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Lung cancer is the second most common type of cancer in both men and women. In addition to primary neoplasms, lungs are often affected with hematogenic or lymphogenic metastases of other tumors. Fortunately, numerous treatment options for primary and secondary lung cancer are available nowadays. Unfortunately, it is really not easy to kill cancer cells safely for healthy tissues and traditional treatment methods are usually accompanied by disturbing side effects.
Additional therapeutic methods for improving quality of life during the treatment and after it are under thorough investigation right now. The whole scope of such options is called integrative medicine. Integrative medicine, also called naturopathic medicine, includes non-traditional treatment options, which were elaborated on the basis of practical experience.
- What is the integrative medicine conception?
- Healthy nutrition and dietary supplements
- Homeopathic remedies
- Beta-glucans administration
- Herbal supplements and medical marijuana
- Relaxing techniques and managing stress
- Innovative treatment methods for lung cancer
- Integrative medicine is exactly for me, where can I receive such treatment?
- Specialized hospitals for the treatment of lung cancer abroad
What is the integrative medicine conception?
Integrative medicine is not something that totally denies traditional medicine and offers sole alternative treatment. Integrative complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) methods work efficiently along with standard chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, etc.
CAM therapies are mainly pointed at the following aims:
- Enhancing action of the conventional treatment methods, restoring patient`s own immune system
- Prevention or alleviation of unpleasant side effects of the conventional treatment methods
- Prevention of tumor dissemination
- Prevention of disease relapses
- Adherence to healthy lifestyle principles (eating habits, physical activity)
- Adherence to anti-stress activities
- Improving patient`s quality of life in general
For most patients CAM methods seem to be more attractive than the traditional medicine ones, as they are mainly natural, don`t have serious side effects and provide additional benefits during the course of traditional treatment. Nevertheless, each treatment method or medical product may have individual risks, and CAM methods are not an exception.
Concrete risks depend on the specifics of treatment method or medical product, patient`s sensitivity and state of health.
Each new treatment method should be considered individually, but there are certain common principles for all CAM methods:
- You should always remember that terms “natural” and “safe” are not even. Each method should be discussed with your treatment physician in advance. Even in case some of your acquaintances has already successfully applied the method, this doesn`t necessarily mean, that you`ll receive the same result. The response is strictly individual, you should not forget about this.
- You should investigate factors that affect safety of the desirable CAM method. If this is a product, like an herbal supplement or homeopathic remedy, you should check availability of high quality product in your country and avoid counterfeit remedies. Also action of some products may interfere with the effect of other drugs, both prescription or over-the-counter. If we are talking about physical practice, like acupuncture, massage or chiropractic care, you should pay attention to the qualification of the correspondent healthcare practitioner. Your complementary healthcare practitioner should be ready to work in one team with your primary healthcare provider (oncologist, radiologist, surgeon).
- You should investigate independent information on the effectiveness of the desirable CAM method. Unfortunately, statements of manufacturers or providers of CAM approaches may be based on the somewhat biased view of the scientific data. It is always better to search for clinical trials` results and look at independent reviews. If the provider or manufacturer offers “guaranteed cure for all patients” or “secret effective ingredient”, it is highly unlikely to find the scientific data and evidence-based approach underlying this method.
CAM methods include principally diverse techniques, so a qualified physician always has several options and possibility to elaborate individual treatment scheme. The most widespread methods with proven effectiveness are described below.
Some patients would like to believe in the effectiveness only of non-official and non-conventional methods of treatment. Nevertheless, focusing only on such treatments leads to unfavourable results:
- Absence of therapeutic effect
- Missing time and late treatment start
- Disease progression with metastasis to distant organs
Healthy nutrition and dietary supplements
Nutrition changes and dietary supplements (like vitamins, minerals, and amino acids) are helpful in few aspects:
- First of all, they allow to maintain a healthy body mass. This is important, as patients with cancer often lose weight, sometimes up to cachexia development, when a tumor consumes huge amount of the essential nutrients.
- Also competent dietary changes decrease fatigue from radiotherapy or chemotherapy, as these treatment methods kill certain amount of healthy cells, as well. They help patients to get necessary energy and go through the treatment successfully.
- Dietary supplements and nutrition changes support natural digestive process, often disturbed due to cancer intoxication and medications` side effects. They alleviate nausea, acid reflux, discomfort in the abdomen, and gas formation.
- Such supplement, as melatonin, is undoubtedly helpful in sleep disturbances. Along with providing healthy sleep and good restoration of the organism during the night, melatonin positively influences function of the immune system responsible for fighting against cancer.
- Such supplements, as vitamin D and calcium, are important for maintaining good state of bones. Calcium exchange and vitamin D level are disturbed by both oncological process and side effects of treatment. Restoring these parameters significantly improves state of skeleton and long-term results of treatment. In addition, vitamin D influences cell growth, improves immune function, and reduces inflammatory responses.
There is no strict and standard diet for all patients with lung cancer. And even more, individual need in nutrients may change during the course of treatment. Dietitians and nutritionists elaborate individual dietary plan for each clinical situation and adjust it to the patient`s current needs.
Nevertheless, there are general recommendations, which will be useful for all patients:
- You should have 5-6 small meals during the day rather than 2-3 large meals. It is better to have at least a small snack once you feel hungry.
- You should eat at the table and avoid lying down immediately after the meal. This will help in fighting against acid reflux and stimulating normal digestion process.
- You should give preference to high-calorie food and drinks and avoid non-nutritious ones. The volume of food you can eat per meal is limited, so it is better to provide organism with maximum amount of necessary nutrients.
- If you have problems with stool, namely constipation, it will be useful to eat high-fiber foods. This group of foods includes berries, avocados, peas, apples, bananas, carrots, etc.
- Your food should always be tasty, so you may use herbs and spices during cooking.
These recommendations may seem easy, but the safety and effectiveness of dietary supplements and foods are under the strict control of government institutions. For example, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) supervises all available dietary supplements and foods, as well as medicines and medical devices. In case the product was approved by the FDA, you can use it without any concern.
Homeopathic remedies include extremely small doses of certain plant extracts and minerals, which help in restoring natural ability of the human body to fight against cancer cells. Another name of the modern homeopathic approach is homotoxicology. This means that homeopathic remedies induce exacerbation of the disease symptoms and thus lead to enhancing body’s natural protective mechanisms.
A number of clinical trials has been conducted in order to investigate effectiveness and safety of homeopathic treatment. For example, results of preclinical Indian in vitro (performed in the laboratory conditions) study showed that homeopathic Sulphur induces apoptosis (destruction and death) in non-small cell lung carcinoma cell line. Sulphur is totally non-toxic substance, which is normally present in many food products – cabbage, broccoli, garlic and onion, fish, meat, eggs, etc. Nevertheless, once carefully transformed into the homeopathic remedy, Sulphur obtains surprising ability to destroy non-small cell lung carcinoma cells on the molecular level.
Although homeopathic remedies are natural and non-toxic, the treatment should be performed only by qualified homeopath. Administration of wrong drug or incorrect dose can minimize curing potential of the remedy or, vice versa, cause to strong and serious exacerbation of the symptoms. It is also important to estimate the most intricate peculiarities of the treatment effect and adjust treatment scheme in a proper way.
Most healthcare professionals, which closely deal with oncological disorders, state that cancer is primarily a disease of the immune system. Indeed, hundreds of oncological cells daily arise in human organism, but strong and healthy immune system successfully eliminates all of them. Impaired immune system fails to kill pathologically changed cells and tumor arises. Thus, enhancing the immune system is the essential part of anti-cancer treatment. When talking about non-chemical remedies, beta-glucan is the most effective immunomodulatory substance.
Beta-glucans have been administered in terms of immunoadjuvant therapy for cancer for decades, but this potent remedy is available only in limited number of countries. Technically beta-glucan is a component of cells walls in fungi, yeast, grain and seaweed. This is a large molecule, which is not totally digested in the gastrointestinal tract. Beta-glucans are captured by the cells of the intestine and are actively transported to the inner intestinal layers, where white blood cells are located. Beta-glucans activate particular white blood cells, namely macrophages and lymphocytes, which are responsible for the cellular and humoral (with the help of antibodies) immunity providing. More beta-glucans are obtained from the blood, more defense mechanisms are activated. Finally, significant amount of activated white blood cells becomes capable of fighting against lung cancer.
Important and highly favorable feature of beta-glucans administration is a natural character of the immune response. Beta-glucans are immunomodulators, not immunostimulators. This means that there is no risk of the immune system overstimulation, which can lead to the development of autoimmune disorders. Safety and clinical potential of beta-glucans have been researched in numerous clinical trials in different countries. This molecule is the most investigated natural immunomodulator all over the world.
Positive clinical effects of beta-glucans are not restricted to anti-cancer immunity stimulation. Beta-glucans simultaneously prevent metastasis, reduce stress, stimulate healing of the wounds, lower levels of blood sugar and cholesterol, and protect against concomitant infections. Sources of beta-glucans are quite widespread; the question is only in technical complexity of manufacturing high quality product.
Herbal supplements and medical marijuana
Using herbal supplements for the lung cancer treatment has transformed into the separate branch of medical science – herbal medicine (or phytomedicine). Herbal medicine uses different parts of plants, decoctions, extracts or complex mixtures of diverse plants. Actually, modern pharmaceutical industry actively uses herbal drugs, as well. The difference is in the way of handling the vegetable material. Herbalists (specialists in herbal medicine) prefer to preserve delicate natural chemical balance of the plant, not extracting separate active ingredients. There are few types of herbal medicine, as this science has been known in different countries for many centuries. The main schools of the herbal medicine are Western and Chinese ones.
The center of Western herbal medicine attention is the whole patient`s personality, not a single disease. Herbalists from this school take into consideration family history of the patient, his diet and lifestyle, personality and habits, and, of course, peculiarities of current and previous health conditions. Only a comprehensive picture will give a key to the effective treatment scheme.
Chinese herbal medicine is a significant part of a complex treatment approach – Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Besides herbal medicine, TCM includes acupuncture, massage, and breathing and movement exercises. Main idea of TCM is restoring the disturbed by lung cancer flow of energy in a patient`s body. Herbalists from this school believe that different plants affect different parts of the body or different energy channels. Actually, there are more than 133 herbal substances that have been used in TCM to fight against lung cancer. Thus, herbalists elaborate treatment scheme on the basis of this extensive knowledge.
Herbal medicine uses different forms of vegetable remedies depending on the desirable effect and point of application.
The most common of them are the following ones:
- Tinctures – alcohol solutions of different plant parts
- Tablets with active substance in a powder form
- Dry and liquid filled capsules
- Raw herbs, that are prepared right before the intake in the form of tea
- Creams or ointments for the external use (as a symptomatic treatment or in case of complications)
Some of herbs are used solely on the basis of long-term empirical experience; action of others has been investigated in case studies and clinical trials.
The most commonly administered herbs (mainly from Chinese and Indian medicine) include:
- Astragalus. Roots of this plant appear to inhibit tumor growth and spreading. One more positive effect is enhancing action of chemotherapy and reducing its immunosuppressive properties.
- Nan Sha Shen (American silvertop root) has antibacterial properties and helps in fighting concomitant infections. This plant reduces inflammation and lowers level of cancer-promoting compounds in blood, as well.
- Gan Cao (licorice root) is administered for the symptomatic treatment, as it relieves cough and shortness of breath.
- Poria (fu ling) is also a herb for symptomatic treatment. Poria acts like natural diuretic and helps patients with edema. In addition, it improves night sleep.
- Oldenlandia diffusa (snake-needle grass) has pronounced anti-cancer action. First of all, it directly kills cancer cells. In addition, it helps own immune system of a patient to find and destroy oncological cells. Few studies have demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects of Oldenlandia diffusa, as well.
- Asparagus root action has been investigated only on mice. Nevertheless, it has shown anti-cancer activity in mice with lung cancer.
- Rasagenthi Lehyam has also demonstrated anti-cancer properties – its compounds suppressed cancer cells multiplication and caused their death (apoptosis).
Despite its nature, medical marijuana stands aside herbal medicine. Compounds of this herb (cannabinoids) enhance work or central nervous and, which is more important, immune system. Several studies have shown that cannabinoids are effective in treatment of nausea and vomiting, frequent side effects of radiation and chemotherapy. Also cannabinoids stimulate appetite in patients with cancer intoxication and cachexia. It should be noted, that despite all medical benefits use of cannabinoids and marijuana is illegal in certain countries.
Taking into consideration complexity of herbal medicine, you should pay special attention to choosing appropriate healthcare professional with proven practical experience. Self-treatment with “harmless” herbs can exacerbate course of lung cancer and lead to other highly undesirable consequences.
Relaxing techniques and managing stress
Stress management, treatment motivation and positive attitude to life are important components of the integrative medical approach. Desire to overcome the disease sometimes is more valuable than the most up-to-date treatment options.
CAM relaxation techniques include:
- Massage – promotes relaxation via easing pain
- Yoga – relieves depression and gives general sense of well-being
- Aromatherapy – mainly affects emotional state, but can relieve pain and nausea, as well
- Acupuncture and chiropractic care – manage pain, including pain after surgery, improve changes in the emotional sphere and alleviate side effects of chemotherapy
- Meditation – helps in finding inner peace and boosts lung function
- Hypnosis and work with a psychologist – ease anxiety and worries, alleviate nausea and pain
- Hydrotherapy – improves general state of health and vitality
You can choose one option based on your personal preferences and abilities, or combine few of them. Working in groups also gives you a possibility to communicate with other lung cancer patients and share your experience.
Innovative treatment methods for lung cancer
The classic treatment protocol for non-small cell lung cancer includes surgical removal of the tumor (if possible), radiation and chemotherapy, or a combination of these methods. Nevertheless, the low efficiency of the classical protocol has led to the development of additional therapeutic interventions and clinical trials of new drug groups.
Embolization and chemoembolization of bronchial arteries. Endovascular treatment techniques allow targeted blocking of blood flow through the blood vessels feeding the tumor. This causes tumor shrinking due to a deficiency of oxygen and nutrients, as well as the accumulation of toxic products of cancer cells metabolism. Chemoembolization involves additional local administration of chemotherapy drugs. At the same time, chemotherapy drugs do not enter the systemic circulation and target only the tumor, without causing the side effects that are typical for the conventional chemotherapy.
Proton therapy. Proton therapy is a type of radiation therapy that eliminates radiation damage to healthy tissues located in the path of the beam. In classical radiation therapy, particles emit radiation evenly as they move from the radiation source to the tumor. Protons release energy directly in the target area, which is predetermined by radiation oncologists. This helps maintain the function of a healthy lung, heart and spinal cord.
Stereotactic radiosurgery (Gamma knife, Cyberknife). Cyberknife is a robotic system for non-invasive radiosurgical treatment of lung tumors. It allows destroying peripheral tumors and lung metastases without opening the chest. The accuracy of delivering a high-energy beam into the tumor is 0.5 mm. The Gamma knife is used less frequently, since it does not give the doctor the opportunity to synchronize the irradiation with the respiratory movements of the chest.
Immunotherapy and targeted drugs. These are the types of systemic therapy that consider the molecular and genetic structure of the tumor. In particular, these are the PD-L1 expression, EGFR mutations, translocation of the EML4-ALK gene, and others. In addition, the effect of biological drugs persists for a long time after the completion of the treatment course.
Complementing the classical treatment protocol with innovative methods leads to an increase in the patients’ life expectancy. At the same time, the quality of life also increases. When diagnosing lung cancer, it is important to find a hospital and a doctor who uses all modern methods in his practice.
Integrative medicine is exactly for me, where can I receive such treatment?
Integrative medicine becomes more popular all over the world, as it offers better results than sole conventional treatment. Conventional treatment is mainly focused on killing cancer cells, and this is totally reasonable, whereas integrative medicine takes into consideration patient`s sense of well-being and quality of life.
Integrative medicine for lung cancer, or integrative oncology, implies such aspects as:
- Close communication and partnership with your treating physician
- Preference to noninvasive treatment techniques
- Preference to evidence-based treatment techniques, with confirmed in clinical trials quality
- Careful consideration of all factors, that influence your health, including state of mood and home environment
- Adjusting treatment approach to changing needs of the patient during course of conventional treatment
Choice of a healthcare institution and treating physician should be informed and conscious, as it significantly influences result of the therapy. Taking into consideration world statistics and patients` reviews, many people give preference to receiving comprehensive medical help abroad. Wide range of available CAM methods and decent qualification of doctors result in better survival rates, lower incidence of cancer relapses and better quality of life during the treatment and after it.
Germany takes one of the leading positions in the list of countries, which provide CAM methods and appreciate advantages of the integrative medicine. German specialists have extensive knowledge of radiation therapy, chemotherapy and other cancer treatments specifics and side effects, so they are qualified enough to apply integrative medicine principles in each clinical situation. For example, Clinic of Advanced Biological Medicine in Frankfurt am Main provides such treatment in the Department of Alternative Medicine.
Specialized hospitals for the treatment of lung cancer abroad
Fortunately, international patients can receive treatment in Germany, as large clinics and hospitals have certain quota for them. The highest success rates in the diagnosis making and treatment of the malignant lung pathologies are demonstrated annually by the following hospitals:
- Helios Hospital Berlin-Buch
- Charite University Hospital Berlin
- University Hospital of Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich
- University Hospital Heidelberg University
- Hospital Frankfurt am Main
The cost of lung cancer treatment in different countries is as follows:
Prices for the
diagnostics and treatment
from 6,900 EUR
from 3,700 EUR
from 7,100 EUR
Fortunately, international patients can receive treatment in Germany, as large clinics and hospitals have certain quota for them. The most appropriate option of arranging treatment abroad without any organizational difficulties is using help of company Booking Health. Booking Health is the medical tourism company, which annually helps thousands of patients with lung cancer in receiving treatment abroad. The company has international quality control ISO certificate in this field of work, which ensures reliability and correspondence to the highest international demands.
Booking Health offers help in such significant aspects, as:
- Recommending the best doctor and clinic for your case, providing help with the choice
- Booking an appointment on the convenient date
- Providing you with transfer, interpreter and medical coordinator, if necessary
- Preparing for you all the medical reports and further recommendations
- Providing help in follow-up examination or rehabilitation, if necessary
- Providing help in further communication with your treating physician
To start planning your treatment you should leave the request on the web-site of Booking Health. Our patient case manager or medical advisor will contact you the same day to discuss all the details. Aim of our work is to help you in improving and maintaining your health.
Choose treatment abroad and you will for sure get the best results!
Author: Dr. Nadezhda Ivanisova