Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Truth about Cancer- my husband's take

Someone asked hubby about this and he has taken a lot of last nite to reply instead of using that time to talk to his wife that I think this should be forwarded to a lot of people :-)


Subject: The truth about cancer..

1. Every person has cancer cells in the body.
Not true.
Everybody has cells.
Congenital (i.e. born already suffering from cancer) is rare.
Early childhood cancers still obey the same rules for carcinogenesis.
Some people or families carry inherited genetic makeup to develop cancer, such as the Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP) gene on chromosome 5, or retinoblastoma (you may Google these) which will eventually cause the target tissue (colon and retina respectively) to turn cancerous.
These same defects can also be developed through mutation (true for the vast majority of cancers, the so-called sporadic ones i.e. non-familial)
This is one 'hit' in the way to cancer development i.e. those with genetic predisposition were born handicapped already i.e. programmed, but without a single cancer cell yet.
You still need other triggering factors.
Google also Knudsen two hit theory, Vogelstein theory on carcinogenesis or try Wikipedia or

These cancer cells do not show up in the standard tests until they have multiplied to a few billion. When doctors tell cancer patients that there are no more cancer cells in their bodies after treatment, it just means the tests are unable to detect the cancer cells because they have not reached thedetectable size.
Somewhat true.
Cancer starts from a single cell which has mutated (even so-called multicentric ones).
You can have an unstable field of tissue with a predisposition to turn malignant though e.g. breast tissue in patients with previous breast cancer or have the so-called carcinoma-in-situ, or multiple carpetlike colonic polyposis in FAP patients - time bombs)
You won't know if one single cell has turned cancerous.
Not yet, until you either develop symptoms (your complaints e.g. rectal bleeding) and/or signs (clinical features the doctor has found e.g. a palpable tumour or mass on rectal examination, or anaemia) or you decide to go for a test (such as if you have neither symptoms nor signs but have a strong family history of colorectal or breast cancer and decide to have a colonoscopy or mammogram and presto! suspicious precursor or frankly malignant lesions are found)
These take time to develop.
We're talking many months to years
From a single cell to a mass 1cm in diameter which has just under a billion cells.
Imagine if it is 5cm wide.
Which has the higher likelihood of spread then, huh?
Firstly it takes time to multiply.
And in this time, the cells might escape i.e. metastasises either by direct adjacent spread, via the lymphatics (to lymph glands) or into the bloodstream (manifesting as lung/liver/brain/bone deposits).


Tests are only as good as its degree of sensitivity and specificity.
There is no absolute tests.
There are no scans to completely exclude cancer.
Tests which are negative do not necessarily mean the cancer isn't present i.e. what is the rate of false-negatives or its specificity (unlike tests for specified parameters as renal function, blood pressure, glucose level etc)
Tests which are positive may not point to cancer alone i.e. there may be other explanation as to why the levels are elevated i.e. what is the rate of false-positives or its sensitivity (e.g . elevated levels of serum prostate specific antigen PSA can be due to prostate cancer but are also elevated in smokers, patients with prostatic infection, after prostatic massage etc)
Routine testing of tumour markers are near useless and create anxiety and uncertainty in the main, but are of value with advancing age, with symptoms and after intervention e.g. surgery/radiotherapy/chemotherapy in order to detect and identify recurrent disease earlier for further intervention e.g. 2nd line chemo or further surgery. Even then the majority of these tumour markers have modest degrees of sensitivity and specificity. Mass testing or screening based on these tests is not recommended.

2. Cancer cells occur between 6 to more than 10 times in a person's lifetime.
Not true.

3. When the person's immune system is strong, the cancer cells will bedestroyed and prevented from multiplying and forming tumors.

Somewhat true.
Immunological host response certainly plays an important role in regulating (read combating) cancer.
Killer T cells for example kill non-host cells or mutated ones e.g. cancer - one form of research currently done.
But since cancer develop from native cells, they may share the same identification tags as normal cells (similar if not identical coat-of-arms, if you like) hence can prove elusive for destruction.
They even produce normally-produced chemicals to induce a healthy bed for them to start multiplicating, spread and take root e.g. angiogenic factors to enhance blood supply locally for the benefit of the cancer deposit.
You may Google on these.4. When a person has cancer, it indicates that the person has multiple nutritional deficiencies.
Not true.
For example, the malnourished in Africa and elsewhere do not develop cancer. They die of malnutrition, starvation etc but cancer? Unlikely.

These could be due to genetic, environmental, food and lifestyle factors.
As mentioned before - trigger/causal factors. In medical parlance, aetiological factors.
But not nutritional.
Genetic factors - yes. Either inborn with defects or mutated with either turned on or turned off genes ('oncogenes').
Environmental - yes. Smoking, radiation, high fat diet, germs e.g. Helicobacter pylori for gastric cancer, Epstein-Barr virus for nasopharyngeal cancer, Herpes simplex virus for cervical cancer, Hepatitis B and C for liver cancer etc.
Lifestyle - yes. Smoking, early onset of sexual activity for cervical cancer etc.
Food - yes. Preserved foods with nitrosamines or aflatoxin-contaminated grains for gastric cancer but decreasing worldwide due to utilisation of refrigeration, high fat diet association for colorectal and breast cancer; protective effects against colorectal cancer with high intake of fruit and vegetables. Globalisation rather homogenises the diet of the people of the world hence partly explains the rising trend of the incidence of colorectal and breast cancers ('Western cancers') and cardiovascular diseases in just about every country worldwide.

5. To overcome the multiple nutritional deficiencies, changing diet andincluding supplements will strengthen the immune system.
Not necessarily.
Unless you have pre-existing dietary deficiencies; otherwise no.
Some supplements e.g. selenium can be useful, but most of us receive enough nutritional goodness in our normal diet.
Encourage healthy living rather than supplement fads which fatten the wallets of others. Most of these sellers are not in it for the sake of the products' perceived health qualities. Stress on the word perceived.
Best to take a healthy balanced diet, plenty of fruit and vegetables to provide Vitamin C and E as anti-oxidants, lots of exercise and reduce stress.
And yes, stop smoking.
Don't worry about the viruses. If you get them, you get them. Well, avoiding high risk behaviour should also help.
And go for simple steps to reduce personal and community likelihood of contracting them e.g. get your children to be immunised for hepatitis B. This is to treat the next generation to reduce/minimise/eradicate hepatitis in the population so as not to develop its late complications. Just look at the effectiveness of polio vaccination for example. See any polio-crippled children lately? Our generation is done for already. Few of those with hepatitis will 1. know they have it 2. manifest symptoms early 3. have cheap effective medication to treat carriers of hep B and 4. if they develop liver cancer, few are curable.

6. Chemotherapy involves poisoning the rapidly growing cancer cells. Italso destroys rapidly-growing healthy cells in the bone marrow,gastro-intestinal tract etc, and can cause organ damage, like liver, kidneys, heart, lungs etc.
Not untrue.
Sure, chemotherapeutic agents are poisons but this can be said of most if not all drugs.
Drugs have known effects some of which are desirable ('cancer-busting chemotherapy') some others are not or side-effects (diarrhoea, hair loss, vomiting, low white blood cells, nerve damage, heart, liver, lung complications etc).
Most chemotherapy drugs are given systemically i.e. into the bloodstream either directly (intravenous) or by oral ingestion and changed within cells to the active agent e.g. Xeloda.
Hence, the treatment is crude to say the least.
It is hoped that the more rapidly dividing cancer cells are wiped out more compared to the much slower ordinary growth of normal cells, but these normal cells get hurt, too. Stress on the word hope.
Until lately, chemotherapy efficacy rates were relatively pathetic in real terms, but then again are usually offered to those with more advanced cancer so were pre-selected to fare worse anyway

7. Radiation, while destroying cancer cells, also burns, scars anddamages healthy cells, tissues and organs.
Not untrue.
As above.
Another crude form of therapy.
However medical science realises that and strive to get you magic bullets in the future.
The goal is to manufacture highly selective drugs/treatment/therapy with maximal efficacy rates with minimal side-effects.
'Surgical strike' or 'smart bombs' if you like. Much like what the Dr in Star Trek would prescribe.
At best for the moment you get a compromise.
But one day we will.
Hence, support medical research.
Don't support supplement peddlers with little if any scientific data. Challenge them. Are their claims reproducible. If they spout rubbish like ' orthodox medicine doesn't know everything' yes, medicine continues to evolve and never claims to have become complete but at least it is based on sound principles of biology chemistry physics etc and is reproducible. And is constantly improving. Daily. Little bits yes but most certainly.
Or they claim 'this has been proven to work' By whom? Who is the authority? What research has this/these person(s) done? Which journal? Peer-reviewed? Be inquisitive and be cynical of claims. Even and especially of doctors or those with fancy titles or long strings of letters behind their names. These are the worst con artists hiding behind a facade of respectability and academia. Purportedly. Yes, some medical doctors sell supplements too.

8. Initial treatment with chemotherapy and radiation will often reduce tumor size. However prolonged use of chemotherapy and radiation do notresult in more tumor destruction.
Not untrue.
Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are just like drugs - they have efficacy rates and maximal doses too.
Your oncologist (medical cancer doctor who dispenses chemo and radiotherapy) will be the best person to judge this.
It's a question of balance - tumour bulk vs bodily tolerance for increased survival and/or better quality of life.
These treatment modalities are far from perfect but there has been considerable progress as compared to 50 or 30 or even as recently as 10 years ago.
Extra chemo and/or radiotherapy is justified if the initial response was poor but can only be given to their respective maximal doses - thereafter increasing side-effects sharply for little gain.
Not much different from other drugs then, innit?

9. When the body has too much toxic burden from chemotherapy andradiation the immune system is either compromised or destroyed, hence the person can succumb to various kinds of infections and complications.
Not untrue.

10. Chemotherapy and radiation can cause cancer cells to mutate andbecome resistant and difficult to destroy.
Not true.
However, radiation can cause cancer.

Surgery can also cause cancer cells to spread to other sites.
Not true, unless you have a hopeless surgeon.
Refer to the above Part B of the answer to Question No.1.
Cancer spreads directly to adjacent structures and organs and/or through the lymphatics and/or through the bloodstream to distant sites.
Perforated cancer or a bad surgeon who spills cancer and does not take the correct precautions during surgery or leaves cancer behind or cuts through cancer-laden tissue without carrying out the so-called radical surgery with curative intent carry a more grave, poorer prognosis.
Unless the cancer has already spread at presentation, or presents with perforation - by definition surgery of this type is palliative, not curative. The surgeon is not the cause of the spread, rather caused by advanced nature of the disease process itself.
Choose the most qualified surgeon for the job. :-)

11. An effective way to battle cancer is to starve the cancer cells bynot feeding it with the foods it needs to multiply.
CANCER CELLS FEED ON: a. Sugar is a cancer-feeder.
Not true.
Well, a tiny modicum of truth. ALL cells need sugar, not just cancer. Especially brain cells (unable to utilise anything but)
And if you assume the more rapidly multiplying cancer cells consume more sugar, I suppose that's not wrong either.

By cutting off sugar it cuts off one important food supply to the cancer cells.
Not true.
And what will you eat then? Carbohydrates are just chains of sugar

Sugar substitutes like NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful, etc are made with Aspartame and it is harmful.
Don't know. Probably in high doses over prolonged period to lab mice. But surely the FDA has checked all these out.

A better natural substitute would be Manuka honey or molassesbut only in very small amounts. Table salt has a chemical added to makeit white in color. Better alternative is Bragg's aminos or sea salt.
Don't know.
Have yet to check out the claims on the virtues of Manuka or other honey. Manuka is not cheap! The Prophet SAW believed in honey. I'm sure honey has some medicinal properties. Can also double as a wound salve. Pretty good, too. But the 20th century has produced refined active ingredients from or based from natural substances so use them

b. Milk causes the body to produce mucus, especially in thegastro-intestinal tract. Cancer feeds on mucus. By cutting off milk andsubstituting with unsweetened Soya milk cancer cells are being starved.
Mucopolysaccharides are produced in most airway and gastrointestinal tubes and orifices for lubrication, and on all cell membranes for communication, identification etc.
Colorectal cancer and adenoma do produce mucus. But feed on mucus? Hmm.
Some patients who have had colorectal surgery cannot tolerate milk and milk products. Early in the post-operative period fibre-rich foods are also advised to be taken in moderation. Words from the Soy Farmers Lobby Group, maybe? Maybe PORIM and their tocophenols have a few words to say too.

c. Cancer cells thrive in an acid environment.

A meat-based diet is acidic
Not true.

and it is best to eat fish, and a little chicken rather than beef or pork. Meat also contains livestock antibiotics, growth hormones and parasites, which are all harmful, especially to people with cancer.
Fish and skinned poultry are certainly better digested and less fatty than red meat.
But the link to cancer remains a long-term association.
For those already diagnosed to have cancer, eating red meat will not cause worsening of cancer.

d. A diet made of 80% fresh vegetables and juice, whole grains, seeds,nuts and a little fruits help put the body into an alkaline environment. About 20% can be from cooked food including beans. Fresh vegetable juice provide live enzymes that are easily absorbed and reach down to cellularlevels within 15 minutes to nourish and enhance growth of healthy cells. To obtain live enzymes for building healthy cells, try and drink fresh vegetable juice (most vegetables including bean sprouts) and eat someraw vegetables 2 or 3 times a day. Enzymes are destroyed at temperatures of 104 degrees F (40 degrees C).
Not true.
I say go eat more fresh fruits and vegetables every day.
Raw vegetables have more vitamins and perhaps retain more minerals, that's all. Some vitamins perish with cooking.
Doesn't mean raw vegetables are better. The mineral content should remain pretty much the same but some taste better cooked.
Nothing to do with enzymes - certainly not vegetable enzymes.
What you eat goes into your intestines - a highly inhospitable environment for the food you consume. Proteins, carbohydrates, fat, minerals and vitamins are absorbed leaving you to excrete waste. Enzymes are mere proteins or polypeptides which will simply be denatured first in the highly acidic hydrochloric acid-enhanced stomach then churned into little bits of amino acids by gastric pepsin followed by intestinal peptidases. Too bad. The gut only recognises it as 'protein'. Thanks very much.

e. Avoid coffee, tea, and chocolate, which have high caffeine. Green teais a better alternative and has cancer-fighting properties. Water - bestto drink purified water, or filtered, to avoid known toxins and heavy metals in tap water. Distilled water is acidic, avoid it.
Not true.
Caffeine ain't great, but there is scant data that it causes cancer or is worse for those who have cancer.
Coffee has been associated with pancreatic cancer, but that's all, folks.
Sure, drink plenty of water. Not in itself prevents or inhibits cancer. Eight glasses a day.
Distilled water should be neutral with a pH of 7. Try a litmus test (anything other - check the impurities in the container).

12. Meat protein is difficult to digest and requires a lot of digestiveenzymes. Undigested meat remaining in the intestines become putrefied and leads to more toxic buildup.
Not true.
We are omnivores after all.

13. Cancer cell walls have a tough protein covering. By refraining fromor eating less meat it frees more enzymes to attack the protein walls ofcancer cells and allows the body's killer cells to destroy the cancer cells.
Not true.

14. Some supplements build up the immune system (IP6, Flor-ssence,Essiac, anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals, EFAs etc.) to enable thebody's own killer cells to destroy cancer cells. Other supplements like vitamin E are known to cause apoptosis, or programmed cell death, thebody's normal method of disposing of damaged, unwanted, or unneeded cells.
I like the data pinched from medical research. But not necessarily with supplements.
Vitamins C and E are anti-oxidants which help prevent cells from being damaged.
But take them at their recommended dosages.
They are also far cheaper if purchased from high street retail stores. With definite quality control. You get what you see as per what you read on the label. Not fattening the wallets of up/downliners.
But the best is to take your daily ration of vitamins and minerals from fresh and freshly prepared food. Much more palatable and enjoyable, don't you think?

15. Cancer is a disease of the mind, body, and spirit. A proactive and positive spirit will help the cancer warrior be a survivor. Anger,unforgiveness and bitterness put the body into a stressful and acidic environment. Learn to have a loving and forgiving spirit. Learn to relax and enjoy life.
No comment.
Not true for acidic environment.
Certainly, keep stress levels to a minimum.
But if you are the one diagnosed to have cancer...

16. Cancer cells cannot thrive in an oxygenated environment.
Not true.
Exercising daily, and deep breathing help to get more oxygen down to the cellularlevel. Oxygen therapy is another means employed to destroy cancer cells
No comment.
Exercise is good. Not as a cancer buster, maybe not much of a cancer preventer but great for your cardiovascular system and probably will work off all those enjoyed calories of the rich food you are consuming daily.
Claims probably untrue (too simplistic and too superficial).
Might make you hyperventilate with tingly sensation at your fingertips and feel a bit drowsy, but that's about all. Maybe in years to come, science can demonstrate this somehow but I have my doubts.

My advice?

Be happy and contented.

Lead a healthy lifestyle. Stop smoking. The new D-G of the WHO champions this and she's right.

Eat a balanced diet.

Perform regular exercise and keep trim. Reduce central obesity / paunch.

For those who are overweight, lose some weight.
Remember that it is purely arithmetic - calories in vs calories sweated out. Calories in tends to win, whatwith the lack of exercise in these sedentary urban jobs we hold. There is no quick painless route to weight loss. If you have money and can join a fitness or weight watchers club, fine. Otherwise there are cheaper or free alternatives. Am reminding myself again and again.

Get advice from sensible qualified people, not quacks.

Beware of nice peddlers of supplements - consult those you trust.
Well, they are not all bad but be sure the item is kosher, medically recommended and represents good value for money.
Must say very few of those being peddled fall into these categories. If at all.
And do your own research. The Internet and other resources are all available in this e-world (or is it k-world?). We are all on an even footing now.

It's healthy to be a cynic.
Ask questions. Don't just accept claims.
Get yourself more educated.

Medical knowledge is ever-evolving but at least the bulk of it is honest and likely to be reproducible (well, the majority are but be careful of advice given, even mine - go to the last few lines of the paragraph before last).

Executive health checks are OK but results require careful and considerate interpretation. For those approaching 40 as moi , regular blood pressure, glucose and lipid levels should be monitored. The incidence of all these in Malaysian adults over 50 is more than 30% of at least one of them.

Those with symptoms and signs or a strong family history of cancers or other killer diseases, please seek medical attention early.

The mortality for most cancers in Malaysia is high as compared to Western figures. Why? Malaysian patients present late. For example the average breast cancer lump size for US women is 2cm but it is 5cm for Malay women. Why? Multifactorial probably but imagine the duration of carriage of cancer for these women. The role of chemo will be much more limited once spread hence a shorter lifespan. And to think these women have small or schoolgoing children. (sigh) The answer is a paradigm shift in mindset and education.

Get your doctor to become more educated as well. Too many of them (not all, bless 'em but even one is one too many) do not interact, converse, inform, educate, tell, advise, follow-up, even treat their patients. The best way is to, yes, you've guessed it, ask them a lot of questions to things you have read up and know something about. Or know nothing about but as soon as you've listened to his/her version of the answer to your question, tell him/her you want to check it out on the Internet/encyclopedia/medical books later at home and come back to the doctor in a day or two.
(NB. Applies to other professions too).

One more thing - doctors who merely listen and do not even pretend to examine patients then prescribe expectant medication are not doctoring. Do not accept this.

Be nice to your loved ones - after all, they are the ones who will look after you if you fall ill. They remain your loved ones. And you theirs. Forever.



The Superwomanwannabe said...

er. hope hubby WILL stop smoking.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sheila,
Its your anon fan. Whats up with the UK plans? Anyways my mum was always saying coz you know on the internet there is alot of emails where you dont know if its true or not so pls convey my personal thanks to the Dr. and your self of course for verifying this article that I get once every 6 months! My mum and I do our best to eat healthily. She rings up and checks what I eat so much so I pack salad and yogurt filled with nuts for lunch.
A Favour: have you received this email on the Japanese water therapy? The one where first thing in the morning drink water 4 big glasses brush teeth but dont eat for 45 minutes... sure you received this. Well is this true?

Thanks ! hope all is well.

The Superwomanwannabe said...

Hi Anon
My husband really really does not like these emails, and yah, we get them very often too. Can you email me that Japanese water therapy thing? its Thanks.

Winter Sonata sure is different at 49 years old!

Believe it or not I am rewatching Winter Sonata.. ee geram betul I dengan si Yujin tu lah... she really was a wutz wasn't she? and...