Ballard Naturopathic Blog | All posts tagged 'cancer'

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Guest Blog: Faith Franz for The Mesothelioma Center

June 21, 2012


What is Mesothelioma and What Causes It?

Caused primarily by exposure to a natural mineral fiber, mesothelioma is a rare but complicated cancer that affects around 3,000 Americans each year.

Asbestos is responsible for nearly all mesothelioma cases. When disturbed, the naturally occurring fibers can become lodged in the lining of the lungs, stomach or abdomen. Internal damage occurs over a period of several decades. Eventually, cancerous changes may occur, and mesothelioma tumors may develop.

Although asbestos is the cause of most mesothelioma diagnoses, several other risk factors have been identified. These include:

·        Exposure to non-asbestos mineral fibers (i.e. erionite and taconite)

·        Exposure to SV-40

·        Exposure to radiation

When a genetically pre-disposed person is exposed to one of these risk factors, the cancer may begin to develop.

As it progresses, the cancer causes few to no symptoms. Once it has reached its later stages, however, the asbestos-related disease can trigger a number of uncomfortable symptoms, such as coughing, chest pain and difficulty breathing.

What to Do if You Think you Have Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is notoriously difficult to treat – especially when it is diagnosed in its later stages. Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy are the most common mesothelioma treatments, but patients can also turn to naturopathic solutions.

Alternative therapies such as acupuncture, aromatherapy, massage therapy or chiropractic care may also be used in the treatment of mesothelioma. These treatments are typically palliative rather than curative in nature.

To be prime candidates for curative mesothelioma treatments, patients should be diagnosed in the earliest stages of the disease.

 Since mesothelioma grows without causing many symptoms, early diagnosis is most common in patients who have been scheduled for asbestos-related disease screenings. To help detect the cancer as soon as possible, anyone who suspects they have been exposed to asbestos (or another mesothelioma-causing substance) should register for regular disease screenings.

Author bio: Faith Franz researches and writes about health-related issues for the Mesothelioma Center. One of her focuses is on living with cancer.




Oral Cancers and HPV

February 22, 2012

While listening to Dan Savage's podcast the other night, I heard a head and neck specialist discussing the throat cancer and how an overwhelming percentage (70%!!) of them are caused by HPV, instead of tobacco use (study link here). Although vaccinations are an issue that many people feel strongly about, the HPV vaccine (which is currently being recommended for both girls AND boys) specifically focuses on HPV-16 and HPV-18, the two types of HPV that cause throat cancer, anal cancer (in both sexes) as well as vaginal and cervical cancer (in women). I've included a few links here, from the Oral Cancer Foundation and the CDC. While no one wants to think about children having sex, the window between vaccination age (beginning at 11 years old) and sexual experimentation may be, unfortunately, not that long.


As young adults in our late teens and early twenties, we can be exposed to HPV through oral sex or transference from another partner who has it in their throat (from performing oral sex on their previous partner) and the oral cancer will not show up in us until our late 30's or early 40's. Given that oral sex is generally seen as a "less risky" sexual behavior when discussing HIV and pregnancy, these findings are quite concerning because they may lead people to go back to more risky, penetrative intercourse to avoid exposure to a cancer-causing virus. As always, condoms, condoms, condoms!

Can marijuana be used to treat cancer?

April 11, 2011

Last summer, the state of Washington amended our medical marijuana laws to include naturopathic physicians and nurse practitioners as providers who are legally permitted to write "authorizations" for medical marijuana use for patients suffering from a few very specific conditions. Since that time, I have worked with a number of patients who have had qualifying conditions and turned away even more folks who may have been suffering from pain but who just did not qualify or did not have the documentation to back up their claims of having qualifying conditions. Authorizations basically state that the doctor has advised the patient on the risks and benefits of medical marijuana and it is the doctor's opinion that the patient could benefit from using it. The law explicitly states that doctors cannot help patients obtain medical marijuana. Oddly, it's not illegal for the patient to possess medical marijuana, but it is illegal federally for anyone to buy or sell it. There are dispensaries, etc out there, but I can't tell my patients where to go. It's just a "Here you go, now you are allowed to treat yourself. Good luck finding some medication!" kind of thing.

One of my patients from last fall showed up in my waiting room last week. When I last saw her, my patient was recovering from brain surgery to remove a prolactinoma with associated pituitary apoplexy. In English, she had a prolactin-secreting tumor in her brain that had been causing bleeding in her pituitary gland, a tiny gland that sits behind the eyes and regulates most of the hormonal signals in the body. She was maybe 100 pounds, soaking wet, appeared very dizzy and disoriented, and was relying on her family to take care of her. She was only 28 and after I saw her, I went into my office and cried. I didn't think I had been able to do anything for her and she looked like she didn't have much longer to live. I wrote her an authorization, thinking that I would have written someone who was suffering like that as many authorizations as there are days in the week if I thought it would have done her any good.

Cut to 6 months later. She had been in to her oncologist's office to get fitted for a radiation crown, to begin irradiating the tumor that they couldn't remove surgically. A few weeks ago, in preparation, she had completed some imaging. When she got to the doctor's office, with a plan to see him every 3-6 months for the foreseeable future, she was told that he couldn't do anything for her. They had checked and re-checked, sent out for a second opinion and finally determined that there were no errors- there was simply no tumor visible in any of her scans. She was told by her oncologist that she no longer had to worry about radiation, about coming in every 3 months to poison her body in an attempt to gain a few more months. He said to come back in a year for a re-evaluation.

When she walked into my office last week, I hardly recognized her. There was no disorientation, no dizziness. She had put on enough weight and had such a healthy glow about her that she now looks like any other young woman walking down the street on a sunny afternoon. My patient told me that the only change she had made to her medication regimen had been to start creating and consuming capsules of hemp oil and hash oil mixed with powdered marijuana leaf. She told me of her oncology visits, that her doctors had told her they were going to launch studies searching for a link between tumor regression and medical marijuana. Most importantly, she told me that she is determined to enjoy life, to live each day in awe of the beauty that surrounds her, that she can find in little, everyday joys. We cried together a bit, and she promised me that she will be doing everything she can to get her story told, to bring more research money to help other cancer patients. Before she left, I was the one thanking her.

The good news is, she's not alone. Norml's blog entry talks about other research, dating all the way back to the 70's.

Not just heart disease anymore..

September 8, 2010

An article in the Telegraph, a prominent UK newpaper, states that the rate of throat cancer in men over 50 has increased by over 67% since the mid-80s. Being overweight is a significant risk factor for adenocarcinoma, the type of throat cancer studied by Professor Janusz Jankowski, a Cancer Research UK funded clinician at the Barts & The London School of Medicine & Dentistry in England.

The full article on increased rates of throat cancer  goes on to state that, while it is the 9th most common cancer in the UK, it is the most difficult to detect and treat, with only an 8% survival rate after 5 years.

Since cancer seems to be a bogeyman for so many people (wherease diabetes, heart disease, and other sequelae of poor lifestyle choices and obesity seem to elicit a resigned shrug), maybe this article, and the study, will garner more widespread attention to the difficulties ahead for overweight and obese people and help to motivate changes in lifestyle, diet, and exercise.