Oncology (Cancer)

From Health Facts
Jump to: navigation, search
Latest Edit: Iva Lloyd, ND 2017-05-05 (EDT)

Cancer is a condition of disordered and uncontrolled cell growth that can affect any organ system of the body. It affects people of all ages and genders, though risk increases with age. While there are case reports of spontaneous healing, cancers will generally progress if untreated.

Oncology (Cancer)
Causes Food Reactions, Smoking, Allergies, Infections
See Also General Conditions, Respiratory Conditions
Books Books on Oncology
Articles Articles on Oncology (Cancer)

Cancers typically start as tumors that have developed through multiple steps of cellular damage, progressing gradually from a normal cell to an abnormal but benign one (metaplasia, dysplasia) and then to a cancerous cell (metaplasia). These multiple steps are triggered based on a person's genetics, lifestyle, personal stressors and the environment. Most cancers have multiple causes or risk factors rather than a single cause.

Cancer appears to be a maladaptive cellular response to chronic injury, setting the stage for chronic illness. That is, cancer is triggered by sustained injury either due to chronic physical damage, chemical damage, bilogical damage or emotional damage.[1]

Specific Cancers

Article Creating Healing for Cancer Patients, Vital Link; 2009 Winter/Spring
Article Hyperthermia in Oncology, IHP ; Nov/Dec 2012
Article Salvestrols, A natural, targeted approach to preventing and treating cancer , IHP ; Nov/Dec 2012

Naturopathic Assessment

Cancer progression.jpg

A naturopathic assessment of the oncology patient involves the following:

  • determining the origin and sites of the cancerous tissue
  • determining those factors that have contributed to the cancer.
  • assessing a patient's vitality
  • assessing characteristics of the tumor and patient that may be promoting or inhibiting tumor growth.
  • reviewing lab and imaging information, including clinical and pathological staging.
  • reviewing all treatment provided to date.

Causal and Risk Factors

Cancer is a diverse group of diseases that are caused by many factors. Much research funding is invested in genetic causes and genomic therapies. However, researchers at MD Anderson find that, "only 5–10% of all cancer cases can be attributed to genetic defects, whereas the remaining 90–95% have their roots in the environment and lifestyle.[2]

A detailed assessment of cancer risk factors includes examination of:

  • Of all cancer-related deaths, almost 25–30% are due to tobacco, as many as 30– 35% are linked to diet, about 15–20% are due to infections, and the remaining percentage are due to other factors like radiation, stress, physical activity, and environmental pollutants.[3]
  • Nutrition: A whole foods, plant based diet decreases the risk of many cancers, while a processed food diet increases cancer risk.[4]
  • Deficiencies of Vitamin D and Vitamin A increase cancer risk.
  • Obesity: According to the American Cancer Society, 14% of cancer deaths in men and 20% of cancer deaths in women are attributable to obesity. [5]
  • Tobacco use increases the risk of developing at least 14 types of cancer. In addition, it accounts for about 25–30% of all deaths from cancer and 87% of deaths from lung cancer.[3]
  • Alcohol use increases the risk of cancers of the upper digestive tract, head and neck, and breast. Moderate alcohol consumption decreases the risk of colorectal cancer. [6] The Centers for Disease Control recommends limiting alcohol consumption to 1 drink daily for women and 2 drinks daily for men. The CDC also advises that no one should begin drinking for health reasons. [7]
Article Exercise Rehabilitation for Cancer Patients, IHP, [2], September 2011
  • Physical activity decreases the risk of developing all types of cancer, and extends survival for people with cancer. For women with breast cancer, walking 1-3 hours a week decreases the risk of dying from breast cancer by 20-50%.[8] Overall, even 15 minutes of daily activity lengthens life expectancy by 3 years, within an increase of life for each additional amount of exercise. [9]
  • Having strong relationships with other people decreases the risk of dying from cancer. [10]
  • Viral infections and parasites can stimulate cancer growth. Household cleaning products and personal care products can contain carcinogens. [11]
  • Spending time outside is associated with a decreased risk of developing cancer.
  • Environmental pollutants can be carcinogenic and are associated with increased cancer risks in many different cancers. These pollutants include plastics, heavy metals, and byproducts of petroleum processing. [12]
  • Prescription Mediciations
  • There are a number of drugs that are known to be carcinogenic. [13] The drugs and treatments that we take affect our families and neighbors, too. Carcinogenic and hormone-disrupting pharmaceuticals enter water and food supplies via sewage processing and hospital waste disposal. [14] [15]
  • While most cancers are genetic, very few are inherited. Cancer is genetic in the sense that cancer development involves genetic change. However, the majority of these genetic changes occur through environmental exposures, rather than through inheritance. [16] A Mount Sinai panel found that genetic predisposition accounts for no more than 20% of childhood cancers, with the remainder being attributable to environmental factors.[17]

Diagnostic Testing

  • Assessing for any cancer is typically done based on a person's symptoms, change in health status or persence of risk factors.
  • Naturopathic doctors will often use laboratory tests to assist in the assessment process. There are a number of specific cancer tumor markers that are used to evaluate the extent of tumor activity and that are helpful in assessing the effectiveness of treatment.
  • For radiographic tests, MRI, ultrasounds and other testing they work cooperatively with conventional doctors and specialists.
  • Although the definitive diagnosis of cancer usually requires a tissue biopsy, biopsies themselves can pose a risk especially with respect to metasasis of cancer.
  • There are a growing number of specialized metabolic and tumor tests available to assist with chosing the most appropriate and potentially most successful natural or conventional therapies.


A tumor's growth and behavior is strongly influenced by its environment. The naturopathic approach to cancer care focuses on enhancing the patient's vitality and immune function while addressing those factors, such as lifestyle and environmental concerns that are known to affect cancer development.

Despite billions of dollars spent in cancer research the five-year survival rates for most cancers has only marginally increased over the last ten years. [18] Cytotoxic chemotherapy increases the overall 5 year cancer survival rate by only 2.1%. [19] The author of this paper states: "For most patients, the use of cytotoxic chemotherapy is for the palliation of symptoms and to improve quality of life, with prolongation of survival being a less important outcome." Thus, when considering cancer treatment options, it is important to discuss with an oncologist the goals of treatment and realistic expectations for effectiveness.

While there has been some improvement in the incidence rates of some cancers, cancer continues to affect people of all ages and is currently the cause of about 13% of all deaths in North America. In developed nations, such as Canada and the United States, approximately one in two will develop cancer and one in four will die of the disease, with the risk being slightly greater among men than women.[18]

Naturopathic Treatment Strategy

It is always advisable to work with a naturopathic doctor who is board certified by the American Board of Naturopathic Oncology before before engaging in any treatment plan.

Article Vitamin C and Cancer: Is There A Use For Oral Vitamin C? , J Orthomolecular Med; 2013; Vol28(1)
Article Intravenous vitamin C in cancer management, IHP, March 2008

The most appropriate treatment strategy for any cancer depends on the health status and wishes of the person involved, the type and staging of the cancer, and the ability to address the causal factors. Goals of care include targeting the tumor, increasing the patient's vitality and immune function, improving the effectiveness and tolerability of conventional oncology treatments, enhancing quality of life, addressing causes of the cancer, and preventing recurrence.

All naturopathic doctors are trained to treat patients with cancer. In addition, some naturopathic doctors have additional specialized training in Oncology and will have the designation FABNO as well as an ND.

Article Acupuncture and Cancer Pain Management, NDNR , [3], 2011 July
  • Natural cancer specific therapies target the many cell signals that regulate tumor cell growth and development. Enhancing effectiveness of conventional therapy involves using natural therapies to enhance the effectiveness of conventional oncology treatments while decreasing side effects. For example,
  • Chemotherapy is most effective when it reaches tumor cells and bypasses healthy cells. Tumor cell metabolism, cell membrane fluidity, blood vessel function, and cell communication can impact the effectiveness of chemotherapy. Select natural therapies can enhance the effectiveness of chemotherapy by address these targets.
  • Radiation therapy is more effective against rapidly dividing cells with the correct amount of oxidative stress. Many natural therapies can sensitize tumor cells to radiation while also protecting healthy cells.
Article Supporting Patients After Completion of Conventional Cancer Treatment, NMJ, [4], 2012 March
Article Mitochondrial Rescue, Turning cancer cells off, IHP, September 2011
Article Modified citrus pectin: Heavy metal chelator, possible cancer treatment, IHP, [5], September 2010
Article Body weight: The forgotten endpoint in cancer management, IHP, September 2009
  • Due to the biology of cancer, many tumors will respond to conventional therapies and then recur. Recurrent tumors can respond again to conventional treatment, but they progressively develop treatment resistance. For these reasons, an ongoing prevention of recurrence strategy is very important.
  • Treatment resistance develops as a tumor acquires genetic variation. Genetic variation is a survival strategy that develops in response to immune function and anticancer treatment. A tumor can generate genetic changes that enable it to resist treatment and circumvent the immune system's cancer control pathways. Natural cancer specific treatments can be used to decrease treatment resistance and to stabilize tumor genetic change.
  • Due to the biology of treatment resistance, natural anticancer strategies are most effective when started promptly, pursued consistently, rotated regularly, and composed to target a variety of cancer growth mechanisms. [21]


  1. Ron Hunninghake. Unified Theory of Chronic Illness presented at the 46th Annual International Conference 2017, Orthomolecular Medicine Today, Toronto, Ontario.
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2515569/
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2515569/
  4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2515569/
  5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12711737
  6. http://www.naturalmedicinejournal.com/article_content.asp?edition=1&section=3&article=270
  7. http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/faqs.htm#moderateDrinking
  8. http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/293/20/2479.abstract
  9. http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(11)60749-6/abstract
  10. http://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/2027.42/51572/1/Reynolds%20P,%20Social%20Connections%20and%20Risk,%201990.pdf
  11. http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/2011/04/13/why-this-matters/
  12. http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/CancerCauses/OtherCarcinogens/GeneralInformationaboutCarcinogens/known-and-probable-human-carcinogens
  13. http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/CancerCauses/OtherCarcinogens/GeneralInformationaboutCarcinogens/known-and-probable-human-carcinogens
  14. http://www.ejnet.org/sludge/sludge.html
  15. http://water.epa.gov/scitech/wastetech/biosolids/tnsss-overview.cfm
  16. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2515569/
  17. http://www.sustainableproduction.org/downloads/Child%20Canc%20Full%20Report.pdf
  18. 18.0 18.1 Canadian Cancer Society: Canadian Cancer Society 2011
  19. [1]
  20. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejmoa100678
  21. Five to Thrive: Your Cutting-Edge Cancer Prevention Plan]] by Dr. Lise Alschuler and Karolyn Gazella (2011)

Recommended Reading

Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians, Naturopathic Doctor Referral Program http://www.oncanp.org/index.html
Five to Thrive: Your Cutting-Edge Cancer Prevention Plan by Dr. Lise Alschuler and Karolyn Gazella (2011)
The Definitive Guide to Cancer, 3rd Edition: An Integrative Approach to Prevention, Treatment, and Healing by Dr. Lise Alschuler and Karolyn Gazella (2010)
Naturally There's Always Hope by Dr. Neil McKinney (2008)
One Bite At A Time: Nourishing Recipes for People with Cancer by Rebecca Katz, Marsha Tomassi, and Matt Edelson
Anticancer: A New Way of Live by Dr. David Servan-Schreiber
The Journey Through Cancer by Dr. Jeremy Geffen