Q. I've heard a great deal of discussion about certain diets curing cancer. What can you tell me about this or vitamins to cure my cancer?
A. The discussion of vitamins and diet must be separated into two distinct categories: causing cancer and curing cancer. Because of your question, my answer will be limited to their effect on cures.
| Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Understanding Cancer
Chapter 2: Initial Approach
Chapter 3: Medical Treatments
Chapter 4: Quiz
Chapter 5: Mental Attitude
Chapter 6: Physician-Patient Exercise
Chapter 7: Self-Help Exercise
Chapter 8: Prayer
Chapter 9: Smoking
Chapter 10: Pain Relief
Chapter 11: Diet
Chapter 12: Conclusion
Chapter 13: 25 Most Frequently Asked ?s
Chapter 14: Checklist
To date, no specific diets or vitamins have been proved statistically to have any curative powers. Therefore, if you believe that a particular diet or vitamin would aid in the successful treatment of your cancer, ask your doctor. If he says it will not hurt you, do it along with the recommended medical treatments. This can create a positive mental attitude, which is a critical thing in beating cancer when used in addition to, not in lieu of, medical treatment.
A. The only bad question is the one you didn't ask! So many times people are afraid to ask questions. They fear they may sound silly or offend their doctors. In reality, their doctor would like them to ask any question on their mind. The doctor cannot guess what the patient wants to know.
Any qualified oncologist I have talked to agrees that treatment will have a better chance of success if the patient understands the what, why and how of it. If you do not understand your doctor's explanation, keep questioning until you are satisfied in your mind that you do understand. Your physician will appreciate it. Keep a blank sheet of paper in a convenient place and, every time a question comes to mind, write it down. This way you will not fail to ask something that has been bothering you. You will have a better chance of beating cancer if you will allow your doctor to treat the patient, not just the disease, and this includes you understanding everything about your illness and your treatments.
A. First of all, be very grateful that your doctor discovered your cancer when he did. The earlier you catch cancer, generally the better the prognosis. Since you're feeling so good, the chances are you found it very early.
Remember that cancer grows geometrically. Cancer is never as treatable as it is today. All treatments are easier or work better on small amounts of malignant cells.
Supposedly, everyone gets cancer six times a year. While there is some doubt, it has been suggested that the immune system is capable of killing these few malignant cells, and the person stays healthy. It is only when these cells multiply to a point where the immune system cannot destroy them that you have a detectable cancer. When you allow this to multiply to some point, it becomes totally untreatable.
Be grateful your malignancy was discovered early. Follow your doctor's advice. Get your cancer behind you so you can live a long, healthy life and enjoy many busy seasons in the future.
A. It is doctors and knowledge that cure cancer, not brick and mortar. Cancer that is treated promptly, properly and thoroughly has an excellent chance of recovery if you have a positive mental attitude.
If your cancer is an extremely rare type for which highly experimental therapy is being given on a very restricted basis, I would go where this experimental therapy is being given. If you must be treated with equipment not locally available, such as hyperthermia for ovarian cancer, I would go where it is available. Otherwise, you will generally find doctors in your community as qualified as those anywhere. There are numerous large, cooperative groups that share protocols. These can be obtained locally as well as at a major center.
I worry about your frame of mind, since you ask the question. Assuming the physician you are going to is qualified to treat cancer, I urge you to ask him if you should go out of town or get a second opinion. There is no doubt you will receive an honest answer that will allow you to have total peace of mind, a necessary ingredient in the successful treatment of cancer.
A. While there is some debate over this, it is interesting to note that scientists have proved that mice under stress get cancer at a greater rate than mice allowed to live peacefully. Also, tumors grow faster in mice under stress. A leading psychiatrist found a higher incidence of cancer in people with suicidal tendencies. It is known that the incidence of cancer goes up after the death of a parent, spouse or child, divorce, retirement, bankruptcy, etc. Personally, I don't recall talking with a cancer patient who did not have a traumatic event in their life six months to 3 years prior to their cancer.
When people ask me what to do to keep them from getting cancer, I first suggest not smoking, because that is the biggest single known cause of cancer. Eat a proper, well-balanced diet, learn to cope with the stress in your life as well as possible, don't worry and think positive. Remember, three out of four people don't get cancer. Make up your mind you're one of the three out of four; and if you're wrong, you still have at least a 50 percent chance of beating it. In other words, don't worry and live a good, healthy life.
A. The subject is scientifically unproved. I have never met an oncologist who did not agree that people with cancer who believe they will die from it compromise their chances of survival. Even with the simplest, most treatable cancer, there is often no way to successfully treat someone who wants to die or thinks he will die. However, some patients can be cured in spite of themselves. One psychiatrist called cancer a legal method of committing suicide. That is not to say that, if you think you will get well, you will, but at least then you have a chance.
There is a saying, "Nice guys don't win the fight against cancer." Meek, mild-mannered people who are afraid to question their doctors, who don't understand or get involved, tend not to do as well.
In my opinion, a system of complete mental relaxation along with having an image of your cancer and thinking it away could be helpful. It is recommended, like prayer, in addition to any medical treatments by your doctor. I used it when I was being treated. I personally believe it helped. I know it improved the quality of my life, and I am positive it did not hurt me.
Cancer is a very serious disease. There is generally only one chance to beat it. Muster all your resources and do everything possible the first time, so you will never look back and be sorry. Include relaxation, imagery and a positive mental attitude, because they can only help and cannot hurt.
A. Let's go one step at a time. You have two choices: to try to fight your cancer and live, or to give up, in which case you will die. You are fortunate, because some individuals with cancer cannot be treated. If you try to fight it, the quality of your life will be greatly improved, even if the quantity or physical agility will not. If you are successful in beating your cancer, maybe you will be successful in beating your disability.
You are a human being - not a statistic! Who knows? Maybe you will be that one out of 20 to overcome your problem. Tremendous strides are being made in medical treatment. We don't know what will be discovered this afternoon or tomorrow. If you're not alive, it can't do you any good.
After my cancer surgery, my doctor told me that I would never play tennis again because he had to remove a major nerve in my right arm. I lost total use of my arm until I made up my mind I was going to do something about it. After an extended period of intense physical therapy, including shock treatments, I am now playing tennis better than ever.
If you don't try, you can't succeed. I'm not saying you can make it if you try, but at least you have a chance.
A. In the days when cancer was synonymous with death, many patients were intentionally not told they had cancer. Recently, I have never talked with an oncologist who believed in anything other than complete truth and honesty.
Complete truth and honesty would include the gravity of the situation as well as the options and prognosis. Where there is life, there is hope.
John Porter, a former president of our Cancer Hot Line, has said that a human being could live for 30 days without food, could exist for seven days without water and could last four minutes without air, but a human being could not exist for 10 seconds without hope.
This is not to be confused with false hope, although Dr. Vincent T. DeVita Jr., director of the National Cancer Institute, says that there is no type of cancer from which some people have not recovered.
If a patient is told the statistics of his disease, he should be reminded that he is a human being and not a statistic. He may have a stronger desire to live and greater support from family and friends, may have better medical attention, may have caught the problem earlier or be in better physical condition than the average patient, so statistics do not apply to him. If he makes it, his chances are 100 percent; if he doesn't, his chances are zero.
I personally am in favor of the patient knowing everything about their disease. This way they can participate in and become a part of their treatment, improve the quality of their life and aid the chance of a favorable outcome.
A. Because cancer is more than 100 different diseases and there are at least six primary forms of cancer treatment, it is impossible for any single doctor to know the latest and best treatment for every type of cancer. A doctor who knew the latest surgical technique for a specific type of cancer could be unaware of the up-to-the-minute chemotherapy, immunization therapy, hyperthermia or radiation therapy for that particular type of cancer.
A multidisciplinary opinion means getting together physicians from various specialities (disciplines), depending on the type of cancer, such as a pathologist, a diagnostic radiologist, a medical oncologist, a surgeon and a radiation oncologist. They discuss the type of cancer, the location, the state, all the possible treatments and then recommend, in order, the preferred series of treatments most likely to successfully treat that particular patient.
Remember that many cancers can be successfully treated if they are treated promptly, properly and thoroughly. To ensure that you are doing everything you possibly can to help yourself beat this insidious disease, I would strongly recommend getting a multidisciplinary opinion before any treatment, if at all possible.
A. Adjuvant chemotherapy is given when there is no actual physical evidence that cancer exists but it is likely to be present in the body in minute quantities.
One million cancer cells are smaller than the head of a pin. Chemotherapy is most effective against small quantities of cancer and could be totally ineffective against large masses.
After I had radiation, chemotherapy and immunotherapy for my lung cancer, the surgery showed no living cancer cells. My doctor wanted me to take one more year of chemotherapy. He explained the chances were 95 percent I didn't need it. If I did get a recurrence, however, I would be dead.
I had five friends with similar lung cancers who were all told they were "cured" after surgery and that chemotherapy was not necessary. The doctor and my wife gave me no choice but to take the chemotherapy. My five friends are all dead from their cancers.
Be grateful that they discovered the drugs and that you have such a thorough doctor. Cancer is one disease for which no one can afford the luxury of looking back and saying. "I wish I would have..."
A. Chemotherapy is treating the body with chemicals. Taking two aspirins is chemotherapy. Cancer chemotherapy covers a spectrum. Many drugs create absolutely no side effects such as those you describe. On the other hand, a drug called Adriamycin is affectionately known as "the Red Devil" because of the side effects it may cause. Most people have never heard of it, but Adriamycin saves more lives every year from cancer than the Salk vaccine saves from polio.
Sure, some drugs are rough to take, but the idea is not to take treatments. The idea is to get rid of the cancer. I knew that if these drugs were making this big body of mine so sick and so infirm, they were absolutely destroying those little cancer cells. I dreaded the miserable feeling of nausea each month, but I actually looked forward to being made sick because I knew it gave me a chance to live.
Today, chemotherapy, like radiation, is a science. It is not witchcraft. It is not guesswork. Your qualified oncologist knows exactly how much of a particular drug must be administered to destroy tumor cells and do no damage to any organ.
In answer to your question, be grateful that scientists and doctors discovered and perfected these drugs so that you have a chance to live. Having been there, it is my feeling that seeing the sun come up one more morning is worth every treatment I went through.
A. Your feeling of not wanting sympathy is understandable. At a time like this, however, it's most important to have the support of your family and friends. The normal worry and fear from the shock of finding you have cancer and the impending treatments is a tremendous burden to carry alone. Share your feelings with your family and friends. Not only will it help you, but it will make them feel more comfortable. They want to be helpful to you, but they can't if you shut them out. Talk about it openly, not incessantly.
Cancer is not a dirty word or something to be ashamed of, nor is it something to brag about or discuss continuously. Act your normal self and follow your doctor's advice with help from those who care about you.
A. The program you are referring to is called PDQ by the National Cancer Institute and is housed in the R.A. Bloch International Cancer Information Center in Bethesda, MD. I spent many sleepless nights formulating the plans for this program.
After I was cured, I realized others were dying, not because they could not be cured, but because cancer is such a complex disease and their physicians were not aware of the recent developments. Billions of dollars have been spent. Thousands of scientists and doctors spend their lives developing new treatments, but if the one doctor treating the patient is unaware of the state-of-the-art therapy for that particular cancer, everything is wasted.
The idea was to get every treatment for every type of cancer from every center in the country into a computer. Then a doctor anywhere could call this computer with his computer, explain the type of cancer and immediately he would be advised of all the options. The National Cancer Institute has gone a step or two further by getting 22 countries to list their protocols in the system, and they give a state-of-the-art statement for each known cancer.
This has been a monumental task that could never have been done by any other organization. The National Cancer Institute and its employees have done an incredibly outstanding job. This program is available to any physician or patient simply by calling 1-800-4-CANCER and specifically requesting PDQ for a particular type and stage of cancer including the state-of-the-art therapy and all current open protocols on a national basis in short form. It is also available instantly by computer from the National Library of Medicine and various private sources.
The exciting thing about PDQ is that it should allow physicians in every community to instantly have access to all the latest information, accurate and up-to-the-minute from major cancer centers worldwide. The net result should be the saving of pain, suffering, expense and many lives.
A. That is an excellent question. Cancer is a very serious disease. You generally have one chance to beat it. If you fail to treat it properly the first time, often there is no second chance.
Your question, however, shows much more than that. I believe it takes three things to beat cancer: a strong desire to live, complete faith in your doctor and confidence that the treatments that you are receiving will successfully treat you. Your question demonstrates that you lack the last two requisites.
I have two suggestions. You may want to call the Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER. This is a toll-free service of the National Cancer Institute. Their purpose is to give you any factual information about your cancer that you care to know. The other suggestion is to get a second opinion from a qualified physician specializing in your type of cancer or, if possible, from a multidisciplinary panel.
Get the answers so that you can have full confidence in your physicians without any doubts. Then you have the best chance of beating this disease.
A. A monoclonal antibody is a minute substance that will attach itself only to a particular type of cell for the purpose of delivering a treatment directly to that cell or being able to mark that cell.
Often, monoclonal antibodies are armed with a radioactive substance. They will go directly to a cancer cell, attach themselves and destroy this cell. Those that do not locate a cancer cell promptly lose their potency and become innocuous.
Monoclonal anitibodies are currently available for more than 20 types of cancer. At a recent National Cancer Advisory Board meeting, we were told of a new monoclonal antibody to aid as a marker for ovarian cancer. Formerly, a woman with ovarian cancer had surgery followed by a year of chemotherapy. The only way to make certain she was cancer-free was to have a "second-look" surgery. Now a small quantity of blood taken from her can be treated with a monoclonal antibody to show with 80 percent accuracy whether she is free of cancer. During the year of chemotherapy, her blood tests can be used to show whether she is improving or regressing. The cost: $4. Eventually, it should be usable for early diagnosis.
The progress of modern medicine is rapid and mind-boggling.
A. An outstanding oncologist once told me he has never treated a cancer patient without a second opinion, for four reasons. First, cancer is a very serious disease and, if you do not treat it properly the first time, generally there is no second chance. Second, somebody else could see something that he does not see. Third, somebody else could have some knowledge that he does not have. Fourth, he is a human being and he could make a mistake.
After hearing this, I came to the conclusion that any doctor treating cancer without a second opinion is not practicing medicine but trying to play God, because supposedly it is only God who is perfect, sees everything, knows everything and never makes a mistake.
The critical thing is to find a qualified physician in whom you have confidence who says he can successfully treat you.
The physician should be an oncologist, which is a doctor trained to specifically treat cancer. You must have confidence in your physician and be able to communicate well with him. This will enable you to understand and be involved with your treatment.
Finally, if your doctor says you will not make it, you have absolutely nothing to lose by trying to find a qualified doctor who believes he can successfully treat you or an institution that is doing successful research.
This is your life, and you must think of yourself first. I have never met a good doctor yet who did not welcome a second opinion. It can only reinforce your confidence in him and enable you to be more receptive to your treatment.
A. No two cases of cancer are identical. Each case is as unique as a fingerprint. Don't ever compare yourself to anyone else. Your cancer is one of at least 100 different types, one of numerous cell types further differentiated to a specific degree. Upon discovery, it was at a specific stage, had grown to a certain size and had or had not metastasized to other areas of your body. Your general physical condition, along with your age and mental attitude, are yours alone. The support from your family and friends and your faith in God is unique and applies only to you.
Don't compare yourself to anyone else and certainly don't compare yourself to a statistic.
If you have any questions about what your doctor recommends, ask your doctor. Explain why you are asking and what your concerns are. He will be happy to point out the differences and show why he is recommending what he is.
A. On Dec. 31, 1983, Dr. Charles LeMaistre, president of the M.D. Anderson clinic in Houston, one of America's leading cancer centers, was quoted as saying, "And now for the first time we see more than 50 percent of all cancer patients being cured, making cancer the most curable of all chronic illnesses."
When I was appointed to the National Cancer Advisory Board, Dr. Vincent T. DeVita, Jr., director of the National Cancer Institute, told us that progress was being made so rapidly that research projects started six months ago were already obsolete. The next year, he told us that any physician who had not studied the current treatment for a specific cancer since yesterday could be out of date today. Furthermore, many of the cancers a physician graduating from medical school 10 years ago was taught were incurable are today curable to some degree.
In my opinion, the American public is getting a least $1.25 value for every $1 spent.
A. First of all, let's be very clear what is meant by alternative therapies. These are methods of treating cancer that have not been scientifically proven and are always given in place of legitmate, orthodox medical treatments.
There is no magic bullet. There is no easy way out. Nothing can replace sound, tried and proven medical treatments.
It is human nature to look for an easy solution and avoid unpleasant treatments. It is my personal feeling that some individuals are driven to alternative therapies because all hope has been taken away, and a human being will not be denied hope. We are not talking about supplemental therapies that are recommended in addition to medical treatment, not in lieu of. By supplemental therapies, I mean prayers, psychotherapy and certain diets and vitamins taken with the approval of your physician. Again, let me stress that these are only in addition to proper medical treatments and not instead of.
My suggestion is to totally ignore this bad advice and to continue to follow your doctor's recommendations. Be grateful that your treatments have been discovered and perfected and that your doctor is so knowledgeable and caring. Remember, if these treatments are making you so tired and sick, think of what they are doing to those weak, little cancer cells.
A. In the instructions, it states, "This test is not scientifically proven accurate." When this test was compiled, it was reviewed, and advice and suggestions were incorporated from psychiatrists, psychologists and physicians at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, the National Cancer Institute and in Kansas City. This quiz encompasses the various factors to indicate whether a patient does or does not have the proper mental attitude to be successfully treated for cancer in the opinion of these experts.
Even more important than that, this quiz presents the possibility of helping many cancer patients without any downside risks. There is no chance of hurting anyone. It is not intended to change anyone's ideas. It will either indicate that a positive person has the right mental outlook or that an individual should seek competent assistance. It is meant to aid your physician and augment your medical treatment. Remember that, in fighting cancer, you muster all your resources and do everything possible to try to beat this disease.
The feedback we have received from those who have taken the quiz shows that it has been a positive and helpful step for many. It is on page 91. Additional copies can be obtained, absolutely free of charge, by sending a stamped, self-addressed envelope to: Cancer Connection, 4410 Main St., Kansas City, MO 64111.
A. What's the difference? Why torture yourself? The important thing now is to cure your cancer. A vital ingredient is to never look back and have guilt feelings.
Every individual has a limited amount of energy. Don't waste precious energy looking back. You must muster all your resources and apply them toward your recovery. Turn these negative questions and doubts into positive thoughts of cooperation with your physician. In the two years of my treatments, not a single doctor asked me if I had been a smoker. It was perfectly obvious that I had, but what good would it have done to make me feel guilty?
You have lots of options that require all your energies in addition to receiving the treatments recommended by your physician. They include support from your family and friends; faith in God; being certain you receive proper, well-balanced nutrition; reading and learning more about your condition and treatment; and maintaining a positive mental attitude.
A. An outstanding radiation oncologist in Detroit explains in detail to new patients all the factors about their cancer and the forthcoming treatments. When the oncologist is finished, he gives patients a tape recording of the entire interview to take home. He knows that if he had not given them the tape they would have worried about many things in the future that he had explained, but which they would have forgotten. He believes that the worry would be detrimental to their condition, while a thorough understanding would contribute to the success of the treatments.
The National Cancer Institute sent to the directors of 110 cancer centers the following poster, with the recommendation that it be placed in patient waiting areas over the director's signature.
Notice to patients: To obtain maximum benefit from your treatment, become a partner with your physician. You should understand everything being done for you and how and why it works. To do this you must ask questions! Your doctor wants you to understand, but will not know your concerns unless you express them. A physician or nurse will take as much time as necessary to explain anything about your condition that you do not understand. A partnership like this will ensure that the care you receive is optimal.
A. First of all, I believe you should clearly define the meaning of the word "terminal." Supposedly, terminal means dying imminently from an existing condition from which there is no possibility of altering the outcome. My understanding of this would not include an individual who has as much as two years to live.
There are many documented cases of individuals who were told they were going to die from their cancer, with no possible treatment, only to be seen years later alive, well and cancer-free.
There is a phenomenon known as spontaneous remission that medical science has been unable to explain to date. It is where cancer completely disappears for no apparent reason.
I have personally listened to many cases at our Cancer Management Center. I have never heard one case in which our wonderful multidisciplinary panel of physicians was unable to come up with at least one option that gave a chance of success to any patient with this amount of time to live.
With all the tremendous advances being made daily in cancer treatments, there is always hope. Who knows what will be discovered within the two years allotted to your father that will be applicable to him?
In my opinion, "terminal" means dying this afternoon or tomorrow or this week. I am not trying to say that your father can be successfully treated, but I would urge him to seek a second opinion. Staying with a doctor who says there is no hope will generally fulfill his prophecy.
A. I was privileged to have lunch recently with Dr. Lewis Thomas, chancellor of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. He is the individual who received notoriety when he made the statement that cancer would be a thing of the past in 1998. I asked him if he truly meant what he said, and he replied in the affirmative.
My personal feeling is that, because cancer is more than 100 different diseases, no single magic bullet such as the Salk polio vaccine will be found. Rather, numerous advances, each reducing the incidence or increasing the cure rate by a nominal percentage, will achieve the desired goal. We are only beginning to recognize the benefits of the over $10 billion invested in cancer in the last 10 years. Advances are pouring in at an accelerating rate. The goal of the national cancer program is to reduce cancer mortality 50 percent by the year 2000.
A. There are many wonderful and helpful support groups available.
Primarily, the Cancer Hot Line is a group of individuals who have had cancer who are available to talk to newly diagnosed cancer patients, ideally within 15 minutes of their diagnosis.
We do not make a prognosis or give medical advice. We talk strictly from personal experience, emphasizing prompt treatment, proper treatment, thorough treatment and a positive mental attitude.
Psychologically, we enable them to get over the initial shock and fear and to understand that death and cancer are not synonymous. The patient realizes that, because he is talking to someone who has had a similar cancer, it is possible for him to overcome it. However, we give a lot more than psychological help.
We recommend the patient consult a qualified physician, such as an oncologist. Because we accept no cash contributions from any patient (when these are offered, we recommend they donate to their church or hospital), we are free to suggest any qualified physician we personally like. We further recommend a qualified second opinion, because we know how serious cancer is and no one is perfect.
We try to help them find a qualified doctor in whom they have faith who says he can successfully treat them. If this doctor cannot be found, we then try to get them to the institution that is doing the most successful work on their type of cancer.
Because we have been there with a similar cancer, we can explain in lay terms what the treatments their doctor recommends are like and how they affected us. We can give practical hints on what we did to help ourselves. We try to take fear of the unknown out of cancer treatment. We attempt to get the callers in control of their cancer and become more of a partner with their doctor.
We recommend to each patient that they read "Fighting Cancer", available free by requesting it from 1-800-4-CANCER, and "CANCER...there's hope", by Richard and Annette Bloch, available in most public libraries or by calling 1-816-WE BUILD.
We believe we improve the quality of life for every patient and extend the quantity of life for many. Our sole goal is to give the next person getting cancer the best chance of beating it.
The Cancer Hot Line number is (816) 932-8453.