One of the unfortunate side effects of standard cancer treatment is the occurrence of secondary cancers and premature death due to side effects. Below are a small handful of examples that constitute the multitude of ongoing occurrences.
It has also been my misfortune to personally observe and work with dozens of cancer patients who died prematurely, some due to secondary cancers, others due to the side effects of conventional treatment, or a combination of both.
- Acupuncture can be used to help with nausea and pain
- THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) is useful for treating cancer pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, and poor appetite/wasting. It can be prescribed in pill form, while some people find relief from smoking marijuana. However, it is illegal in most states, but your doctor may be willing to prescribe it.
- For nausea, both ginger and caraway seed can often help. Caraway seed can be used to make a tea to be used after radiation treatment. To prevent nausea, hold a slice of fresh ginger in your mouth while undergoing therapy; if you become nauseous, chew on it. Fennel tea calms the stomach and prevents nausea. Acupuncture or an acupressure wrist band may also help.
- Pressure points on the wrists that can help reduce nausea. There is a special wrist band that uses electrical stimulation of the nerves in the wrist for this by Woodside Biomedical Inc. in Carlsbad, CA at (888)668-6648. However, do not use it if you have a pacemaker.
- For pain or burning in the stomach, mix one heaping teaspoon of kudzu or arrowroot in six ounces of water or licorice tea.
- Use imagery, visualization and other mind-body techniques to lessen the side effects and stresses of the cancer treatment.
- Alpha Lipoic Acid, an antioxidant, can help with nerve death-neuropathy
- Exercise can help with fatigue, nausea, anxiety, and a variety of other ill effects
- Banana peels can help with planters warts. Cover the warts with banana peels for 7 days and the warts will dry up.
- Soy Unique is a fermented soy product that can help enhance the immune system and help increase blood counts. It is easily digested and is very nutritious, making it great for those who have trouble eating. It is available at http://www.naha.theshoppe.com/soyunique.htm.
- Dr. Whitaker recommends a product called Defience PhytoTherapy, a powdered supplement formulated by oncologist Mitch Gaynor, M.D., of the Strang Cancer Prevention Center in New York City, specifically for patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. It contains milk thistle, grapefruit seed extract, N-acetyl-cysteine and other agents that aid in detoxification, as well as soy isoflavones, other immune enhancers, and plant extracts. Patients state that it gives them more energy. It is available from Healthy Directions at(800) 722-8008.
- Ganoderma can be used as a supplement during chemotherapy or radiotherapy to reduce side-effects such as fatigue, loss of appetite, hair loss, bone marrow suppression and risk of infection.
- Propax - www.propax.com - Helps with fatigue associated with chemotherapy
- Spirulina helps to reduce the side effects of radiation therapy, including weight loss
- Other immune builders, like colostrum, ImmunoPower, astragalus, MGM3, IP6, and Transfer Factor can also help with side effects by keeping the immune system going without interfering with the treatments.
- Chinese herbal remedies can be helpful. Go to http://acupuncture.com/Herbology/Chemo.htm for suggestions
- For hair loss, consider EVP3 from Janbe. Vitamin E prior to beginning chemo can also help. Ice caps (ice cap, cold cap, caps) sometimes retard hair loss from chemotherapy.
- After the chemo and radiation is over, check with your doctor about adding antioxidants to your diet to build your system back up. (See note about antioxidants below.)
- Some people use a zapper during treatments to help keep their system going
- Hydrazine sulfate is an anti-cachexia drug which acts to reverse the metabolic processes of debilitation and weight loss in cancer.
- For constipation or gas, enzymes such as Beano, probiotics, sena, buckthorn, epsom salts, or high fiber can help, but be sure to check with your physician. Walking also helps.
- For anemia - B12, beet juice, and shark liver oil can help.
- For insomnia - try melatonin.
- For pain - try acupuncture, biofeedback, or hypnosis.
- For radiation burns, hyperbaric oxygen therapy can help.
- For the drying effects of chemo, the European University of Chinese Medicine recommends Z02.
- Diarrhea can also be a problem for some patients. To help control it, try limiting the amount of fat in the diet.
There is a belief among oncologists that chemotherapy can be rendered
ineffective to varying degrees if the patient ingests antioxidants. They believe this because one of the ways chemotherapy works is by introducing free radicals into
cancerous tissues to destroy them. Accordingly, some cancer doctors tell
their patients NOT to take any antioxidant supplements during treatment. In fact, some doctors refuse to treat patients who are using supplements.
There are some researchers that disagree with this and they recommend some supplementation when undergoing chemotherapy including: CoQ10, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and kelp (to provide trace minerals). You should talk to your doctor about this before adding any supplements or herbs to your diet.
Two good books on this topic are:
John Boik's book Natural Compounds in Cancer Therapy goes into all the studies that show supplements and antioxidants and herbs may actually help chemo and not hinder it. This is a good one for doctors to consider. An easier read is Dr. Ralph Moss's book Antioxidants Against Cancer.
One antioxidant product called "The Amrit Protection herbal formulas (also called Amrit®)" is a combination of 44 ayurvedic herbs. Scientific studies are available at Amrti's website.
A book with some very good suggestions on making chemo and radiation less harmful to the patient and more toxic to the cancer. Read Beating Cancer with Nutrition by Patrick Quillin. Available at most libraries and bookstores.
The following physician offers pain management for cancer support due to Chemo or Radiotherapy: Walter Young A.P. in Ft. Lauderdale, FL - Phone (954) 564-0038.
One person's success story using herbs and alternative methods in conjunction with chemotherapy is athttp://www.healthwell.com/delicious-online/D_backs/Oct_98/cancer.cfm.
Some alternative physicians deal specifically with side effects of radiation and chemotherapy. These include: Dr. Labriola, and Dr. Rountree.
NCI - The National Cancer Institute's website has a page devoted to side effects at http://cancernet.nci.nih.gov/chemotherapy/chemoside.html. Note: Their suggestions are not alternative, but may be helpful to those who are being treated with chemotherapy.
WebMDHealth has an article on the side effects of radiation therapy and how to cope with the loss of appetite, fatigue, and changes in sleep patterns that often occur. http://my.webmd.ca/content/dmk/dmk_article_57338. Cancer pain is discussed at http://my.webmd.ca/content/dmk/dmk_article_5963020.
Always tell your health care provider what you are taking to be sure there are no undesirable side effects. Chemotherapy patients should check with their doctors about taking angelica, arnica, bogbean, boldo, celery supplements, clove oil,
danshen, feverfew, garlic supplements, excessive amounts of ginger supplements, ginkgo, onion supplements, papain, turmeric and willow bark as these might impact some treatments.
If you believe the supplements you are taking are benefiting you, encourage your doctor to read one of the books mentioned above.
Bill Misner, Ph.D. has written an article titled Nutritional Interventions for Reducing the Negative Side Effects of Chemotherapy. This article has some very helpful suggestions.
If you or a loved one has gone through chemotherapy and radiation and you have found ways to deal with their side effects, be sure to send us an email.
One study investigated the occurrence of a secondary cancer five years after treatment with radiation in a large population of men with prostate cancer. The study found that, compared to men who received no radiation, those who received external beam radiation as their only form of treatment were at a significantly higher risk of developing secondary cancers of the bladder and rectum.
They were also at risk of developing secondary cancers in other areas not directly related to the initial target, including the brain, cecum, lung, skin, stomach, and transverse colon.
Patients who survive Hodgkin’s disease as children are at a greater risk for developing solid tumors in adulthood, especially breast cancer. “Bhatia et al., representing the Late Effects Study Group, reported that second cancers developed 18 times more often in patients who received treatment for Hodgkin’s disease before the age of 16 years than would be expected in the general population…”
Secondary cancers are also a well known complication in patients who have been treated for Hodgkin’s disease as adults, with acute myelogenous leukemia causing the most deaths. Radiation was implicated as the primary cause of solid tumors, whereas leukemia was a result of chemo and radiation combined. Currently, secondary malignant cancers are considered the leading cause of death in long-term survivors of Hogkin’s disease.
Another detrimental effect of chemotherapy is its destructive effect on the immune system. Considered a poison, chemo is unable to selectively search out only cancerous cells and, therefore, has a damaging effect on all cells. “Thus chemotherapy poisons many normal tissues as well – especially the rapidly dividing cells of the bone marrow, intestinal wall, and the hair follicles.”1 This is why it is given in tiny doses over a long period of time. If it were given all in one shot, it would kill the patient almost immediately.
An additional disadvantage of chemo is that it decreases the possibility of benefiting from other natural, non-toxic, or immunological treatments. Therefore, a patient using a complimentary therapy concurrently with chemo likely will not benefit from this therapy because they contradict each other. Complementary therapies are designed to support the immune system so the body can heal itself, while chemotherapy drugs destroy both healthy and cancerous cells, thus damaging the immune system.
Even the free encyclopedia Wikipedia notes its damaging effects in the following statement: “Exposure to radiation or chemotherapy will kill many of the rapidly dividing cells of the bone marrow and will therefore result in a depressed immune system.”
The problem here is that the immune system, particularly the bone marrow, is responsible for producing new blood cells (red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets) whose function is to protect the body from everything from the common cold to major diseases and infections.
Consequently, this results in the development of anemia. With the immune system unable to do its job, many cancer patients often succumb to an early death due to the side effects of their treatment. This certainly warrants pursuing natural, holistic treatments for cancer.
(1) Moss, R (1996). The Cancer Industry. (p 73). New York:Equinox Press. (2) Moon, K., Stukenborg, G.J.., Keim, J., & Theodorescu, D. (2006). Cancer Incidence After Localized Therapy for Prostate Cancer. Cancer, 107(5): 991-998. (3) Donaldson, S.S. & Hancock, S.L. (1996). “Second Cancers after Hodgkin’s Disease in Childhood.” The New England Journal of Medicine, 334(12): 792-794. (4) Bhatia, S., Robison, L.L., Oberlin, O., Greenberg, M., Bunin, G., Fossati-Bellani, F., & Meadows, A.T. (1996). “Breast Cancer and Other Second Neoplasms After Childhood Hodgkin’s Disease.” The New England Journal of Medicine, 334(12): 745-751. (5) Travis, L.B., Hill, D.A., Dores, G.M., Gospodarowicz, M., Van Leeuwen, F., Holowaty, E., Glimelius, B., Andersson, M., Wiklund, T., Lynch, C.F., Van’t Veer, M.B., Glimelius, I., Storm, H., Pukkala, E., Stovall, M., Curtis, R., Boice, J.D., & Gilbert, E. (2003). “Breast Cancer Following Radiotherapy and Chemotherapy Among Young Women With Hodgin’s Disease.” The Journal of the American Medical Association, 290(4): 465-475. (6) Moss, R. (1995). Questioning Chemotherapy. (p 164). New York:Equinox Press.