 years, regardless of what therapy they choose.
When you take the time to dig deeper into the study it is clear that in many of these cancers the patients are living significantly longer but many of them are not living up to the 5 year mark. In this particular study someone could live for several years with a great quality of life but if they died at 4 years and 11 months then the chemotherapy would be considered ineffective. Obviously if a patient is able to live longer with a good quality of life, this is a success even if they don’t live for 5 years. The public is often left with this false impression that all chemotherapy leaves patients with a crippled quality of life. Certainly some chemotherapies significantly decrease quality of life but not all chemotherapy is the same. Particularly when patients are well supported they have significantly less side effects and can live with a great quality of life. It is not unusual for me to have a patient come to my office who has minimal side effects even when doing an intense round of chemotherapy because they are well supported naturally during this process.
You will never have all studies agree as this is how science works. We cannot base our clinical decisions on one study, we must base it on the totality of the evidence. A quick literature search will find thousands of peer reviewed studies demonstrating the effectiveness of chemotherapy for a wide range of cancers. I have had many patients in the past refuse conventional care against my advice and fly to exotic clinics around the world to receive alternative therapies. During these unnecessary delays the cancer spread to the point that it was no longer curable. In some of these cases I was confident that the patient could have been easily cured had they not hesitated.
Natural therapies can be used to help support patients through conventional treatments. They can help to significantly reduce side effects and support the immune system. When patients have this support not only do they respond better to therapy, they are more likely to embrace both therapies as their answer to this terrible disease. Often those who are the most polarized in their opinions against an integrative approach are people with little to no experience dealing with cancer. These two worlds can coexist and it is a beautiful thing when there is true collaboration.
The bottom line is that a balanced approach is best. The extreme view that no natural therapies work is simply incorrect. Just as the extreme view that only natural therapies should be used is inaccurate. The best treatment plan is an integrative approach which bridges these two worlds. Many patients get scared away from conventional therapies because their oncologist presents the treatments with such a polarized point of view. When you are trained as a hammer, everything looks like a nail. This becomes obvious to many patients after meeting with their oncologist who has a limited set of tools to offer. There are a vast range of natural therapies that can be used to help your body fight cancer but they have to be used in the proper clinical context. A Naturopathic doctor who works with oncology can help to give you a more balanced view and develop a treatment plan that utilizes the best of both worlds.
Dr. Adam McLeod, ND, also known as Dreamhealer, brings a scientific framework to healing with intentions. He combines subtle energy that he connects with and cutting-edge bio sciences to promote understanding of the healing process. At the age of 16 he wrote his first book ‘Dreamhealer’ and for the last 10 years has presented at conferences around the world showing audiences how to tap into their own innate healing abilities. To date he has written five best-selling books and narrated two DVDs. He has a First Class Honors degree in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry. He then graduated from Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine as a Naturopathic Doctor. He currently practices at Yaletown Naturopathic Clinic in Vancouver, British Columbia where he focuses on integrative oncology.
He is a member of the Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians and the College of Naturopathic Physicians of BC. Naturopathic medicine has a wide range of tools that are effective at treating cancer when used appropriately. His background in molecular biology has helped him to develop targeted supplementation which addresses the unique characteristics of the cancer. Integrative cancer care is not about taking a large number of expensive supplements. It is about taking the right supplements in conjunction with the appropriate targeted therapies. Dr. McLeod is dedicated to developing an effective treatment plan that is both evidence-based and addresses the unique health concerns of each patient. Yaletown Naturopathic Clinic also offers Loco-Regional Hyperthermia treatments as an adjunctive therapy to chemotherapy and radiation.
Adam encourages everyone to play an active role in their own healing. His message is for others to become self-empowered, knowing that their own thoughts influence their body’s biochemistry to assist in their healing process. Adam’s techniques can be used in conjunction with any healing modality. At every workshop he performs unique group energy treatments to activate self-awareness that can be called either ‘attunements’ or ‘healings’.
Dr. McLeod has had a number of guest speakers at his conferences including Dr. Edgar Mitchell, who in the film “The Living Matrix” credits Dreamhealer with distantly healing his kidney carcinoma. He presented at the Association of Complementary and Integrative Physicians of BC conferences with Andrew Weil and David Suzuki. Adam was the keynote presenter at the Northwest Naturopathic Physicians Convention. More recently Dr. McLeod presented in a conference with Deepak Chopra.
To learn more about Dr. McLeod, visit YaleTownNaturopathic.com
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