Cancer Prevention & Treatment May Be the Same Thing

Cancer Prevention & Treatment May Be the Same Thing
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Breast cancer can take decades to develop, so early detection via mammogram may be too late.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

The breast cancer you may feel one day as a lump in the shower may have started 20 years before. We now suspect that all the epithelial cancers—breast, colon, lung, pancreas, prostate, ovarian—the ones that cause the vast majority of cancer deaths—may have been growing for up to 20 years or more. By the time it’s picked up, it may have already been growing, maturing, scheming, for years— acquiring hundreds of new survival-of-the-fittest mutations to grow even quicker, better undermine our immune system. So-called “early detection,” like by mammogram, is really, really, really late detection.

People are considered “healthy” until they show symptoms; but if we’ve been harboring a malignancy for 20 years, we may feel all right, but we haven’t been. So, many people who do the right thing and improve their diet in hopes of preventing cancer may very well, at that very moment, be treating it, as well. Cancer prevention and treatment may sometimes be the same thing.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

The breast cancer you may feel one day as a lump in the shower may have started 20 years before. We now suspect that all the epithelial cancers—breast, colon, lung, pancreas, prostate, ovarian—the ones that cause the vast majority of cancer deaths—may have been growing for up to 20 years or more. By the time it’s picked up, it may have already been growing, maturing, scheming, for years— acquiring hundreds of new survival-of-the-fittest mutations to grow even quicker, better undermine our immune system. So-called “early detection,” like by mammogram, is really, really, really late detection.

People are considered “healthy” until they show symptoms; but if we’ve been harboring a malignancy for 20 years, we may feel all right, but we haven’t been. So, many people who do the right thing and improve their diet in hopes of preventing cancer may very well, at that very moment, be treating it, as well. Cancer prevention and treatment may sometimes be the same thing.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to the American Roentgen Ray Society

Doctor's Note

For more on the connection between diet and cancer, check out these videos:
From Table to Able: Combating Disabling Diseases with Food
Is It the Diet, the Exercise, or Both?
Which Dietary Factors Affect Breast Cancer Most?
Phytates for Rehabilitating Cancer Cells
Improving on the Mediterranean Diet

And be sure to check out my other videos on cancer and diet

For more context, also see my associated blog posts: Breast Cancer Survival & SoyBreast Cancer & DietMushrooms for Breast Cancer Prevention; and Go Nuts for Breast Cancer Prevention.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

31 responses to “Cancer Prevention & Treatment May Be the Same Thing

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  1. Dr. Greger: I think your tag line is very discouraging and should be rephrased. I am a 38-year survivor of Stage 2 infiltrating duct carcinoma. I found my own breast lump, was sent for a mammogram which was negative, but because of my positive maternal history, I persisted and was sent to see a surgeon. I underwent a modified radical mastectomy and fortunately was node-negative; because of my age at the time (<30), I did not receive radiation or chemo but close followup. I do agree with you that breast cancer can indeed take decades to develop, but in conjunction with family history and external input (like the birth control pill can act as "fertilizer" to certain susceptible tumors) can certainly speed up the tumor process. If your followers feel that early detection via a mammogram may be too late, you could be doing the female population a great disservice.




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    1. Thank you so much for sharing your story, justava. I’m so glad to hear you’re doing well now. But the situation with detection methods is indeed a discouraging one. Mammograms and all other early detection methods are, by definition of course, too late in that they don’t prevent cancer. And in many cases may even be too late to significantly alter the course of the disease. Please see, for example, the latest open access review on the subject, The Benefits and Harms of Screening for Cancer with a Focus on Breast Screening.” As you’ll note even in just the abstract, the regular breast self‐exams do not not appear to reduce breast cancer mortality, the effects of physician breast examination are unknown, and it is not clear that screening for breast cancer with mammography, thermography, ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging does more good than harm on a population level because of the need to balance the cases in which there is benefit with the number of unnecessary biopsies and surgeries. I still encourage women to follow the guidelines of the USPSTF, but in addition want to emphasize prevention so women don’t have to go through what you had to (or worse).




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      1. Are there any similar studies showing the benefits and harms of colonoscopy? My family practitioner wants me to have this test (I’m 52). I eat only a whole vegan diet, don’t smoke or drink alcohol or caffeinated beverages, and I briskly walk 3.3 miles a day and my BMI is 20. Because I believe my risk for colorectal cancer is low, I’d rather avoid a colonoscopy. If there is a study showing the absolute benefit of colonoscopy, I’d like to know about it.




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        1. I recommend one flexible sigmoid between ages 55 – 64 and not the colonoscopy. Over the last 30 years the recommendations have changed from checking for blood by occult testing kits to flexible sigmoid to colonoscopy and differs depending on group making recommendations. The best discussion I have seen is in the August 2010 McDougall Newsletter see link at http://drmcdougall.com/misc/2010nl/aug/colon.htm. These recommendations may need to be altered depending on patients own or family history. The science keeps changing so keep tuned to Nutritionfacts.org for updates.




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    1. Unfortunately thermography alone may have a sensitivity of only about 83% in detecting breast cancer (according to the latest review I could find). A combination of mammography and thermography may bring it as high as 95%, though, so there may indeed be a role for the technology. See my reply to justava above, though, in terms of prioritizing prevention. Thank you so much for your tip, Damian.




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  2. Dogs are now being trained (even in my region) to detect cancer. It seems they are more effective at finding cancer from a breath sample than our technology is. While I agree that prevention of cancer through a vegetable-based diet, exercise, and good stress management skills is the best, I could see a role for submitting a much less invasive breath sample every year (or if cost effective, it could be done frequently). The trick will be training the dogs to indicate cancer at very low levels (i.e. early stage), and I don’t know where the dog trainers and science are on this one. By the way, I liked the video that showed that exposure to cats, dogs or pet rodents at any time of our lives, reduce the risk of the blood cancer called hodgkins lymphoma. That is cool! I knew that exposure to cats reduces asthma (and allergies too, I think), but blood cancer too!




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  3. thanx for the link but I don’t have cancer… I have a fat mass… benign tumour in the retroperitonuim – free floating,… not attached to anything. Not sure why you linked me to this…. NOT CANCER!




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    1. The studies on these genes were done in families with high incidences of cancers… http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/BRCA. So it is hard to generalize to entire populations. it is clear that nutrition plays an important role in whether or not you get breast cancer. You can view the many videos that Dr. Greger has done with the cited studies for general information. The best information for patients on screening mammography is the Cochrane Collaboration Pamphlet on Screening Mammography see Dr. McDougall’s May 2012 Newsletter for the link. At this point I can’t recommend mammography as a general population screen regardless of history. As a diagnostic test for abnormalities found by patients or physicians it can be useful.




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  4. What do you think of Angelina Jolie’s double mastectomy to prevent getting breast cancer? She obviously doesn’t know that breast don’t cause cancer – it’s how we eat.




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  5. Dr. Greger,
    One article posted showed a reduction in cancer growth after consuming lemons and cranberries I have Bronchoalveolar Carcinoma. It is my understanding that cancer likes an acidic environment. Years ago I had occasional kidney or bladder infection. When I thought one was coming on I consumed cranberry juice and it disappeared. I was told the reason was because cranberry was the only fruit which was able to remain acidic in your system and that is what would combat the infection. Is this true? Do cranberries and lemons create an acidic environment and if this is true why does it have an adverse effect on cancer cells? Also, it is my understanding that this study states that lung cancer is adversely affected by the consumption of cranberries and lemons. I can buy unfiltered !00% cranberry juice from Trader Joe’s, but regarding the lemon, should the whole fruit be consumed, skin and all?




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  6. Dr. Greger: To begin, I would like to acknowledge you for your willingness and interest in sharing new research information learned as well as the knowledge you possess for the greater health and well being of others.
    I am a 55 year old women who has been physically fit all my life. Overall my health is good, weight at 110, five feet tall, and am in the process of giving up meat.
    A year ago, while in a yoga class I discover a mass in the back of my hamstring. It was tested and was at grade 3 malignant soft tissue sarcoma.
    I received six months of radiation followed by surgery.
    My six month follow up is at the end of this month. I’m beginning to get very anxious and am hopeful to hear good news that it is completely gone and did not move to my lungs.
    What I have learned is that this is not a genetic type of cancer. It is caused by environmental pollutants.
    I’m being as proactive as possible to understand & learn what it is that I can do to help eliminate cancer from existing in my body. Like you and many other human beings, I want to live a life of balance….(Balance between work, rest, play & leisure), to live healthy!, to have a life of quality which we are all deserving of.
    Could you provide me with the environmental pollutants names, and where they come from that cause soft tissue sarcoma? As well as what research has discovered to prevent soft tissue sarcoma from returning or forming in the body.
    Thank you so much for your being the selfless caring human being that is making a difference in the world, as well as being a positive influence on those individuals that are proactive enough to help themselves.
    Sincerely,
    Jean




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  7. Hello
    I need to ask you something. Avocado Soybean Unsaponifiables (ASU) are commonly used as a treatment for Osteoarthritis. Do you know if this product is safe for estrogen positive breast cancer survivors? (also for those not positive estrogen cancer, please)
    I have osteoarthritis in my hands and usually take Avocado Soybean Unsaponifiables and also glucosamine & condroitin sulfate as a treatment. Besides, I was diagnosed with LCIS in 2011 and I had gone under a conservative surgery. My Lcis was very little (2mm) in 0 level and it resulted negative to E-caderina.
    I need to know if my taking of Soybean Unsaponifiables & Glusamine/coindritin supplements are safe for me, since I know some supplements used for osteoarthritis can diminish the inmune system response (thus opening the door to cancer).
    Thanks a lot
    Andy




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  8. Hello
    I need to ask you something. Avocado Soybean Unsaponifiables (ASU) are commonly used as a treatment for Osteoarthritis. Do you know if this product is safe for estrogen positive breast cancer survivors? (also for those not positive estrogen cancer, please)
    I have osteoarthritis in my hands and usually take Avocado Soybean Unsaponifiables and also glucosamine & condroitin sulfate as a treatment. Besides, I was diagnosed with LCIS in 2011 and I had gone under a conservative surgery. My Lcis was very little (2mm) in 0 level and it resulted negative to E-caderina.

    I need to know if my taking of Soybean Unsaponifiables & Glusamine/coindritin supplements are safe for me, since I know some supplements used for osteoarthritis can diminish the inmune system response (thus opening the door to cancer). The problem is that I have read in several medicine webpages that these medicines are effective for arthrosis by decreasing the immune system response because it is said that immune system attacks the joint cartilage. So my fear is: if the immune system is decreased by these medicines… Does it open the door to a recurrence of my old LCIS or something worse? Please, I need advice and none of my doctors knows answer my question. Thanks




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  9. Hi Dr Greger and team. My wife (33 yrs old), was diagnosed with cancer last August 2015 at 16 weeks pregnant (Ewings Sarcoma). First came spinal surgery then the discovery of the malignancy and sub-optimal treatment until our third son was born at 32 weeks. No metastasis found. The radiation schedule has been completed and chemotherapy will continue until May 2016 at this stage.

    We are wondering if there are any whole food plant based treatment centres or regimes available in the US or gobally? More down the path of Pitkin/Esselstyn/Mcdougall with heart disease. We have watched a lot of the videos, including the Gerson style therapy. From the videos it appears that a whole food plant based diet may be complementary with Chemotherapy.

    Can you make any suggestions? Obviously we will need to do our own research and any suggestions provided will not be taken has medical advice.




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    1. Paul, sorry it has taken some time for someone to respond. We have a new team of moderators and we are working hard to come up with faster ways to answer questions. I completely agree with your statement that a whole food, plant based diet would work complementary with treatment your wife is receiving. I am personally not aware of a specific treatment center that is “plant based” when it comes to cancer treatment, and I would think in your wife’s case, it may be hard to find actual research in terms of diet and its association with Ewings sarcoma given how rare it is. That being said, I would whole-heartedly agree with pursuing a whole food, plant based diet in conjunction with the medical treatment recommend by the oncologists you are working with. Hope this helps and my best to your family.




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  10. My primary health challenge is my prostate gland: I’m 71-years old & my PSA numbers have climbed from 4.4 in September, 2016, to 5.75 in January, 2017, and back down to 5.5 in mid-February. My urologist suggested on more (last?) PSA blood test before we consider a biopsy.

    1) Is there an reliable alternative to the standard biopsy?

    2) I feel like I’m being faced with a Catch-22 of sorts (like all men in my situation are): Many prostate cancers prove to be slow-growing and might not kill me for 20+ years, but I might very well have died in my sleep then. So Making lifestyle changes (diet & exercise, primarily), while taking alternative remedies (discussed on this website) and re-testing my PSA count periodically is very appealing to me. However, a biopsy might reveal that I have a cancer – and possibly an aggressive cancer that might spread throughout my body quickly. And yet the standard biopsy for prostate glands (besides being terribly invasive & uncomfortable) might release cancerous cells into my blood stream and spread the cancer throughout my body – spreading much faster than had it remained constrained within my prostrate … and kill me a lot sooner.

    So, “to biopsy or not”? Thoughts, feelings .. from lay folks &/or physicians .. like Dr. Michael Greger?! :)




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    1. Hi Richard, I’m one of the volunteer medical moderators here at NF. I am by no means a urology specialist but I’d like to offer my thoughts regarding your question. Your urologist may or may not have told you that the PSA number is often not as important as other factors about the PSA like how quickly it rises especially in someone your age. My guess is that the question of biopsy is on the table mainly because of the amount of rise in your PSA over a relatively short period of time. That said, he probably wants to get one more PSA because your last one didn’t go up and rather than subject you to an unnecessary biopsy he wants to see if it is in fact trending back down or not. My guess is that if it seems to be trending down (even slowly) he would be willing to wait and watch regarding the biopsy with the thought that the abrupt rise may have been simply an inflammatory process as opposed to cancer. Obviously if the PSA continues to rise then you will be faced with the difficult decision of if and when to biopsy and that is a decision best made after thorough consideration and conversation between you and your doctor.
      In the meantime, since the biopsy decision is not on the table until after the next PSA I would spend my time doing everything I could nutritionally to prevent and/or treat a potential cancer. All cancers for the most part start out as inflammation so even if your PSA trends down and it is presumed that the rise was transient inflammation that’s still not a good thing to have and would likely be responsive to an aggressive nutritional approach. So any way you look at this, diet and lifestyle is the way to go and I wouldn’t try to cross the biopsy decision bridge until you actually come to it.
      As for your question regarding possible alternatives to biopsy, as I said I’m not an expert but as far as I know biopsy is the gold standard in terms of diagnosis of prostate cancer.
      I wish you the best.
      In case you haven’t seen them Dr G recently did a whole series on treating prostate cancer nutritionally here are the links
      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/treating-prostate-cancer-with-green-tea/
      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/preventing-prostate-cancer-with-green-tea/
      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/pomegranate-vs-placebo-for-prostate-cancer/
      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/flaxseed-vs-prostate-cancer/
      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/prostate-cancer-survival-the-av-ratio/




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      1. PAYoung –

        Thanks for your thoughtful reply. :)

        My concern about the biopsy is three-fold:

        1) The possibility of both false positives and false negatives.
        (Apparently these biopsies are relatively unreliable.)

        2) Whether or not the biopsy might release cancerous cells into my body … with the possibly ironic result of spreading a relatively slow-developing cancer, “safely” contained within my prostrate, that might not have killed me for 20 or 30 years – and I might well have passed away in my sleep before then – but for the biopsy releasing the cancer into my body … which kills me in just a few years.

        3) How much time might I be able to wait for more observation, testing & self-treatment with lifestyle changes (diet, exercise, etc.), herbal remedies & the like.

        I’m especially concerned about #2; do you (or others in this forum) have any insight into that?




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  11. PS After re-reading my post (above), I realized I should have asked for clarification on something – but apparently there’s no way to edit our posts (or is there?).

    3) And would someone knowledgeable about this – which I’m (obviously) not :) – please clarify whether cancerous cells being released from my (cancerous) prostate gland into my bloodstream during a biopsy is possible or likely – or for that matter, something I should even worry about – since apparently there’s no reliable alternative to determining the presence of cancer other than by doing a biopsy.




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