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The Holistic Approach to Cancer - A Guide for Health Professionals

New Approaches to Cancer promotes the idea that the best possibility for cancer patients to produce remission is through holistic medicine and self-help. Both of these probably need some definition as there is much misunderstanding, both amongst professionals and the public, of their true meaning.

Holistic medicine is the treatment of a person at all levels of their being, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual, through whatever methods are deemed best by the patient and their physician through informed consent. It does not mean that only "alternative" approaches should be used, but emphasis is on treatment of the whole person.

Self-help has also become synonymous with Mutual Support and needs to be looked at very differently. The former means very active work by the patient to change those aspects of their life that are unhelpful to their well-being, which may involve diet, psychotherapy and changes in work or relationships, whereas the latter only involved attendance at group meetings with fellow sufferers. This is not meant to imply that the mutual support is unimportant, merely that self-help entails much more, and that patients who want to follow this route should be made aware of the full possibilities. This approach is seen as threatening by some members of the medical profession as it, of necessity, involves choices outside of the medical model. Fortunately, this fear is changing, as scientific evidence increasingly demonstrates the value of the mind and diet on health and treatments such as acupuncture and homeopathy are shown to be effective in controlled trials.

So what do we mean when we talk of treating the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of a person? Let us look at each one of these separately, although it must be emphasised that they cannot be separated and each has an effect on the other.

 

Physical

This includes treatment by surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, but with informed consent and in conjunction with other treatments. In addition, it would include dietary modification, where possible without causing stress, nutritional supplementation or mega-vitamin therapy. It is well established that vegetarians are less cancer prone and recent research at Harvard has shown that protease inhibitors, found in some vegetables, actively regress human tumours in human cultures. Treatment with complementary medicine such as acupuncture, homeopathy, herbalism or any other that the patient wishes to try, or believes in, should also be considered.

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