Alternative Approaches to Prevent, Treat, and Heal Cancer

By Paul R. Nelson

graphic full of types of cancer wordsWhen I first received Alternative Medicine Magazine’s Definitive Guide to Cancer from the office of Lise Alschuler, ND, I immediately wanted someone else to read it: someone who’s had more experience with the dreaded disease of cancer than I.

My good friend, Paul Nelson, agreed to take a look and let me know his answer to the question, “Would you consider this a valuable book to have if someone you love has cancer?”

His response: “Interesting question. One of the [reviewers] said he’d make sure his family read this book if they contracted cancer. I’d say I’d have my family consult this book BEFORE they got cancer.”

Paul would know such a thing. He’s lost both family and friends to various forms of cancer, and he’s active in the community as a volunteer assisting others in their day-to-day struggles with the disease. If anyone could tell me the value to health care consumers of a book about treating cancer, it’s Paul.

So Paul cordially agreed to render the following review of Alternative Medicine Magazine’s Definitive Guide to Cancer: An Integrative Approach to Prevention, Treatment, and Healing (Alternative Medicine Guides) by Lise N. Alschuler and Karolyn A. Gazella:

I will admit that I approached this book with the trepidation and skepticism of a person who has a bachelor of science degree in biology and minor in chemistry, along with a Medical Technology diploma and whose higher education was based on learning the techniques of “pure science.” I still depend very much on the scientific method when approaching any subject. In other words… not much room for the anecdotal, or the “I can’t come up with a scientifically sound explanation, so I’ll make something up” approach.

As I began to read through the text, however, I found much of my suspicion dissipating. I quickly learned that Complementary and Alternative Medicine (“CAM”) therapy (at least in the eyes of this author) are used to reduce the “psychological distress” associated with having cancer. It soon became apparent that the text is not offering up these methods as a replacement for conventional methods of treatment, but is suggesting their use for the purpose of supplementing those treatments and for negating or easing the sometimes horrible effects those common treatments have on the human body. This fact, alone, gave me reason to continue.

Much time was spent on diet and nutrition. Not only is there much information about what foods to eat, but how much and the mechanics of how they might work to help avoid cancer. The book speaks at length to exercise and mental health as well. The effects of stress and hormonal imbalances are explained. Most of these methods are well known and to an extent have been validated.

The authors also spent a great deal of the book carefully describing the standard methods of detecting the disease and stressed the importance of early detection. I was fascinated at her explanations of why so many of us put off testing (I thought it was just me): we are afraid to find out we have it. We have no family history of it, so why bother testing for it? All of the reasons, of course, are weak and lead to a much bigger problem than we would have had had we overcome our fears and ignorance and just done it.

While there were lengthy descriptions of all the alternate methods I’ve ever heard of (some offensive to the even slightly scientific mind), and many that I hadn’t heard of, there were words of caution about those that have little support from the scientific methods. One in particular that I think would benefit from the application of a bit of double-blind analysis would be Reiki — “A cascade of healing pulsations that flow spontaneously through the practitioner.”

The authors go even farther in their warnings, dedicating more than two pages to “Questionable Alternative Cancer Treatment Theories”.

The three underlying theories in this section: 1) sugar feeds cancer, 2) acidic pH promotes cancer, and 3) oxygen kills cancer. These theories and their derivative treatments are the ones that lend themselves to abuse and fraud, and it was comforting to find them pointed out as dubious at the least.

Finally, there is a chapter for every major type of cancer that we know of (i.e. prostate, breast, brain, skin, etc.). The methods of detection, common causes when known, the conventional treatments, the prognosis and finally, the alternative aides are described for each. Most are followed by the personal stories of patients. I found these chapters to be most helpful, whether one is facing the disease, or simply wants to do whatever one can to prevent it. We must face the demon before we can fight it.

I would summarize the book as being informative, comprehensive (for the lay person, at least) with the conventional well-balanced with the alternative. For this reader, the important issue was that the alternatives be presented as I believe they are; methods that are helpful supplements to combating a horrible disease and not a replacement for conventional medicine. To quote the book: “All [alternatives] are considered safe when given by a licensed practitioner and when used as complementary therapies to conventional cancer treatments.”

Paul R. Nelson attended Lamar State College of Technology in Texas where he earned a BS degree in biology with a minor in chemistry. During summers off from school, he worked as an orderly and ER tech at Galveston County Memorial Hospital. It was there that he became familiar with the effects of cancer in many of its forms, at the patient level. Paul later also received a degree in Medical Technology from Hermann Hospital in Houston. After several more years in the medical field, Paul changed careers and is recently retired from the City of Houston. He lost his Dad to brain tumors in 1996 and his mother-in-law to colon cancer in 2007.

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