This year in Canada, 187000 people will be diagnosed with cancer, and 75500 will die of their cancer. 2 in 5 people (40% of the population) will develop cancer in their lifetime, and 1 in 4 (25% of the population) will die of cancer. In Ontario, that translates into 72,000 new cases this year alone, and approximately 27000 people in Ontario will diet this year from their cancer. Only 63% of people diagnosed this year will survive 5 years, and the survival rate depends on the type of cancer. Interestingly though, the five-year survival rate has only improved by 7% in the past 10 years. The most prevalent types of cancer are breast, prostate, lung and colon/rectal cancers, and 25% of all new cancers in men are prostate, in women, breast. This translates into 1 in 7 men will develop prostate cancer, and 1 in 9 women will develop breast cancer. The second most prevalent cancer in both men and women is lung cancer. Since 1984, the number of new cancer diagnoses per year has tripled. In 2009, almost 30% of the Canadian population died of cancer. The best survival rates occur in people diagnosed with thyroid, testicular, and prostate cancer, and unfortunately the worst survival rates occur in those with pancreatic, espohageal, and lung cancers. (statistics courtesy of the Canadian Cancer Society).
According to the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund, one third of major cancers can be prevented through a combination of changes in behaviour and lifestyle, such as healthy diet, regular physical activity, and maintaining a healthy body weight. The World Health Organization suggests that prevention offers the most cost-effective, long-term strategy for controlling cancer and other non-communicable, preventable diseases including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and obesity.
Some basic lifestyle changes can go a long way in helping to prevent cancer and include:
1) Eliminating tobacco use – tobacco is responsible for nearly 25% of all cancer deaths worldwide, and is the single greatest avoidable risk factor for cancer
2) Reducing alcohol consumption – alcohol is a risk factor for many different cancers and the risk increases with the amount of alcohol consumed
3) Reducing exposure to sunlight and eliminating artificial tanning – wearing protective clothing, using sunscreen, and reducing exposure to sunlight can reduce the risk of developing skin cancer, while still allowing people to receive the benefits of sun exposure
4) Reducing exposure to other risk factors -this includes infections, environmental pollution (including second hand smoke), occupational exposures to carcinogens, and radiation
Naturopathic doctors can offer a wide range of supportive treatments to assist people dealing with cancer. Many nutrients are available and have been clinically studied that can reduce the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation without interfering with the effectiveness of these treatments. Nutritional support is of utmost importance, and there are many strategies that can support healthy weight gain in patients with significant weight loss, or can help to maintain weight during conventional treatments. Pain management is also included in naturopathic care, as well as emotional and spiritual support.
In addition, naturopathic doctors use several intravenous protocols to assist in maintaining health of cancer patients before, during and after chemotherapy and radiation. These can include multi-nutrient IV’s, high dose vitamin C, glutathione, as well as specific protocols to assist in recovery from surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Treatments are designed on an individual basis, depending on the type of cancer, staging, and conventional treatment given.
In my next article I will provide more in-depth information of naturopathic treatments available for cancer patients. Stay tuned!!