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Making Empowered Choices in Cancer Care

Integrative cancer care is proving to be an effective and healthy approach to treating the disease

Port Moody Health

Ron Gibson is nearly cancer free and he is well enough to go fishing and tend to his garden

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, two in five Canadians will develop cancer in their lifetime.

While traditional treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation are a necessary part of recovery, there are complementary treatment options that go beyond aggressively treating just the cancer.

Naturopathic doctors use scientifically proven methods of treating cancers while taking into consideration the whole person. Dr. Sharon Gurm is a Fellow to the American Board of Naturopathic Oncology and leads a team of specialists at Port Moody Health Integrative Medicine & Cancer Care. She says the best way to increase survival rates is to consider the big picture.

“The conventional approach is very much focused on the disease itself with little to no regard to a person’s overall health,” she says, adding it takes time and attention to detail in order to understand each patient’s unique needs.

“It’s imperative to gather all the information and treat each case individually. We also need to determine what’s important to the patient. Then we can develop a strategy that augments standard therapies aimed at treating the disease, while simultaneously strengthening overall health,” says, Dr. Gurm.

Integrative cancer care—a multidimensional approach to a complex and challenging disease—takes into consideration mental health, social support, diet, exercise and the connection between mind and body.

One aspect of this empowered healing approach is to adjust diet to decrease inflammation. For some patients, this means eliminating red meat or following a plant-based diet. Nutritional compounds such as vitamins, minerals and some botanicals have been widely studied for their anti-inflammatory properties.

In addition to considering diet and mental health, Dr. Gurm uses a targeted cancer treatment called Oncotherm Local Regional Hyperthermia to selectively deliver a controlled energy dose to heat the tumour tissue to a high temperature. By heating up the tumorous tissue, it assists the chemo in killing the cancer cells, without affecting outside tissues.

Jenn Voss is a patient at Port Moody Health who has experienced 78 per cent shrinkage of her pancreatic cancer tumour in just under a year. She has undergone hyperthermic treatments along with high-dose IV vitamin C, reducing sugar intake and following a plant-based diet.

Integrative treatments have given her the results she wasn’t getting with just chemotherapy.

“Dr. Gurm is concerned about the whole person and your mental well-being, and the fact that knowledge is power,” says Voss, adding the narrow focus of mainstream treatments wasn’t addressing her concerns about side effects.

After months of gruelling chemo, combined with the integrative treatments, Voss’ recovery has been so significant, she has returned to hiking the Grouse Grind while she awaits her surgeon’s go ahead to remove the tumour.

Dr. Gurm says expanding the scope of treatment to include the whole person is the gateway to healing. “If we just try to treat the disease with a narrow lens, we are doing a disservice to patients who are suffering with the disease.”

Dr. Gurm adds: “In North America, acquiring the support of their medical oncologist or radiologist is a common challenge for patients seeking integrative cancer care. Some are very supportive, others are quite the opposite due to a knowledge gap. Ultimately, it’s up to the patients to seize the reins and find out for themselves.”

Ron Gibson had multiple cancers and had withered away to 158 pounds by the time he first visited Port Moody Health in 2013. His treatment included heat therapy; during which his body was heated to a literal fever pitch in order to activate his immunity to fight the cancer.

He was also prescribed Mistletoe Lectin therapy, a treatment widely available in Europe, which has been shown to selectively target cancer cells, while leaving healthy cells intact. He also takes Inlyta and IV DCA. He is nearly cancer free and he is well enough to go fishing and tend to his garden.

“You would never guess he had cancer. He looks and feels amazing. It’s an empowering health care experience,” states Dr. Gurm.

Battling cancer in a complex and often unsupportive world can be an overwhelming experience. But conducting research, reaching out to friends and family for support, nourishing the body, getting exercise and talking to specialists in naturopathic medicine can be an empowering start to a new level of understanding and health.