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Cancer Beliefs and Clinic Protocols

by Warren Cargal, L. Ac.



I have been honored to be part of the healing journey of many patients in the clinic dealing with cancer.  Over the years, my thinking about cancer has evolved considerably. Therefore, I would like to share with you some of my own core beliefs about this illness and the recovery process.

Fundamentally, I believe that one can heal from cancer.


I believe that there are scientifically valid cancer treatments that exist outside conventional Western medicine.


I believe that Western medical treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation all have their place in the treatment of this disease.

I believe that reversing cancer and remaining well is more than just a physical process, meaning it is not just about having treatment; it means dealing with the mental, emotional and the spiritual issues that tend to manifest physically.


Causative factors for cancer:


  • Based on historical and scientific perspectives, it has become apparent that American dietary practices are a major contributor to cancer. Despite the massive scale of healthcare spending, the U.S. population suffers from the highest rate of chronic illnesses amongst western countries.
  • The U.S. food supply contains thousands of different toxins, some of which have been directly linked to cancer. Some of these are mercury, PCB’s, pesticides, fertilizers, food additives, antibiotics, exogenous growth hormones, and artificial sweeteners. Many of these compounds are especially concentrated in feedlot raised cattle, poultry, and fish.
  • Chronic stress, either physical or psychological causes profound changes within the neuroendocrine system. This system known as the HPA includes the hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid, adrenals, endocrine, pancreas, gut-associated lymph tissue and the reproductive organs. Continued stress activates the HPA axis which can then down regulate immune responses to the point of hypofunction and suppression.
  • Chronic inflamation, which is actually part of chronic stress, indicates a high correlation with increased cancer risk. At the molecular level chronic inflammation can induce gene mutations and transcription factors which control the expression of cancer genes.
  • Genetic (inherited) variability affects the response of all of the above and is where the majority of Western medicine research activities are focused.  However, as with people who have a genetic predisposition to high cholesterol, modification of ones diet can maintain healthy cholesterol levels. It is the same with cancer, just because there is a predisposition toward a certain type of cancer; it is not a “fait accompli”.


Our beliefs about life are powerful things. These beliefs construct the world that we move through in our daily life. Thus the protocols that are used in the clinic deal with the physical manifestation of the illness as well as the emotional and spiritual expression of the illness.


Conceptual constructs is the language we use to communicate abstract thoughts. A simple example would be the word “tree.” When I use this term, there is a general understanding and agreement of what I am referring to. However the word “tree” is far removed from the actual experience of a tree. The smell of a pine tree high in the mountains, the color of the maple leaves in the fall, the majesty of the huge oak in your backyard. Thus it becomes easy to live our lives in a world of conceptual constructs which are not in the basic reality of the moment.

It is easy to forget that the various diagnostic categories of cancer are also man-made constructs and mask the uniqueness of each individual's condition. Each person's cancer is only similar to, but not identical with, that of any other person with the "same" diagnosis. Once it is understood that the names are "temporary conceptions," then so too are all predictions that are based on them. Never forget that statistics are just averages, not judgments of what must happen.


On an emotional level many people still react to any diagnosis of cancer as a death sentence. The attitudes of oncologists, family members, and friends may reinforce this fatalistic idea. Doctors may deliver some statistical average of survival as a certainty. The doctor is trying to be scientific and to avoid giving false hope. Yet the result can be devastating to the patient, as they are being convinced that their situation is hopeless, which contributes to their demise.


Remember that beliefs themselves are powerful things.


Cancer Protocols:


Protocols that we use in the clinic are generally integrative, meaning that they consist of some element of conventional medicine with elements of herbal medicine, acupuncture and dietary considerations.


Acupuncture is used in the clinic to help with side the effects of chemotherapy and radiation. For instance, after a chemotherapy infusion both the liver and kidney are under a tremendous burden removing and excreting the dead cell debris. Acupuncture can help to stimulate and support these systems in removing waste.


Acupuncture is also used to support and enhance the immune system, which can occur after a patient has completed a course of treatment.


Herbal medicine that is used in the clinic is broken down into two types: adaptogens and anti-proliferation and apoptosis (cancer cell death)


Conventional pharmacology and natural products research has not yet focused on supporting the endocrine, nervous and  immune systems in response to dysfunctional stress adaptation, which is how the adaptogens are used.


The anti-cancer effects of adaptogens involve: immune-modulation – they can activate macrophages, natural killer cells, antigen-dependent T lymphocytes; normalize cytokines, providing an ability to suppress tumor growth, enhance tissue differentiation, improve intercellular adhesion, and reduce the likelihood of metastasis. Furthermore, the use of adaptogens decreases the toxic effects of chemotherapy and improves drug tolerance.

Individual herbs in high concentration are selected based on the herbs’ pharmacological actions interacting with the particular cancers’ biological pathways. For example, mutation of the p53 tumor suppressor gene is the most common genetic alteration in human cancer.

The mutation, or defect of this suppressor is involved in more than half of all cancer cell lines including breast, ovarian and prostate cancers. Quercetin derived from grape seed extract, inhibits the mutation of the tumor suppressor protein gene p53. Research has indicated that in a time- and dose dependent fashion, Quercetin strongly inhibited the expression of the mutated p53 protein in breast cancer.


Botanical and dietary chemopreventive strategies aimed at inhibiting angiogenesis are safe and effective for the prevention and treatment of cancer. It is crucial to see the whole picture, develop a sound plan to follow and not fall into the illusion that there is one magical bullet to cure the cancer. Healing from cancer is often a long evolutionary process that can take years of work.




This article was published on Friday October 03, 2008.
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