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What to do About Cancer - Part One
Posted by Dr. Ben Kim on Oct 20, 2015
First, let's be clear on what cancer is and how it may hurt your health.
The building blocks of your brain, lungs, liver, heart, skin, and other organs are one or more of the following types of tissue:
Nervous tissue - forms your brain, cranial nerves, spinal cord, and all of the peripheral nerves that supply your body.
Connective tissue - fibrous tissues that often provide a supportive role. Examples include cartilage, ligaments, and tendons. Your bones and blood are specialized types of connective tissue.
Epithelial tissue - specialized layers of cells that provide a protective coating over the surfaces of your organs. Examples include the outer lining of your skin and the inner linings of your breathing airways, digestive tract, and urinary tract.
Muscle tissue - layers of cells that provide contractile ability. Three distinct types of muscle tissue found in your body are:
Skeletal muscles - allow voluntary movements of your body, including your eyes and facial muscles.
Smooth muscles - allow involuntary contractions within your body. Examples include contractions that propel food through your digestive tract and contractions that push blood through your blood vessels.
Cardiac muscle - specialized tissue found only in your heart.
All of these tissues have one thing in common:
They are composed of cells. Lots and lots of cells.
This is why one of the first lessons in grade seven biology class is on the structure and function of your cells. Remember learning about mitochondria, endoplasmic reticula, ribosomes, and nucleoli? These organelles and the plasmic fluid (cytoplasm) that they are suspended in are found in all of your cells.
Each cell in your body is a living unit that receives oxygen and nutrients from your blood, converts oxygen and nutrients to energy that helps sustain you, and expels waste products that your blood carries away and deposits into one of five eliminative channels.
Whenever anything goes wrong in your body, it begins at a cellular level.
Genetic material found in the core of all of your cells regulate cellular reproduction, which is really a process of division where one cell splits to become two, two split to become four, and so on.
In a growing child, cellular division is necessary for growth.
In both children and adults, cellular division is an ongoing process that creates new cells to replace cells that die of old age or injury - the average adult loses somewhere between 50 to 70 billion cells per day, and this steady loss of cells is perfectly balanced with new cell formation to keep things in balance.
Cancer, no matter where it occurs in your body, involves a loss of control of cellular division. Cancerous cells don't divide in a controlled manner and under the direction of healthy genes. Rather, cancerous cells divide in an out-of-control manner and are capable of invading nearby tissues and even spreading to other parts of your body.
We may never identify all factors that trigger and fuel malignant tumor growth. Excessive exposure to certain drugs (recreational and prescription), electromagnetic radiation, harmful chemicals in highly processed foods - these are just a few of countless potential causes of malignant cellular division.
We know that excessive exposure to some types of hormones can also disrupt cellular division. So all factors that affect the production and secretion of hormones in your body - including how well and often you sleep and how much emotional stress you experience - certainly represent potential causes of cancerous growth.
How do malignant cells hurt your health?
When enough of them cluster together in a lump, they can interfere with vital functions.
For example, a growing malignant mass in the stomach can lead to problems with digestion and nutrient absorption.
A malignant tumor in the brain can compress and affect cranial nerves that are responsible for regulating hearing, swallowing, and breathing rate.
If cancerous cells begin to crowd out healthy lung tissue, you may have trouble getting enough oxygen into your blood to fuel energy production. In some cases, cancer in the lungs can cause a segment of lung tissue to collapse, which can lead to a fatal infection.
If cancerous cells invade the liver, kidneys, or bones, the danger is in losing the capacity to regulate levels of minerals, toxins, waste products, and other substances in your body that need to be finely buffered and balanced at all times.
Malignant tumors do their damage primarily through crowding. They create dysfunction by pressing on things, blocking things, and if their causes remain in place, they do more pressing and blocking.
If cancerous masses would just stop growing before affecting vital functions, you could live with them without grave risk to your health. In fact, such masses exist in a lot of people - we call them cysts, fibroids, polyps, and benign tumors.
Malignant tumors are problematic because eventually, they tend to grow and spread to a point where they create significant dysfunction somewhere in the body. Breast cancer by itself doesn't pose a serious threat in most cases - breast cancer needs to be addressed because if left unchecked, it will eventually spread to another part of the body where it can compromise vital functions.
So what should you do if you are diagnosed with cancer?
Let me preface my thoughts here by making it clear that I do not specialize in helping people deal with cancer. I am a chiropractor with 17 years of education and experience helping people get and stay well through dietary and lifestyle choices.
My thoughts on cancer and how to address it have taken form over many years. My thoughts are based on what I know of human physiology, nutrition, and experience working closely with people who have asked me for guidance as they looked to overcome different types and stages of cancer.
Through my experiences, I have come to firmly believe that whenever possible, it is best to allow the body to heal itself with nourishing foods and plenty of physical and emotional rest.
At the same time, I think it's important to remain open minded to the potential benefits of conventional medical treatments. And I think this idea gets muted in some natural and alternative health circles by those who proselytize with a little too much philosophy and hype and perhaps not enough consideration for each person's unique circumstances and knowledge of what conventional medical treatments have to offer.
There's nothing wrong with preventing and addressing cancer and other forms of illness with diet, lifestyle, and non-toxic, non-invasive therapies. In some cases, a fully natural approach may be enough to lead to a full recovery.
But in some cases, my experience has been that it definitely pays to integrate surgery or other allopathic treatments with a natural approach - doing so can sometimes dramatically improve long term outcomes.
Very generally, I support and encourage surgical excision of malignant masses when a surgeon or group of surgeons have done due diligence with a comprehensive diagnostic workup and strongly feel that the potential benefits of surgical excision outweigh the potential risks of not excising a malignant tumor.
I know that there are some people who are deeply committed to natural healing, so much so that they would rather pass on naturally than to undergo surgery where it is strongly recommended after a thorough diagnostic workup. I wouldn't make this choice for myself. I would surgically excise a malignant tumor every time under the care of a surgeon who I felt good about.
Do I believe that malignant cells can be destroyed and washed away by our self healing mechanisms? Absolutely. I've seen it happen. And I think it's safe to say that it happens in all of us to some degree every day. Each of us has many trillions - that's many thousands of billions - of cells with many millions dividing and being replaced every hour. In my mind, it's almost an absolute certainty that all of us have some cancerous cells at all times, but in a relatively healthy state, our bodies are able to destroy and remove such cells before they cluster together in enough numbers to create a mass that's significant enough to create trouble. (Apoptosis is the medical term for cellular self destruction or programmed cell death that occurs with aged and/or diseased cells.)
Still, a palpable mass or one that is visible to the naked eye with imaging is a far greater challenge to overcome than a few cancerous cells scattered here and there.
In part two of this look at what to do about cancer, I'll share my thoughts on radiation, chemotherapy, and dietary and lifestyle measures that I feel are helpful to people looking to overcome cancer.
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