One in three people will get cancer over the course of their lifetime. Thus, it's inevitable that all of us will have a friend or loved one develop cancer. The time to get familiar with alternative treatments is well before this crisis develops. Otherwise, you will be swept up in the fear and panic of the moment, and not be able to reasonably consider all the possibilities both conventional and alternative.
To prepare ahead of time, I highly recommend Burton Godlberg's book, An Alternative Medicine Definitive Guide To Cancer (Future Medicine, 1997) and Ralph Moss's book, Cancer Therapy: The Independent Consumer's Guide (Equinox, 1995). Make sure these books are part of your family library.
Even with respect to the usual treatments offered for breast cancer there are important choices to be made. Breast cancer usually develops slowly and by the time a lump has appeared it may already be too late to use alternatives alone without resorting to surgery. Certainly, it makes sense to have a small cancerous lump removed and then use alternatives to prevent reoccurrences. In your case, even having received standard treatment, you still need to make major lifestyle and emotional changes as well as to start using natural therapies to prevent reoccurrences.
It's important to remember that lumpectomy for breast cancer (removing only the lump), plus radiation yields the same survival rates as mastectomy (removing the whole breast). Lymph nodes are removed for diagnosis primarily, and not for treatment. If the breast tumour is small, and there are no hard lumps in the armpit, some women may opt not to have any lymph nodes removed. Radiation does not prolong your life, but does decrease the chance of local reoccurrences.
An excellent book that covers all surgical and medical options for breast cancer as well as alternative treatments and prevention from the point of view of a naturopathic physician, is Breast Cancer, What You Should Know (But May Not Be Told) About Prevention, Diagnosis and Treatment , by Dr. Steve Austin and his wife, Cathy Hitchcock , who had breast cancer (Prima, 1994).
The Ontario Breast Cancer Information Exchange Project has published an excellent well referenced book on alternative therapies for breast cancer, entitled A Guide To Unconventional Cancer Therapies (order through 905-727-3300). Susun Weed's new book, Breast Cancer, Breast Health, The Wise Woman Way is an excellent comprehensive alternative guide to breast cancer prevention and treatment.
Ralph Moss also provides a research service for cancer alternatives. For $275 US, the Moss Reports provides a detailed 30 to 50 page report specific to your type of cancer including the most promising alternative treatments, and how to obtain them (718-636-4433).
If you decide not to get surgery at all, limit the amount of time you will try the alternative therapies without considering surgery. It doesn't make sense to let an easily treated small breast lump develop into an inoperable mass. It is relatively easy to treat the first appearance of a cancer. Preventing a reoccurrence is the most important issue in the long run.
You needn't choose between alternative or conventional therapies, both can be successfully combined. The key is becoming informed on the range of choices available and what you feel comfortable and safe doing. The decision on what type of therapy to employ is a personal one, and as a friend, your role is to support whatever choice is made even if you don't agree with it. (See the book chapter and column for more information).
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