“All cancers are alike but they are alike in a unique way.”― Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer
Last September, I came across an excellent article written by George Lundberg, MD, a board-certified pathologist and former long-time editor of both the Journal of the American Medical Association and Medscape, a highly respected web resource for health professionals (http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/809982).
Despite being a conventionally trained physician, Lundberg doesn’t ascribe to the conventional ways in which we approach cancer in this country—nor does he shy away from what some may consider a radical view of cancer diagnosis and treatment. “Cancer, the Emperor of All Maladies, is on track to kill some 600,000 Americans this year, despite the miracles of modern medicine–a really big deal, a disease worthy of its fearful reputation,” writes Lundberg.
For decades now, we have given many different diseases the label of cancer. The approach of our medical system has been to violently wage war on cancer, with the primary goal the eradication of the disease. The weapons of choice have been aggressive surgery, high dose radiation, and high dose chemotherapy, prescribed for all types. Four decades ago, we were promised that cancer would be easily vanquished in the all-out “war against cancer.” With the goal of eradication, mass efforts were launched to search out cancers and destroy them.
As Lundberg notes, “Since the earliest cancers seemed to evolve from some identifiable premalignant conditions, wouldn’t it make sense to also nip those in the bud?” Of course that would appear to be the most prudent approach. But as Lundberg points out, “…as with many exuberant efforts, this one got out of control. Many lesions that were called “cancer” really were not cancers at all in behavior, and this fact began to be recognized in large numbers of patients. These unfortunate victims have experienced massive psychological and physical harm and costs without any clear benefits achieved by finding and treating their “noncancers.””
I’ve written and spoken about this issue many times in my two decades of working with hundreds of cancer patients. I have significant concerns about the way that it is diagnosed, treated, and managed in our country. The truth is that cancer is hundreds of different diseases, and some aren’t cancer at all. It doesn’t make sense in terms of economics, allocation of health care resources—and most especially, in terms of the well being of patients—to diagnose or treat all cancers in the same aggressive manner.
As Lundberg says, “After many decades of matching histologic patterns with the natural history of diseases, we are actually pretty good at predicting which lesions will be really bad actors and which seem likely to lie around indolently. Cure rates from aggressive therapy on those “indolentomas” are 100%. But, so would the outcomes have been of nondiscovery—100% cure of nondisease.”
Lundberg suggests that we stop labeling indolentomas as cancer, to reduce the fear factor that accompanies a diagnosis. As he so brilliantly points out, “Ceasing to name lesions that are most likely indolentomas by that fearsome word “cancer” is the first step. Almost any patient who hears the word applied to their pathologic findings experiences their hair catching on fire. Even if the word is cushioned by physicians with modifiers like “in situ,” “early,” “precancer,” “on the way towards cancer,” “caught it in time,” and the like, the patient simply wants to get it out of their body. A surgical sell by a surgeon becomes really easy.”
The question then becomes, what is a balanced, non-aggressive, non-fear based approach to cancer? One of the most important aspects of the Eclectic Triphasic Medical System (ETMS) is to indentify the characteristics of each individual and their cancer’s unique phenotype, and to determine which cancers are aggressive and possess metastatic and invasive capabilities. It is also essential to target all of the pathways and gene mutations that are being expressed.
The whole-system model of the ETMS (also referred to as “Mederi Medicine”) takes this data and applies each of the ETMS toolboxes (Botanical, Nutritional, Dietary, Lifestyle, and Pharmaceutical) with an emphasis on using the Botanical toolbox to alter the expression and signal pathways to create a normalizing effect. We do this by targeting the “cancer energy” together with the microenvironment and the host factors.
Cancer treatment should be specifically targeted to the unique situation of each individual and each cancer. In less aggressive cancers in older people, the focus should be primarily on the host and microenvironment, and very little on the tumor; while in more aggressive cancers, especially in young to middle aged people, all three areas should be addressed; sometimes the focus does need to be on eradicating the tumor. But no matter what the type or stage of cancer, we always should be considering the host and the microenvironment. I believe this is the blueprint we should be adopting for long-term cancer management, health-promotion, and cancer prevention, including the prevention of cancer reoccurrence.