Daily Archives: October 29, 2009

Cancer as a dynamic process

There was a very interesting article in Tuesday’s New York Times about growing evidence that cancers can spontaneously disappear without treatment (Click here if you’d like to view the entire article). It is a rare occurrence in most cancers, but well documented in testicular cancer. However, the fact that it happens at all suggests some interesting possibilities.
Here is an excerpt from the article: ” ‘The old view is that cancer is a linear process,’  said Dr. Barnett Kramer, associate director for disease prevention at the National Institutes of Health.  ‘A cell acquired a mutation, and little by little it acquired more and more mutations.  Mutations are not supposed to revert spontaneously ‘…it is becoming increasingly clear that cancers require more than mutations to progress.  They need the cooperation of surrounding cells and even, he said, ‘the whole organism, the person,’ whose immune system or hormone levels, for example, can squelch or fuel a tumor.”

Now I find that viewpoint encouraging.  It is hard to accept the notion that once cancer has gotten a foothold in your body, there is nothing more that you, as an individual, can do other than submit to medical procedures and treatments.  I really want to believe that those of us with cancer are active participants in our quest to eradicate our disease.

Although I will never know for certain what environmental carcinogen(s) triggered my lung cancer, I am fairly certain that my own lifestyle made me more vulnerable.  You do hear about individuals who are exemplary in their pursuit of healthy living who still get cancer, but I know I could have done better.  I could have exercised more faithfully and eaten better food, and I certainly could have been more careful about exposing myself to potentially hazardous chemicals, such as second hand smoke, both in my home and the workplace.

I regret some of those choices, but I don’t dwell on them.  Instead, I have made a conscious effort to make those lifestyle changes now.  I am extremely careful about what I inhale, in particular.  I am not embarrassed to pull my shirt up over my nose (while also holding my breath) if I am forced to walk past someone who is smoking.  I no longer use harsh cleaning products and I wear a mask if doing anything dusty.  I keep myself physically active and walk whenever (and wherever) I can.

And I now pay a lot of attention to what is in my food.  We purchase produce that is pesticide free and organic whenever possible.  I don’t drink soda or put sugar in my coffee, and avoid sweets in general (dark chocolate is exempt, but eaten in moderation).  I take a 1000 I.U. vitamin D supplement every day, as well as a 1200 mg fish oil capsule.  I eat much less meat and many more whole grains. Because my liver enzymes are somewhat elevated now due to the trial drug, I forgo most alcohol but still drink a small glass of red wine most nights.  And I am absolutely avoiding any food that has inorganic phosphates in it, as a study has shown that this additive can actually stimulate the growth of lung cancer tumors (for more information, click here).  It means I have to read every label, but I’d rather err on the side of prudence.

By doing what I can to starve the cancer but nourish my immune system, I feel as if I am actively engaged in this battle.  And the truth is, now that I am taking better care of myself, I look and feel healthier as well.  It can’t be a bad thing.