Lung Cancer Types
Lung cancer is a disease often associated with smoking or other inhalation damage. Currently, there is an increase in certain types of lung cancer happening to non-smokers. This increase is being seen more in women than men, and it is happening to younger women in their 30s and 40s. We are not sure what is triggering this type of lung cancer, but it seems to be linked to certain genetic changes in the ALK gene. This is a more complicated type of lung cancer than what is seen in older men and women with a history of smoking.
Both smokers and non-smokers can experience benefits from using natural therapies with their cancer treatments.
Lung Cancer Risk Factors
More common risk factors for certain types of lung cancer include:
- Radiation exposure
- Lung scars
- Married to a smoker and exposed to secondhand smoke
- Environmental exposures: asbestos, nickel, arsenic, chromium
Lung Cancer Symptoms
Symptoms that people experience with the different types of lung cancer can often go undetected because they can look like a common cold or flu. Some of the symptoms can include:
- New or changing cough
- Weight loss
- Chest wall pain
- Unresolving pneumonia
Lung Cancer Diagnosis
If your doctor suspects lung cancer, usually the first step is to get a chest x-ray. If a tumor is seen on the x-ray, a CT (or CAT) scan is ordered. This will allow your doctor to see the tumor more clearly and have a better idea of its size and location.
Lung Cancer Metastasis
Unlike most cancer types, lung cancer spreads through the bloodstream instead of the lymph system. It commonly spreads to the brain, bone, liver, and adrenal glands. That is why you might have a brain MRI or abdominal CT scan before starting treatment.
Conventional Treatment Options
The treatment of choice for most types of lung cancer is surgery. It is the only conventional treatment that is considered curative at this time. If you are not eligible for surgery, then a combination approach of radiation and chemotherapy is often recommended. The most common chemotherapies used include cisplatin, carboplatin, docetaxel, gemcitabine, and etoposide.
Natural Therapies with Chemotherapy for Lung Cancer
The chemotherapy used to treat lung cancer often causes low magnesium levels. This low magnesium actually happens in 90% of people receiving carboplatin and cisplatin. You might be at a higher risk of low magnesium if you have diabetes or high blood pressure. This is why I give my patients extra magnesium during these treatments. Some symptoms of low magnesium levels can include weakness, confusion, muscle cramps, and rapid or fluttering heart beats.
We also recommend astragalus to our patients receiving chemotherapy. A big review study showed that using astragalus during chemotherapy reduced the risk of death by 33% and increased tumor response by up to 34%.
Another natural therapy to consider with lung cancer is curcumin, also known as turmeric. When combined with platinum-based chemotherapy, it might increase cancer cell death and reduce resistance to the drugs. It could also help sensitize the cancer cells to the chemotherapy and radiation. Along with those benefits, when curcumin is used with cisplatin, it might help reduce the toxic effects to the kidneys. When used with etoposide, curcumin might reverse drug resistance and improve cancer cells’ sensitivity to treatment. Overall, using curcumin could help etoposide work better.
Sometimes soy gets a bad rap when it comes to cancer, but for lung cancer, we like to recommend soy to our patients. Why? Because a small study showed that genistein, an extract from soy, might improve survival. Soy might also increase the effectiveness of radiation and chemotherapy used to treat the different types of lung cancer.
Another supplement that we recommend to patients with lung cancer is melatonin. A small study looked at giving melatonin to people with lung cancer and found that when melatonin was combined with chemotherapy and radiation, they had a better survival rate. Patients also had fewer side effects from chemotherapy.
If you have been reading about natural medicine and cancer, you have probably come across the many benefits of mushrooms. With lung cancer, the mushroom we recommend is coriolus versicolor, also known as turkey tail mushroom. According to research studies, people who took coriolus had improved survival with chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Environmental Oncology and Lung Cancer
One of the risk factors for lung cancer is the inhalation of heavy metals. The best method of prevention is to avoid exposure. If you work somewhere that presents a risk of inhaling metal shavings, dust, or particles, it is recommended that you wear a mask to prevent inhalation of these irritants.
If you already have one of the different types of lung cancer, it might be worth discussing heavy metal elimination with your doctor. Before doing any heavy metal elimination, it’s a good idea to measure the heavy metals in your system by either blood work or a urinary toxic metal challenge. We prefer the urine collection in our office. In order to perform the collection, we will often prescribe a low dose chelating agent to see what is pulled out and eliminated from your body with “provocation.” Different metals require different types of treatment, and chelation for lung cancer is not always recommended. Chelation therapy has a high risk of side effects and should not be done without a doctor’s supervision.
Lung Cancer Prevention
If you are a previous smoker looking for ways to prevent lung cancer, you might talk to your doctor about taking inositol. One study looked at 26 previous or current smokers diagnosed with bronchial dysplasia that took escalating doses of inositol for 3 months. There was shrinking and resolution of the lesions with inositol.
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- Inevitable Truth of Working in Oncology