How to Beat Cancer: Principle 4 (of 4): Don’t Get it Again

Taking Control: Preventing Cancer Recurrence Through Lifestyle and Integrative Approaches

To say I am passionate about preventing cancer recurrence is an understatement. During my tenure as a full-time radiation oncologist, my follow-up clinics frequently ran late. I engaged deeply with patients interested in discussing integrative and lifestyle interventions that could significantly reduce the chances of their cancer returning. Unfortunately, traditional healthcare does not invest time or resources into this setting. Visits are limited to superficial 10-20 minute slots, typifying what I call “assembly-line” medicine. Patients are treated as mere hosts for cancer rather than as individuals. Moreover, institutions are removing the doctor from this setting and substituting advanced practice providers (such as an NP or PA). This systemic failure was a key motivator for me to step away from traditional healthcare settings.

Flaws in Traditional Follow-Up Care:

Traditional cancer follow-up care is fundamentally passive. Survivors are often advised to “live as they did before,” with the only additions being routine tests and follow-up appointments. This model is disempowering and fails to recognize the profound ways in which cancer develops and its treatment impact lives.

The Shortcomings of ‘Cancer Survivorship’ Programs:

“Cancer Survivorship” programs, which are intended to support the transition from active treatment to post-treatment life, most often underdeliver. Resources are limited and patients are left to navigate this space on their own. Programs are usually inadequate, lacking the depth and breadth necessary to address the diverse and complex needs of survivors, contributing further to the depersonalization of post-cancer care.

The Integrative Approach to Preventing Cancer Recurrence:

Unlike the passive traditional model, the integrative approach to cancer follow-up is proactive and empowering. After the rigors of treatment and the side effects that often accompany it, no one wants to face recurrence. Recognizing that over 50% of cancers are related to lifestyle factors and that a mere 5% are purely genetic, the integrative model equips patients to take command of their health and significantly mitigate the risk of recurrence. By adopting this model, we can both delay and prevent recurrence, as illustrated in the figure below. The solid line represents the usual state of affairs, and the dashed line represents the Bell Curve that can be achieved.Image credit: Cohen, Lorenzo. Anticancer Living: Transform Your Life and Health with the Mix of Six. Penguin Books, 2019.

Key Strategies for an Anti-Cancer Lifestyle include:

  1. Mindset: Cultivate a proactive mindset to make the big and small decisions to support your health and well-being.
  2. Social Support: A strong support network aids emotional recovery and help promote positive changes.
  3. Movement: Regular and specific physical activity can improve immunity and reduce inflammation.
  4. Nutrition: A whole-food, plant-based diet rich in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich foods supports detoxification and balance.
  5. Environment: Reduce exposure to environmental toxins and support your inherent detoxification pathways.

 

Pathways Targeted by Lifestyle Changes:

  1. Inflammation: Inflammation fuels the flames of cancer. Measuring and reducing inflammation can decrease cancer recurrence.
  2. Immunity: Strengthening the body’s natural defense system to destroy remaining cancer cells and ward off new cancer formation.
  3. Insulin Regulation: Insulin is a growth factor for cancer. By maintaining balanced blood sugar levels and minimizing spikes, we can control growth promotion.
  4. Detoxification: Enhancing the body’s ability to rid itself of carcinogens.
  5. Hormonal/Growth Factor Balance: Adjusting dietary and lifestyle choices to maintain healthy hormonal levels.
  6. Cancer-Specific Pathways: Directly targeting pathways known to be involved in an individual’s cancer development and progression.

 

Empowering Your Journey

Adopting an anti-cancer lifestyle involves profound adjustments, but it’s a journey worth embarking on. By shifting from a passive recipient of healthcare to an active participant in your wellness, you can profoundly impact your quality of life and drastically reduce the risk of cancer recurrence. Navigating all the information in this space can be daunting and confusing, and it’s often challenging to separate truth from fiction. Considering guidance from experts in integrative cancer care can be valuable.

Our “Wellth Beyond Cancer” program is designed not just to help you survive but to thrive! We offer personalized, evidence-based strategies to enhance your life and health post-cancer. To learn more about how you can transform your survivorship into a thriving, health-forward journey, click here.

 

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