Understanding Chemotherapy and Radiation
by Abraham Safirstein
The purpose of this page is not to discourage or scare you, rather to inform you that there are ways of substantially improving the chances of success.
The goal of chemotherapy and radiation is to destroy cancer cells. They do that by poisoning or burning them, which is a good thing when it works. They obviously have side effects, some more serious than others, but they don’t solve the underlying problem of why cancer happened, why our immune system could not handle the problem.
We hope if the treatments are 100% successful and the cancer is gone, that it is not going to recur. The problem is that the cause of the original cancer was never dealt with, and therefore there is a high possibility that the same deficiency that allowed it to happen the first time will, G-d forbid, allow it to happen again. And when it does, it tends to come back with a vengeance.
These therapies are not candy, and a hidden side effect is that not only can they leave behind some cancer cells, but they damage previously healthy cells which if not disposed of have the potential of becoming cancerous themselves. This has been proven in several clinical trials of which this is an example: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/09/27/common-cancer-treatments-may-create-dangerous-cancer-stem-cells/
The study itself is here: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0043628 and the relevant quote is in the introduction:
“Cancer stem cells (CSCs), a subpopulation of malignant cells in the heterogeneous cancer cell population, are considered to be responsible for cancer recurrence, metastasis and drug resistance. CSCs have been isolated from a variety of human malignancies including leukemia, breast cancer, brain tumor, hepatocellular carcinoma, pancreatic cancer and colorectal cancer. CSCs have the ability to self-renew and to differentiate into the multitude of cells that comprise the bulk of the tumor mass. CSCs also express high levels of drug resistance transporter proteins (e.g. ABC) DNA repair enzymes and anti-apoptotic proteins, which renders them highly resistant to conventional cancer therapies including chemotherapy and radiation.”
This next study discusses the reason why most clinical trials, which started with much fanfare and hope, ultimately produced disappointing results.
Its relevant conclusion is: “The major clinical reason that chemotherapy ultimately fails in the face of advanced cancer, Nelson said, is because the doses necessary to thoroughly wipe out the cancer would also be lethal to the patient.” In the laboratory we can ‘cure’ most any cancer simply by giving very high doses of toxic therapies to cancer cells in a petri dish. However, in people, these high doses would not only kill the cancer cells but also normal cells and the host.” Therefore, treatments for common solid tumors are given in smaller doses and in cycles, or intervals, to allow the normal cells to recover. This approach may not eradicate all of the tumor cells, and those that survive can evolve to become resistant to subsequent rounds of anti-cancer therapy.”
It is also important to take into consideration the overall benefit of the particular therapies one chooses. This is a study in PubMed performed in Australia, but it is relevant everywhere. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15630849
The conclusion is: ”The overall contribution of curative and adjuvant cytotoxic chemotherapy to 5-year survival in adults was estimated to be 2.3% in Australia and 2.1% in the USA.”
Scientists in Italy came to a similar conclusion: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18565615
What does all this mean? It means that we cannot put all our hopes in therapies that are proven not to provide an acceptable level of success. In my mind an acceptable level of success should be above 70% survival after 5 years and minimal possibility of recurrence. It is possible to achieve this result by targeting the cause of the cancer through natural interventions by themselves or concurrently with conventional therapies. In my opinion, replenishing the stores of vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids that were lacking will allow the immune system to fulfill its mission and solve the problem once and for all. There is no arguing with the fact that chemo and radiation substantially weaken the body and the immune system, at times even to an extreme, and it is absurd not to address and correct this if we want to return to good health.
Finally, as I explained elsewhere, nutritional interventions don’t contradict chemo and radiation, rather they complement and increase the likelihood of success.
When a person gets a diagnosis of cancer, he is overwhelmed and clueless. The person is vulnerable, and the first reaction is to give the doctor full control because he is afraid to take responsibility for making a life and death decision with no knowledge of what this is all about. In truth, the doctor has a duty to provide a clear explanation of what the treatment options are and the patient has a right to understand the risks and benefits involved in any given therapy.
In addition to that, once the doctor provides his opinion of what would work in this case, the proper question to ask is “In your practice, what are the median survival time and the maximum survival time for patients in a similar condition following the therapies you suggest?”
This way, you have the choice to decide if this treatment option is appropriate for you or if you would rather look for a better option. The fact is that different doctors have different results and different knowledge, and that way you can go for a second or third opinion to give yourself the best chance for the best possible outcome. Ignorance is NOT bliss!
A basic knowledge of what chemotherapy and radiation can achieve is essential, as well as a basic idea of how to read the information from clinical trials that substantiate the level of success that you can expect from this particular therapy, and the inherent risks.