Powerful Remedies for Chemotherapy Side Effects

Dealing with the side effects of Chemotherapy is huge distraction from the business of doing what you should to support and expedite healing from cancer. You now have a whole new set of issues to treat, many of which can leave you feeling depressed and caught up in a downward spiral.

Take heart.. this too shall pass.

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What Every Woman Needs to Know

Finding cancer early is the most successful way to treat it and beat it.

Here are four important steps you should take:

  1. Know your risk and lifestyle factors (how much exercise, foods you eat, stress)
  2. Educate yourself.. learn how to prevent breast and colon cancer
  3. Get regular screenings and do breast exams
  4. See your doctor if you have any of the symptoms

Breast Cancer Quick Facts

More than 80% of breast cancercases are discovered when the woman feels a lump, 26% would not have been visible by Mammogramy!

Early breast cancer usually doesn't cause symptoms. But as the tumor grows, it can change how the breast looks or feels. The common changes include:

  • A lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm area
  • A change in the size or shape of the breast
  • Dimpling or puckering in the skin of the breast
  • A nipple turned inward into the breast
  • Discharge (fluid) from the nipple, especially if it's bloody
  • Scaly, red, or swollen skin on the breast, nipple, or areola (the dark area of skin at the center of the breast). The skin may have ridges or pitting so that it looks like the skin of an orange.

Other Imaging Tests

There is a little controversy around the safety of exposure to radiation from mammograms.  The proof is that a woman's age and recommended frequency of breast screening has changed.

Personally, I think MRI's should be the method of choice. Now that I have had breast cancer I will not have mammograms.

Look into your insurance, and talk to your doctor about your concerns and options.

  • Ultrasound: A woman with a lump or other breast change may have an ultrasound test. An ultrasound device sends out sound waves that people can't hear. The sound waves bounce off breast tissues. A computer uses the echoes to create a picture. The picture may show whether a lump is solid, filled with fluid (a cyst), or a mixture of both. Cysts usually are not cancer. But a solid lump may be cancer.
  • MRI: MRI uses a powerful magnet linked to a computer. It makes detailed pictures of breast tissue. These pictures can show the difference between normal and diseased tissue.

Before starting treatment, you might want a second opinion from another doctor about your diagnosis and treatment plan. Some women worry that their doctor will be offended if they ask for a second opinion. Usually the opposite is true. Most doctors welcome a second opinion. And many health insurance companies will pay for a second opinion if you or your doctor requests it. Some companies require a second opinion.

Biopsy

A biopsy is the removal of tissue to look for cancer cells. A biopsy is the only way to tell for sure if cancer is present.

You may need to have a biopsy if an abnormal area is found.  In this case, doctors can use imaging procedures (such as a mammogram, an ultrasound, or MRI) to help see the area and remove tissue.

Your doctor may refer you to a surgeon or breast disease specialist for a biopsy. The surgeon or doctor will remove fluid or tissue from your breast in one of several ways:

  • Fine-needle aspiration biopsy: Your doctor uses a thin needle to remove cells or fluid from a breast lump.Please be wary of procedures that cut through or make a hole in a mass. I believe the risk is greater than any medical practitioner is willing to admit, since it is costs the Insurance company more to allow a surgical biopsy.  You have to assess the risk you want to take: 1) the risk of spreading the cancer if indeed it is malignant, 2) the risk that comes with any surgery.
  • Core biopsy: Your doctor uses a wide needle to remove a sample of breast tissue.
  • Skin biopsy: If there are skin changes on your breast, your doctor may take a small sample of skin.
  • Surgical biopsy:Your surgeon removes a sample of tissue.
    • An incisional biopsy takes a part of the lump or abnormal area.
    • An excisional biopsy takes the entire lump or abnormal area.Colon Cancer Quick Facts

Risk Factors

  • Not eating enough fruits and vegetables
  • Being overweight
  • Eating too many foods with high fat content
  • Not getting enough exercise
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Smoking

Recommended Tests

  • Fecal occult blood test
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy (flex sig)
  • Colonoscopy

Treatment

1. Surgery for early-stage colon cancer If your cancer is small, localized in a polyp and in a very early stage, your doctor may be able to remove it completely during a colonoscopy. If the pathologist determines that the cancer in the polyp doesn't involve the base — where the polyp is attached to the bowel wall — then there's a good chance that the cancer has been completely eliminated.

Some larger polyps may be removed using laparoscopic surgery. In this procedure, your surgeon performs the operation through several small incisions in your abdominal wall, inserting instruments with attached cameras that display your colon on a video monitor. The surgeon may also take samples from lymph nodes in the area where the cancer is located.

2. Surgery for invasive colon cancer

If your colon cancer has grown into or through your colon, your surgeon may recommend a partial colectomy to remove the part of your colon that contains the cancer, along with a margin of normal tissue on either side of the cancer.

3. Chemotherapy Chemotherapy uses drugs to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy can be used to destroy cancer cells after surgery, to control tumor growth or to relieve symptoms of colon cancer. Your doctor may recommend chemotherapy if your cancer has spread beyond the wall of the colon or if your cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. In people with rectal cancer, chemotherapy is typically used along with radiation therapy.

4. Radiation therapy Radiation therapy uses powerful energy sources, such as X-rays, to kill any cancer cells that might remain after surgery, to shrink large tumors before an operation so that they can be removed more easily, or to relieve symptoms of colon cancer and rectal cancer.

5. Targeted drug therapy Drugs that target specific defects that allow cancer cells to proliferate are available to people with advanced colon cancer, including bevacizumab (Avastin), cetuximab (Erbitux) and panitumumab (Vectibix). Targeted drugs can be given along with chemotherapy or alone. Targeted drugs are typically reserved for people with advanced colon cancer.

Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the cervix.

The cervix is the lower, narrow end of the uterus (the hollow, pear-shaped organ where a fetus grows). The cervix leads from the uterus to the vagina (birth canal).

Risk Factors

Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn't mean that you will not get cancer. People who think they may be at risk should discuss this with their doctor.

Infection of the cervix with human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common cause of cervical cancer. Not all women with HPV infection, however, will develop cervical cancer. Women who do not regularly have a Pap smear to detect HPV or abnormal cells in the cervix are at increased risk of cervical cancer.

  •  Giving birth to many children.
  • Having many sexual partners.
  • Having first sexual intercourse at a young age.
  • Smoking cigarettes.
  • Using oral contraceptives ("the Pill").
  • Having a weakened immune system (Keep up your antioxidant intake!)

Symptoms

There are usually no noticeable signs of early cervical cancer but it can be detected early with regular check-ups.

Have regular check-ups, including a Pap smear to check for abnormal cells in the cervix. The chance of recovery is better when the cancer is found early.  A doctor should be consulted if any of the following problems occur:

  • Vaginal bleeding.
  • Unusual vaginal discharge.
  • Pelvic pain.
  • Pain during sexual intercourse.

Treatment

1. Surgery (removing the cancer in an operation) is sometimes used to treat cervical cancer. The following surgical procedures may be used:

  • Conization: A procedure to remove a cone-shaped piece of tissue from the cervix and cervical canal. A pathologist views the tissue under a microscope to look for cancer cells. Conization may be used to diagnose or treat a cervical condition. This procedure is also called a cone biopsy.
  • Total hysterectomy: Surgery to remove the uterus, including the cervix.

2. Radiation - There are two types of radiation therapy. External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer. Internal radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters that are placed directly into or near the cancer.

3. Chemotherapy may be given at the same time as radiation therapy (chemoradiation). Compared with radiation alone, chemoradiation improves survival. It is usually used as the primary therapy or after a hysterectomy.

In the News: Integrative Medicine: Antioxidants and Chemotherapy

Hurray!

That's my reaction every time I read a published article on the critical role antioxidants play in our health and healing.

Today I want to share this article with you from the Sacramento Bee. It reaffirms my own experience and what my blog is all about.

Please Share widely!

Antioxidants and Chemotherapy

By Drs. Kay judge and Maxine Barish-Wreden

Published: Thursday, May. 31, 2012

Inflammation, and the use of antioxidants to put out inflammatory fires, is a hot topic these days. What do we mean by inflammation?

Inflammation is a natural and necessary response in the body whenever we are accosted by harmful germs or when we injure ourselves. When this occurs, our immune system steps in to fight foreign invaders and to bring our body back into balance so that we can heal.

Inflammatory chemicals are produced during this process, which can be harmful to our tissues, but antioxidants in our foods, such as vitamins C and E, help to quell this response and restore order to our tissues.

Inflammation can run amok, however, and cause persistent damage to healthy tissue, especially if we smoke or if we are overweight or obese. Chemotherapy drugs that are used to treat cancer also produce severe inflammation in the body, and this particular inflammatory response helps to kill off cancer cells. But it also harms healthy tissue in the process.

Many oncologists have been fearful of having their patients take any antioxidants during chemotherapy for fear that antioxidants might reduce the effectiveness of the chemo.

In a recent article in the journal Alternative and Complementary Therapies, Dr. Keith Block, a renowned integrative cancer specialist affiliated with the University of Illinois, discussed his review of more than 2,300 studies on the use of antioxidants during chemotherapy, and his report is very reassuring.

In summary, antioxidants often help to reduce side effects from chemotherapy, and this may allow patients to complete their full course of medication without interruption, which itself leads to better outcomes. Certain antioxidants also enhance the effectiveness of chemotherapy, reduce long-term toxicity and improve survival.

Not a single study reviewed by Block showed any evidence of antioxidants interfering with the effectiveness of chemotherapy. In fact, a recent article looking at the impact of antioxidants in Chinese women undergoing treatment for invasive breast cancer found that use of antioxidant vitamin supplements in the first six months after diagnosis resulted in a reduced risk of both mortality and cancer recurrence.

Other studies have suggested survival benefit in certain cancers when patients take melatonin, as well as reduced toxicity from chemo with the use of glutathione and coenzyme Q10 among others.

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farmers mkt 1

So if you are affected by cancer, what should you be thinking about to protect yourself during and after chemotherapy? First and foremost, begin by eating a super-healthful, plant-based diet that is loaded with dark-colored fruits and veggies so that you maximize your intake of antioxidants from your food, which is the most powerful way to get them.

You can also consider supplementing your diet with some of the more powerful antioxidants, such as fish oil, coenzyme Q10, vitamin C, vitamin E and selenium, though we recommend that you meet with an integrative cancer specialist first so that you can determine which supplements are ideal for you, given your particular tumor as well as your treatment regimen.

And for those of you who have been affected by cancer, either because you or a loved one have faced this disease, there is a conference coming to Sacramento in September that you should know about. It's titled "Cancer as a Turning Point, From Surviving to Thriving," and it is a gathering of some of the best and most inspiring experts in this business.

Cancer as a Turning Point is sponsored by the non-profit organization Healing Journeys, whose vision is that everyone touched by cancer or any life-altering condition be empowered to move from surviving to thriving. This conference is usually offered in two cities across the country every year, and this year we are fortunate to have it in Sacramento.

The fantastic lineup of speakers in September will include Dr. Lise Alschuler, a naturopathic physician who is also a renowned integrative cancer specialist, as well as Marianne Williamson, a spiritual teacher and writer. The conference is free to all attendees, though donations are greatly appreciated to offset the cost, and donations are also tax-deductible. For more information, and to register, go to www.healingjourneys.org.

And for more information on an integrative approach to cancer treatment, look at Block's 2009 book "Life Over Cancer" (Bantam, $28, 608 pages) or Alschuler's gem that she co-wrote with Karolyn Gazella, "The Definitive Guide to Cancer: An Integrative Approach to Prevention, Treatment, and Healing" (Celestial Arts, $25, 496 pages), now in its third edition.

~ Be Well! ♥

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is the treatment of cancer with drugs that can destroy cancer cells by impeding their growth and reproduction. Though chemotherapy is an effective way to treat many types of cancer, chemotherapy treatment also carries a risk of side effects. Some chemotherapy side effects are mild and treatable, while others can cause serious complications. The drugs used are made to destroy fast-reproducing cells. However, some healthy cells also grow quickly and cancer treatments destroy these cells as well.

The fast-growing, normal cells most likely to be affected by certain treatment drugs are blood-forming cells in the bone marrow, as well as cells in the digestive track, reproductive system, and hair follicles. Thankfully, most normal cells recover quickly when treatment is over. Therefore, most side effects gradually disappear after treatment ends. During the course of your cancer journey, you may experience many, a few, or no side effects.

Some newer anti-cancer treatments — such as Herceptin for breast cancer — may cause heart damage as well, although the effect is often temporary and reversible.

If your doctor is considering using a chemotherapy drug that may affect your heart, you may undergo heart function testing before and during treatment. Be sure to ask questions if you have any misgivings.

Chemotherapy drugs that may cause nausea and vomiting

Certain chemotherapy drugs are more likely than are others to cause nausea and vomiting. Some medications associated with significant risk of these side effects include:

  • Altretamine (Hexalen)
  • Busulfan (Busulfex, Myleran)
  • Carmustine (Bicnu)
  • Cisplatin (Platinol)
  • Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan)
  • Dacarbazine
  • Doxorubicin (Adriamycin)
  • Epirubicin (Ellence)
  • Estramustine (Emcyt)
  • Etoposide
  • Ifosfamide (Ifex)
  • Lomustine (Ceenu)
  • Mechlorethamine (Mustargen)
  • Procarbazine (Matulane)
  • Streptozocin (Zanosar)
  • Temozolomide (Temodar)

You will most likely be given a prescription medication to help with these side effects.  There are also nutritional foods and supplements that can help.  Acupuncture has been known to reduce the occurrence of nausea and vomiting, and is a wonderful complimentary therapy.

Hair  Loss

Chemotherapy may cause hair loss all over your body — not just on your scalp. Sometimes your eyelash, eyebrow, armpit, pubic and other body hair also falls out. Some chemotherapy drugs are more likely than others to cause hair loss, and different doses can cause anything from a mere thinning to complete baldness. Talk to your doctor or nurse about the medication you'll be taking.

I found that a wig helped me through this phase, and I bought eyebrow tattoos online that worked well.  A light eyeliner helped me feel better about losing my eyelashes.  Three weeks after the end of Chemo, my hair began to grow back.

'Chemo Brain'

Chemo brain is a common term used by cancer survivors to describe thinking and memory problems that can occur after cancer treatment. Chemo brain can also be called chemo fog, cognitive changes or cognitive dysfunction.

Signs and symptoms of chemo brain may include:

  • Being unusually disorganized
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty finding the right word
  • Difficulty learning new skills
  • Difficulty multitasking
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling of mental fogginess
  • Short attention span
  • Short-term memory problems
  • Taking longer than usual to complete routine tasks
  • Trouble with verbal memory, such as remembering a conversation
  • Trouble with visual memory, such as recalling an image or list of words

Signs and symptoms of cognitive or memory problems vary from person to person and are typically temporary, often subsiding within two years of completion of cancer treatment.

Again, there are many nutritional supplements and foods that can help you with Chemo Brain.  See my post on Managing Side Effects.

Books:

  1. Questioning Chemotherapy (1996) Equinox Press. ISBN 978-1881025252
  2. Integrative Strategies for Cancer Patients: A Practical Resource for Managing the Side Effects of Cancer Therapy;  Elena J. Ladas , Kara M. Kelly 
  3. Living well with cancer: a nurse tells you everything you need to know about managing the side effects of your treatment; by Katen Moore, Libby Schmais

Help with Chemotherpay Side Effects - Glutamine

I took Glutamine powder during Chemo and didn't have problems with nausea  or diarrhea, and after surgery it accelerated my healing. Seacure® is a supplement with Glutamine that is highly recommended for patients going through Chemo treatment. Founded in 1994 by Dr. Donald Snyder and headquartered in Reading, Pa., Proper Nutrition, Inc. is built on a record of innovation stretching back to the early 1960s, when Dr. Snyder, as the head of a U.S. Department of the Interior Fisheries Research Laboratory, led the charge against world hunger.

Dr. Snyder, as a member of a special committee of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, was instrumental in developing an economically feasible method of providing protein to the world’s hungry.

A breakthrough came in the form of revolutionary FPC (Fish Protein Concentrate) technology, which allowed quality protein, retaining all of its original nutritional value, to be delivered to the body in a highly absorbable form. FPC was made available to the World Health Organization of the United Nations to aid in famine relief.

Today, Dr. Snyder and Proper Nutrition, Inc. offer revolutionary dietary supplements, including Intestive®, available directly to consumers; and SEACURE® and SEAVIVE®, professional products available for distribution by healthcare practitioners and retailers.  Proper Nutrition supplements offer proven alternatives for the support of the gastrointestinal tract and the promotion of immune system health.

Seacure® (click to read more) is rich in glutamine. What is glutamine? Glutamine is an amino acid (protein building block) that is the preferential fuel source for the cells that line the digestive tract. Just as the brain loves to use glucose for energy, the cells that line the digestive tract love to use glutamine for energy. In fact glutamine helps the cells that line the digestive tract to deal with stress more effectively.

So why are the cells of the digestive tract stressed?

Well, these cells divide rapidly just like cancer cells. The lining of the stomach completely renews itself every 4 days! Unfortunately, chemotherapy hits the cells of the digestive tract just as hard as it hits the cancer cells. This is why chemotherapy medications so often produce nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and loss of appetite.

Seacure® strengthens the cells of the digestive tract so that they can handle the stress of being hit by chemotherapy medications without interfering with chemotherapy's effects on cancer cells.

Scientific research has found that when glutamine is given with chemotherapy or radiation, it not only protects the individual receiving the treatment from the side-effects of these therapies, it also increases the selectivity of the therapy for the tumor. Click here Scientific Reference if you would like the details of this research which was conducted in 1996.

So why not just supplement with glutamine instead of Seacure®?

The glutamine in Seacure® is better absorbed by the digestive tract than pure glutamine supplements. Why is this? Studies on human digestion have found that the digestive tract preferentially absorbs protein in the di-peptide (2 amino acids joined together) and tri-peptide (3 amino acids joined together) form.