Volume 1 Issue 5 - Nurse Patricia Peat

Originally published in November 2002 icon

Nurse Patricia Peat

Patricia Peat is a registered nurse who has combined vast experience of working in oncology with years of research into natural approaches to dealing with cancer.

Patricia runs Cancer Options a private Integrative Cancer Consultancy.

You can send your questions to Patricia c/o Health Issues Ltd. or e-mail [email protected].

Cancer Options is a specialised team of practitioners providing individual consultancy and coaching into treatment and making decisions for all approaches to cancer.

November 2002

My mother has been told that she has a pleural effusion; she also has breast cancer, which has also spread to her lungs. She gets short of breath. Can you explain what the problem is?

A pleural effusion is an accumulation of fluid between the layers of the membrane lining lung and chest cavity. We normally have this in small amounts to lubricate the surfaces of the lung membranes; an effusion is an abnormal collection of this fluid.

Pleural fluid is normally formed in small amounts to lubricate the surfaces of the ’pleura’, the thin membrane that lines the chest cavity and surrounds the lungs. A ’pleural effusion’ is an abnormal collection of this fluid. There are several ways your mother’s doctor may consider dealing with this problem:

Chemotherapy Oxygen Therapy Pleural Drainage Placing a small tube into the pleural space to drain the fluid away. This is carried out under local anaesthetic and is fairly painless.

Pleurodesis This is done following drainage, whereby medication is injected through the drain to prevent the fluid from coming back. Some of the drugs they may use are: Bleomycin, Tetracycline and Talc. Research shows Talc to be the most effective.
If your mother is having homeopathic treatment for her symptoms, her homeopathic doctor may suggest Iscador to be injected into the cavity.
The drainage and treatment should bring rapid relief to any symptoms your mother is experiencing.

I keep hearing the term ’Integrative Medicine’, what does this mean?

Integrative Medicine is the fastest growing specialty of integrating the orthodox approaches of chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy with the natural cancer remedies and therapies used by homeopathic practitioners. Traditionally, in this country, the two approaches sat on opposite sides of the fence, and for various reasons, eyed each other with suspicion. This left people diagnosed with cancer feeling they had to choose one or the other.

Integrative treatment is being practiced at various clinics, by an increasing number of doctors, who originally worked with orthodox approaches, plus those who have specialised in natural approaches for many years. As many more people wish to consider natural treatments, and the growing body of evidence supporting the great importance of nutrition in tackling cancer, many are making their choices to integrate both approaches. Integrative medicine has a holistic approach, the underlying principles being of enabling the body and mind to return to a state of balance where long-term healing can take place. Many approaches can be used to help achieve this; Reflexology;
Reiki Healing; Aromatherapy and Meditation.

Whether people adopt a completely natural approach, or integrate to support the body and reduce toxicity during orthodox treatment, hopefully there will continue to be increases in communication and cooperation between the two specialties. The aim is to make being able to choose from a wider selection of approaches and philosophies an accessible reality for more people.

I have just been told I have cancer of the esophagus. I am terrified at the thought of surgery. Are there other options?

Photodynamic therapy is a new treatment for some types of cancer. It uses laser light combined with a light-sensitive drug (sometimes called a photosensitizing agent) to destroy cancer cells.
It works by introducing a photosensitizing agent into the body; this is a drug which makes cells more sensitive to light.

The drug collects mostly in cancer cells. It is ineffective until exposed to light. When a laser light is directed onto the area of cancer, the drug is activated and destroys the cancer cells. It is not yet established as a standard treatment, so you would need to ask your surgeon or oncologist about its suitability for your individual case, availability in your area.

I am a pensioner and have been recently diagnosed with prostate cancer, which I’m told, is in its early stages. I’ve been offered an operation or radiotherapy. I’m really worried as I’ve heard about possible problems afterwards.

If you have prostate cancer you will obviously be experiencing problems anyway.
If the prostate has become enlarged, you will experience some or all of the following:
delay before urinating; weak flow; more frequency of urinating and a feeling that the bladder is still full after urinating.

If you have a malignancy, there can be a variety of further symptoms.

After surgery or radiotherapy, a study from the United States of America indicated that 80% of men who had surgery and 65% who had radiotherapy had some degree of impotence and loss of sexual performance two years after treatment.

Incontinence affected 10% of the surgery sample and 3% of the radiotherapy group, but the latter had more trouble with bowel complications.

The percentage experiencing problems increases with age at the time of the operation. However, despite al this, 92% of men said they would choose the same treatment again!

My father is 78 and after surgery and several rounds of chemotherapy, the doctors have told him there is little more they can do for his cancer. Is there anything we can do?

What the specialists are saying is that they have no more treatments available within their expertise, that could be used with reasonable expectation of success. You may find, by using the Internet, or going outside of the medical group currently treating your father, that other doctors have other ideas, or even clinical trials of new drugs. This is only a possibility.

It must be very hard for your father to hear there is "nothing more they can do." The mind is a very important weapon in the treatment of cancer.

One thing worth considering is a talk with the Bristol Cancer Help Centre. Their specialists are trained in the science of ’lifting the mind and spirit’ and ’the power of positive thinking’. They run courses aimed at helping people like your father, to learn to live with cancer, and to enjoy a full life with a sense of purpose.

As people get older, their hormone levels decline. However, certain foods such as, salads and pasta, and undertaking certain relaxation techniques later in the day, will help sleep patterns and help to produce more melatonin and human growth hormone.

Your father would do well to take some light exercise each day, to review his diet and the toxins around him, and to review his vitamin consumption.

Has he been checked for viruses or have you given him a parasite purge?

Finally, you could contact one of the local support groups on his behalf.

Diet, lifestyle, exercise, a sense of purpose, complementary therapies; all of these things can and do make a difference. Your attitude to keep trying for your father is absolutely right. In Dukes, Carolina, the doctors have recorded a significant difference in survival rates and survival times for those people who argue more about their treatments, and fight with more determination. There is still much you and your father can do.

I’ve read about getting cervical cancer from having sex; is this possible?
Miss S.G. (London)

Becoming infected with human papilloma virus (HPV), the cause of genital warts, is the main cause of cervical cancer. It can be transmitted through sexual activity, and the male will most likely not even know he is infected. HPV is the fastest spreading sexually transmitted disease, and more than half of all sexually active Americans carry the virus at some point in their lives.

It can remain dormant for some time, but usually the body clears it up within a year.

500,000 women worldwide contract cervical cancer each year, but HPV is also responsible for cancers of the genitalia and anus.

Detecting and treating HPV is a priority, according to Professor Gordon McVie of Cancer Research UK, and he urges women to have regular smear tests.

However, HPV is extremely hard to detect, and companies like Merck in the USA are working hard to develop vaccines, but these are five years away. Early detection is vital, and along with early treatment, has seen survival rates grow dramatically in the last thirty years.

If you’ve had genital warts, a yearly check is advisable (try the Genito-urinary clinic listed in your local telephone directory). Otherwise, have a second opinion through a homeopath, who can look for viruses in a detection system by Voll.

Although not perfectly protective, a condom does reduce your risk but beware - because any abrasion can pass the virus from an infected host.

The best solution is monogamy.

Cancer seems to run in our family and I’ve read that becoming vegetarian will help me avoid it. Do you think it’s worth it?

Only you can decide whether it’s "worth it". Without going into a complete review of vegetarianism, let’s look at a few facts related to cancer - courtesy of the Vegetarian Society:

  • Medical research shows that life long vegetarians visit hospital 22% less often than meat eaters.

  • Once in hospital they spend about 20% less time there

  • Vegetarians have a 30% lower mortality rate heart disease

  • Vegetarians have significantly lower blood pressures than meat eaters

  • Vegetarians have a 50% lower colon cancer rate than meat eaters

  • The National Cancer Research Institute in Tokyo has found that women who eat meat daily have a four times greater risk of breast cancer than vegetarians

  • A link has been identified between animal fat consumption and prostate cancer

  • In a 13 year study by Oxford University (1995) a vegetarian diet reduced your chances of suffering from a wide variety of cancers by 40%

  • Meat is filled with hormone, drugs and antibiotics

  • Cooking meat produces carcinogens when grilling, frying or roasting at high temperatures

Certainly, if you already have cancer, a vegetarian diet may help. Apparently vegetarians have twice the survival rates of non-vegetarians. Most diets e.g. The Bristol Help Centre and Macrobiotic Diet are not far off vegetarian in their advice against red meat, recommending vegetables, whole grains and rice.

The choice is really YOURS.

My brother aged 54 recently died of bowel cancer. I’ve been told I have an increased risk. What can I do?

Bowel cancer is the second most common cancer in Britain. Thirty thousand are diagnosed with it every year, sixteen thousand of them men. Normally you would expect a one in 50 chance of developing the disease. But if a parent or sibling has the disease, the odds become one in 17. With two parents or siblings, one in 12.

A colonoscopy is recommended to spot potentially dangerous polyps. You can discuss this with your GP. A regular check would be well worthwhile.

Diet is the biggest contributory factor. Red meat, particularly if burned, is widely regarded as the primary suspect as it remains in the gut for longer. Interestingly, a recent American study involving 88,000 nurses showed no advantage in having a diet high in fruit and vegetables, even though the fibre might help clear the bowel of undigested meat. This runs counter to the advise of Colon Cancer Concern who strongly advocate a diet high in vegetables and fruit. There is also some evidence that heavy drinking is connected with higher rates of bowel cancer.

Meanwhile, fish oils; Vitamin E and Aspirin have all been shown in research to have some benefits, as has taking a simple multivitamin, along with green tea, tomatoes and calcium.

In the August 2002 issue you covered surgery in an overview. I’ve heard surgery can actually spread the cancer. Is this true?

There was a report in the Lancet in 1995 about the possible spread of the disease during prostate cancer operations. The jury is still out.

If you have a cancer, the initial rogue cells are passing their ’mayhem’ message to adjoining cells.

When the mass of cells is about one centimetre in diameter, it has to have a blood supply in order to grow further, and at this stage it is called a tumour. Rogue cells from this tumour can then pass outwards, either in the blood system or the lymph system.

It is quite normal for the lymph to be trying to draw rogue cells away from the tumour. The lymph has T-lymphacytes that are actually searching out rogue cells. They then transport these to the lymph nodes where the rogue is assessed and measured up for a neutralising antibody, a coat that exactly fits over the surface of the rogue cell. However, if the ’cancer’ is stronger than the immune system, the rogue cells may simply proliferate in the lymph node.

When the surgeon operates, even on a solid tumour, it is quite possible that some rogue cells have already escaped in the blood or lymph, and they cannot as yet be detected.

Surgery could worsen the situation. There is no doubt that anaesthetic flattens the immune system, and this happens at the very moment you need it to be strong. In China they use acupuncture, not anaesthetic during operations for this very reason.

Prior to surgery you need to boost your immune system as much as possible. Diet is crucial in this, as is supplementation; for example you could take the following daily:

  • Vitamin A (Fish Oils) = 1,000 mgs

  • Beta-carotine = 2-4 x 6 mgs

  • Vitamin C = 2 gms time release

  • Zinc = 25 mgs

  • Selenium = 200 mcgs

  • Lycopene = 20 mgs

Patients also need a good supply of minerals, preferably in a colloidal form, and B complex vitamins.

Yoga and meditation boost the immune system by up to 30%, as does light exercise. You need to oxygenate your blood. Get out in the countryside and deliberately take long deep breaths.

Surgeons are highly trained specialists and we are full of admiration for them. But they only do one bit of the job. You really have to think in terms of an integrated holistic solution to the cancer problem, and there is so much you must do yourself in order to improve your chances of a successful recovery.

I read somewhere that mammograms don’t always work. Is this true?

Years of usage of the mammogram, especially in the USA, have created a popular belief in their importance. During the ’70’s and 80’s, as they came into widespread use, coupled with early detection and a greater consciousness of breast cancer, breast cancer deaths fell by 30%.

Mammograms provide a detailed image of the breast tissue. If the tissue is soft, detection of an unusual lump is relatively easy, but becomes harder the more ’lumpy’ the breast tissue.

Doctors recommend women over 40 to have the test annually, as the early detection provides better rates of cure and can offer the choice of lumpectomy rather than a full mastectomy.

However, a two-year study in Denmark, originally published in the Lancet and updated in October 2001, suggests that a number of flaws in the mammography process makes the test "virtually useless". This has caused controversy and even anger amongst the medical profession.

Dr. Kelly McMasters, a surgical oncologist at the University of Louisville is quite clear that the current technology is still showing results, and is a lot better than examining yourself.

"The problem with palpitation (looking for a lump with your fingers) is that when a tumour is big enough to feel, it has often spread to the lymph nodes. This makes it more likely to be fatal".

We will keep you posted.

My mother has a brain tumour; she has been reasonably well following her treatment, but recently she has been getting fairly moody. Is this due to her tumour or the drugs? We are all finding this difficult and don’t know how we should treat her.

The length of time it takes to recover from the effects of a brain tumour and treatment varies considerably for each individual. Even people who recover well can still become frustrated by their perceived lack of progress and having to adapt to being less able mentally or physically.

How much of the problem is due to the emotional stress caused by the treatments, or surgery, or by the tumour itself is difficult to say.Poor appetite, depression, irritability, fatigue, sleeplessness, an erratic memory and restlessness are all common symptoms. If any particular symptoms become excessive, check out with her doctor that her recovery is still progressing satisfactorily.

You may notice changes in her personality; people often say it is like living with a different person. This can be difficult for a family to handle; as well as adjusting to her illness you have major changes taking place in your relationships within the family.

The important thing is not only how you treat her, but how well you all look after yourselves in order to be able to help. You will need assistance in taking care of yourselves psychologically, and adapting to cope with the changing situation. Consider counselling support for yourselves as a family, where you can learn from each other about dealing with the problems. As an individual, do not feel guilty about taking regular time out; find out what best helps you relax and pursue it regularly. Talk to friends, nurses, anybody supportive you make a connection with. The best way of helping your mother is to make sure you are as mentally and spiritually able as you can be.

I have a small piece of skin cancer, which is going to be removed. My doctor said it is a carcinoma and not a dangerous type of cancer, but I have heard that skin cancer can spread and kill you. Which is true?

There are different types of skin cancer. Once you have had the piece of skin cancer removed and examined under a microscope, your doctor will be able to confirm for you which type yours was. The most common types of skin cancers are Basal Cell Carcinoma and Squamous Cell Carcinoma.

They are rarely fatal, but, if not noticed early, they can cause damage to the skin which sometimes leads to the need for plastic surgery. They usually occur on areas that have been exposed to the sun. Skin cancer can present itself in many different ways. The most common sign of skin cancer is a change on the skin, such as a growth or a sore that won’t heal. Sometimes there may be a small lump. This lump can be smooth, shiny and waxy looking, or it can be red or reddish brown. Skin cancer may also appear as a flat red spot that is rough or scaly. Not all changes in your skin are cancer, but you should see your doctor if you notice changes in your skin.

Malignant melanoma is the skin cancer that is most likely to metastasize (spread through the blood stream to other parts of the body). It is often triggered by repetitive sun exposure, and is unfortunately on the rise. (Some forms of melanoma are not sun-related; these forms of cancer have not been rising in incidence.) In addition to those exposed to sunlight, other people at risk for getting melanoma include people with a light complexion (freckles), light hair colour with blue, green, or grey eyes, and people with a history of a severe sunburn before age 20.

Once your doctor removes yours, you should need no further treatment. You are however, at risk of developing more spots of skin cancer in the future. So take care to avoid exposing your skin in the sun or ultraviolet light, and if out in sunshine, wear a high factor sun block.

I have heard conflicting reports about whether it is best to have a tumour removed as it can cause the cancer to spread. Is this true?

Most doctors agree it can cause some release of cancer cells, plus there is the added stress of surgery on the body. However, the majority of doctors, both orthodox and integrative think removing the tumour and getting rid of the prime source of cancer cells gives the best chance of success.

Your surgeon may refer you to an oncologist for a course of chemotherapy to ’mop up’ any cells which have been released, or you might consider consulting a medical herbalist or homeopathic doctor for a course of natural antioxidants.

Advice from The Cancer Experts - your questions answered
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