Naturopathic Doctors (NDs) are quickly becoming recognized as vitally important in the treatment of cancer. Cancer Treatment Centers of America now employs NDs as part of their cancer treatment team and praises their remarkable results.
Oncology is one of the few areas in which NDs are becoming board certified. Naturopathic oncologists work in both hospital oncology settings and in private practices. One of the most common questions I receive when telling people of my profession is this: “As a naturopathic doctor, what is your role in the treatment of breast cancer?” Hopefully I can answer that here.
Based on current research, the best medical approach for patients with cancer is to utilize both standard medical care from your oncologist and medicine that supports your body’s natural defenses and recovery systems, otherwise known as naturopathic medicine. Do you know what actually cures cancer? Although radiation and chemotherapy may be an integral part of your breast cancer treatment, they are not what cures cancer. They only weaken it as much as possible in order to help your body overcome it. At the end of the day, it is your immune system that actually conquers cancer.
Therefore, one of the most important aspects of my job is to develop a plan to optimize your immune system’s functioning. In addition, I also ensure that the rest of your body is working optimally by supporting you in the following ways: pre and post biopsy and surgery to minimize side effects and boost recovery time, reducing the side effects and increasing the efficacy of radiotherapy and chemotherapy, and helping you to better deal with the mental-emotional aspects of breast cancer. This combination of naturopathic medicine and conventional treatment helps women fight cancer more effectively and increases their well-being.
So, what do the oncologists think of all this? Well, if they work at Cancer Treatment Centers of America or a hospital with NDs on staff, they should at least understand some of the basics of what NDs can do. Most oncologists, however, are unaware of the role that diet, dietary supplements and other naturopathic therapies play in a cancer treatment program for the following reasons. First, they have not received any formal education in these topics, leaving them in the dark about the many benefits of concurrent naturopathic treatment. Second, they are not legally allowed to recommend any cancer treatments other than surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and drug therapy without greatly risking the loss of their medical license. As a result, they are doing the best that they can, but are often worried that certain diets, nutraceuticals, herbs and other treatments I prescribe may negatively impact their conventional medical treatments. They shouldn’t worry. As a licensed naturopathic doctor, I am a trained expert in the use of alternative medicine. It is my job to understand what they have not been taught and to utilize my knowledge to help women best conquer breast cancer.
What does this mean for a woman diagnosed with breast cancer?
A diagnosis of breast cancer can be a very emotional time for a woman. Ultimately, I find myself in the role as a trusted advocate, and my patients know that I am looking out for them. During this difficult time, it is always best to talk with an oncologist and see what they recommend for treatment. Generally, I will support the recommendations of the oncologist and help my patients make the most informed decisions.
Although I do see patients who have decided to forgo conventional treatment for personal reasons, this is not something I recommend. However, after making sure the patient understands their conventional options, if they still choose to only utilize naturopathic medicine, I will support them in their decision and provide them with the best medical care I can.
It is never too soon after receiving a breast cancer diagnosis to begin a treatment program. In my practice, a breast cancer program starts with a basic dietary and lifestyle plan, along with a nutraceutical regimen that is based on the stage and type of breast cancer that a woman has, as well as where she is in her standard cancer treatment. A physical exam is also included in the consultation, and recent blood work, and other pertinent tests and information will also be required. Due to my background in psychology, I also focus on addressing common mental-emotional issues associated with breast cancer, such as stress, anxiety, depression, and grief, as well as other important mental emotional factors that can have a major impact on survival rates as well as on a patient’s quality of life.
Once a patient has begun her standard cancer treatment, I will adjust the program accordingly to help support the side effects of surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. The program will continue to be adjusted as necessary based on what is needed while we work together.
Here are some of the ways I work with women with breast cancer:
- I can help explain in great detail the standard breast cancer treatment you will receive from your oncologist and treat the many side effects associated with it.
- I prescribe therapies that can improve the efficacy of the standard breast cancer treatment you are receiving from your oncologist.
- I create individualized programs that boost your immune system, as well as other crucial organs and systems in your body that are essential to overcoming breast cancer.
- I design programs and prescribe therapies specifically formulated to reduce the risk of breast cancer spreading, including pre-post biopsy and surgery protocols.
- I prescribe nutraceuticals and therapies that minimize the side effects of commonly prescribed hormonal drug therapies and other prescription drugs that you may be taking.
- I prescribe various forms of holistic “mind body medicine” to treat stress, depression, anxiety, grief and other challenges that accompany breast cancer treatment. These are often overlooked or minimized by most medical doctors, despite the strong correlation between good mental health and higher survival rates.
In addition to providing supportive breast cancer treatment, I can also help you to reduce your chances of getting breast cancer in the first place. A Naturopathic Doctor’s greatest strength is in disease prevention! For patients with significant risk factors for breast cancer, I prescribe treatment programs that can address and mitigate many of these factors. I also utilize an advanced version of breast thermography at my practice, called Infrared Mammography, that is able to screen and identify high risk patients as early as possible.
Thank you and be well!
Dr. Heather Barrett