In part 2 of this series, we talked about the foundation layer for wellness after cancer: providing your body the hydration, nourishment, movement and rest it needs to fuel adequate energy production, repair tissue damage and keep its housekeeping systems humming efficiently. You’ll know you’re meeting your body’s needs when you feel symptoms fading and your energy returning. You’ll feel reinvigorated and ready to move forward, except…
At this point there’s still something that bothers most cancer survivors I’ve worked with. Those in remission are haunted by the possibility of their cancer coming back. Those living with cancer are afraid their cancer will progress. Followup appointments with the oncologist bring on frightful anxiety at the prospect of receiving bad news.
Followup screenings are important, but they’re not truly preventive in nature. If your labwork or scan shows anything but a clear result, it may mean cancer has already returned. At that point you’re faced with a tough climb, because turning an existing cancer around is always more difficult than preventing it from gaining a foothold.
Rather than wait and worry, wouldn’t it be wonderful to know that you were doing all you could between followups to increase your chances of hearing “all clear”? There’s a wonderful opportunity here: you can use the windows of time between oncologist followup visits to implement proactive preventive measures.
Here are the steps to creating your personal cancer prevention plan:
1) Individualize the fundamental practices of nutrition, physical exercise and rest/relaxation from Phase 1: Restore. These practices are broadly preventive in nature and serve as the foundation for your plan. Your holistic health professional will customize and flesh out this foundation to match your preventive needs. For example, while certain nutritional recommendations are beneficial to all survivors, individuals needing to gain muscle mass, lose weight or normalize their blood glucose and insulin levels need different nutritional regimens, tailored to these specific needs.
2) Identify additional personal risk factors: There are many, many factors that contribute to cancer risk. A few, like inherited gene mutations, aren’t changeable. But many risk factors CAN be reduced. Research is also proving that certain factors previously thought unchangeable, like gene behavior that drives cancer, can be reversed with targeted lifestyle practices and nutritional support.1
How are your risks identified? Some, like past toxin or radiation exposure, will be evident on careful examination of your personal history. Some, like chronic stress, inflammation or hormone disruption, will be discovered on review of your current lifestyle and bloodwork. Others will relate to your type of cancer and the type of treatment you received. Work with a holistic health professional trained in interpreting and integrating all of these information sources to create a prioritized list of prevention targets.
3) Tailor a prevention strategy to your risk profile: the tools of holistic medicine are wonderfully suited to boosting immune health and reducing the risk of cancer recurrence or progression. Unlike pharmaceuticals, which match one-to-one with particular symptoms, you will be amazed to discover how natural cancer prevention strategies “multitask” to address a variety of risks.
Your prevention strategy may include recommendations for nutritional or herbal supplements. The need for these tools varies by individual. Not every available supplement or therapy will be helpful for your particular risk profile. Your holistic health practitioner will help you understand which supplements match your risk profile and help you select those likely to deliver the greatest “bang” for your investment.
4) Monitor effectiveness: it’s important to include milestones for assessing the effectiveness of your prevention plan. Ask your holistic health professional how the two of you will monitor how well the plan is working. Questionnaires, rating scales and followup lab tests are just some of the ways to document your progress.
As important as any tracking measurement is how consistently you comply with your practitioner’s recommendations. Prevention requires your active participation. If you are struggling to implement any part of your plan, be sure to let your practitioner know. Ask for help to easily and gracefully integrate your preventive practices into your life.
5) Refine: the results of progress measurement will determine the need for refinement of your prevention plan. Some preventive measures are lifelong practices. Others, such as normalizing blood glucose and insulin levels, may require intensive attention for a period of time, followed by a less intensive maintenance plan. New medical events or life circumstances may also warrant changes to your plan.
As you engage with this phase of your survivorship care plan, you’ll learn a lot about what predisposes you to disease, and how to help your body remain resilient. You’ll become skilled at noticing and reporting how your body responds to specific support measures. You’ll step up to active and knowledgeable partnership with the professionals on your wellness team.
Tell me below:
- How do you feel prior to followup appointments with your oncologist?
- What steps have you taken to discover your personal risk factors?
- What would you love help with, regarding your risk of cancer recurrence or progression?
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Wondering how you can become more cancer-resistant? Click here now to find out.
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1 For example, see the remarkable work of Dean Ornish, MD et al, Effect of comprehensive lifestyle changes on telomerase activity and telomere length in men with biopsy-proven low-risk prostate cancer: 5-year follow-up of a descriptive pilot study, Lancet Oncology, 2013 Oct;14(11):1112-20. PMD 24051140.
Copyright 2014 Shani Fox, ND, LLC