Cervical cancer prevention week (21 to 27 January2019)
Public Health England (PHE) are launching a campaign, starting in March 2019 to bring awareness to cervical cancer screening. This week however starts a campaign aimed at prevention of this insidious disease.
The purpose of this article is to highlight the current conventional approach to treatment whilst outlining government guidelines. The intention is to demonstrate how an integrated approach to prevention and treatment could benefit the patient; for this reason, homeopathic, nutritional and naturopathic advice is given adding a different perspective, taking into account mind/body influences. It has been written to help further educate patients in their own self-care. In no way is the information given here meant to take the place of that of your primary physician, it should be seen as a useful adjunct.
The article is divided into sections, government guidelines/screening tests, what is cervical cancer and its possible causes, symptoms, risk factors, leading onto conventional /homeopathic treatment and nutritional and naturopathic support.
Government Guidelines - Cervical Screening Tests
The NHS Cervical Screening Programme has made a significant impact on cervical cancer mortality since it was established in 1988, saving an estimated 5,000 lives a year. However, coverage is at a 20-year low. Figures published by NHS Digital show that, at 31 March 2018, the percentage of eligible women (aged 25 to 64) screened adequately was 71.4%. It is the intention of the campaign to encourage woman to attend screening and undergo smear tests. The campaign will:
- Highlight the risks of cervical cancer
- Highlight the preventative benefits of the often-misunderstood screening test
- Encourage women of all ages to respond to their screening invitation
- Encourage women to consider booking an appointment if they have missed previous invitations
- Aim to tackle issues of fear and embarrassment
(Stubbs, R. November 2018)
What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix — the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. Various strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection, play a role in causing most cervical cancer. When exposed to HPV, a woman's immune system typically prevents the virus from doing harm. In a small group of women, however, the virus survives for years, contributing to the process that causes some cells on the surface of the cervix to become cancer cells. (Mayo Clinic)
Early-stage cervical cancer generally produces no signs or symptoms. Signs and symptoms of more-advanced cervical cancer include:
- Vaginal bleeding after intercourse, between periods or after menopause
- Watery, bloody vaginal discharge that may be heavy and have a foul odour
- Pelvic pain or pain during intercourse
It isn't clear what causes cervical cancer, but it's certain that HPV plays a role. HPV is very common, and most women with the virus never develop cervical cancer. This means other factors, such as your environment or your lifestyle choices, also determine whether you'll develop cervical cancer.
Risk factors for cervical cancer according to the Mayo Clinic include:
- Many sexual partners.The greater your number of sexual partners — and the greater your partner's number of sexual partners — the greater your chance of acquiring HPV.
- Early sexual activity.Having sex at an early age increases your risk of HPV.
- Other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).Having other STIs — such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and HIV/AIDS — increases your risk of HPV.
- A weak immune system.You may be more likely to develop cervical cancer if your immune system is weakened by another health condition and you have HPV.
- Smoking is associated with squamous cell cervical cancer.
In addition, according to Dr Andrew Weil of The Arizona Centre for Integrative Health, suggests the following factors could be implicated:
- Birth control pills: A 2003 scientific review of 28 studies found that compared to women who never took oral contraceptives, those who were on the pill for less than five years had a 10 percent increased risk of cervical cancer; those who took it for five to nine years had a 60 percent increased risk. The same study found that the risk returns to normal 10 years after a woman stops taking oral contraceptives.
- Pregnancies: More than three full term pregnancies are associated with an increased risk. The reason is unknown.
- DES: Daughters of women who took the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES) during pregnancy between the years 1940 and 1971 may be at increased risk of a rare form of cervical cancer. DES is no longer given to pregnant women.
- Have routine Pap tests. Pap tests can detect precancerous conditions of the cervix, so they can be monitored or treated in order to prevent cervical cancer. Long before any symptoms occur, a Pap test may reveal abnormal cell growth in the cervix (this is called cervical dysplasia), which causes no symptoms but is considered a precancerous condition.
- Most medical organizations suggest women begin routine Pap tests at age 21 and repeat them every few years.
- Practice safe sex. Using a condom, having fewer sexual partners and delaying intercourse may reduce your risk of cervical cancer.
- Don't smoke.
- The Government advise getting vaccinatedagainst HPV.(Before doing this, I would strongly suggest that extensive research is done as to any side effects that could affect your child,taking into account your child’s current state of health. I propose that this is the responsible approach.) Vaccination is available for girls and women ages 9 to 26.
Conventional Treatment of cervical cancer
Treatment - Treatment for cervical cancer depends on several factors, such as the stage of the cancer, other health problems you may have and your preferences. Surgery, radiation, chemotherapy or a combination of the three may be used.
Surgery -Early-stage cervical cancer is typically treated with surgery to remove the uterus (hysterectomy). A hysterectomy can cure early-stage cervical cancer and prevent recurrence. But removing the uterus makes it impossible to become pregnant.
Your doctor may recommend:
- Simple hysterectomy.The cervix and uterus are removed along with the cancer. Simple hysterectomy is usually an option only in very early-stage cervical cancer.
- Radical hysterectomy.The cervix, uterus, part of the vagina and lymph nodes in the area are removed with the cancer.
Minimally invasive surgery may be an option for early-stage cervical cancer.
Surgery that preserves the possibility of becoming pregnant also may be an option, if you have very early-stage cervical cancer without lymph node involvement.
The homeopathic and holistic approach and how it can complement the conventional route to treatment.
You are unique, the condition manifests in a way that is peculiar to just YOU. The homeopathic approach is highly individualised. The presenting symptoms of the disease, in this case cervical cancer, will be seen in conjunction with all other factors, mind, body, spirit, and the correct remedy prescribed on this totality of symptoms. On many occasions’ homeopathy is used alongside the conventional approach; this is a route chosen by many patients.
Basic homeopathic facts
In order to fully embrace homeopathy, it is helpful to understand basic homeopathic philosophy. With patients, and those that wish to learn, I repeatedly refer to the mind/body connection and how symptoms should be treated in their totality as opposed to being seen as separate problems. The fundamental tenet of homeopathic medicine is to treat any imbalances in the body leading to ill health as a whole, ideally with one remedy which matches the symptoms of the mind, body and spirit (this remedy is known as the Simillimum.) This is known as ‘classical homeopathy’ where each person is seen as a unique individual; even if they have the same physical condition, the remedy given will invariably be different in each case, as the mind symptoms and aetiology (cause) are most likely unique to the individual who presents with the physical disease. Conventional (allopathic) medicine generally focuses on treating a patient’s physical symptoms, without also taking into consideration the presenting mental and emotional state. This is where both systems of medicine could work beautifully together. Homeopathy does not seek to remove or suppress symptoms. Its goal is to recognise and remove the underlying cause of these symptoms. This is why a homeopath will work toward understanding the whole person, including their body, mind and emotional state before prescribing a remedy. In other words, a homeopath would prescribe on the ‘totality of symptoms’ as opposed to seeing each part of the body as separate to the rest. This approach could hugely benefit a worried cancer patient, and help to balance the body.
Other homeopathic routes in the treatment of cancer
There are specific homeopath protocols for the treatment of cancer as practiced and researched by 2 Indian Doctors, Dr Prasanta Banerji and Dr Pratip Banerji at The Prasanta Banerji Homeopathic Research Foundation, India. Details can be found here: https://cdn.intechopen.com/pdfs/26491/InTech-Homeopathy_treatment_of_cancer_with_the_banerji_protocols.pdf
Dr AU Ramakrishnan
In addition, Dr AU Ramakrishnan, author of “A Homeopathic Approach to Cancer” is one of the most well-known specialists in the treatment of cancer worldwide. Over the last thirty years, he has treated more than 15,000 cancer patients and has developed a highly specific homeopathic method for treating different kinds of tumours including his famous plussing method. You can find his book here: https://homeopathic.com/product/cancer-my-homeopathic-method/
Adjunctive advice - Lifestyle and a holistic approach to prevention and during treatment
The NHS centre for Integrative care in Glasgow frequently cites the work of Dr Andrew Weil, an MD in Arizona who encourages and integrated ‘whole person’ approach to all medical treatment. Details can be found here: Dr Andrew Weil Arizona Centre for Integrative Medicine https://integrativemedicine.arizona.edu/He states: ‘Integrative medicine is healing-oriented medicine that takes account of the whole person (body, mind, and spirit), including all aspects of lifestyle. It emphasises the therapeutic relationship, is informed by evidence, and makes use of all appropriate therapies, both conventional and alternative.’
What therapies does Dr Weil recommend for cervical cancer?
It is Dr Weil’s opinion that the first line of treatment in cervical cancer should be conventional treatments including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. However, he strongly recommends that patients seek treatment from an integrative oncologist, who can combine conventional treatment with complementary therapies, including acupuncture, mind body medicine, and medical marijuana.
Dr Weil recommends the following Dietary Changes:
- Eat a plant-based diet focusing on a wide variety of coloured fruits and vegetables. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage contain a cancer-preventing compound so potent that is being investigated as a chemotherapy agent. Berries are rich in beneficial phytonutrients and antioxidants. Overall, a diet that emphasizes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, cold water fish that provide omega-3 fatty acids (fish eaters have a reduced risk of cancer) is the best nutritional strategy.
- Decrease your intake of animal fats in general and red meat and dairy products in particular to control cancer-promoting inflammation in the body.
- Avoid refined sugar and highly processed carbohydrates, which are not beneficial for individuals living with cancer because of their effect on insulin production and insulin-like growth factors, which promote inflammation and are also associated with cancer cell division.
- Choose organic fruits and vegetables. While expensive, they are the best options for cancer patients, not only because they’re grown without pesticides and other agricultural chemicals but because plants grown outdoors organically need to protect themselves from other plants, predators (insects, birds and animals) and the sun. Organically grown plants do this by producing more intense protective chemicals, known as phytonutrients, which are beneficial to us.
(Weil, A: Cervical Cancer)
A naturopathic approach could also focus on the supplementation of specific vitamins and minerals in addition to overhauling the diet. These could include:
- Folate: Studies have shown a connection between folate deficiency and an increased risk of cervical dysplasia. In two separate double-blind trials and one uncontrolled trial, doses of 5-10 mg per day for one to three months were found to be effective for cervical dysplasia in women taking oral contraceptives. Dosage: 2-10 mg daily for treatment, or 1-3 mg for prevention.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C exerts both anticancer and antiviral effects. It's also involved in collagen synthesis and helps to detoxify potential carcinogens. Dosage: 1,000-5,000 mg daily to bowel tolerance.
- Vitamin B12-Methylcobalamin: Vitamins B12, B6, and folate help to decrease homocysteine levels. When elevated, homocysteine has been associated with an increased risk of cervical cancer. Methylcobalamin is the preferred form of B12 because it is utilized more efficiently in the body.
- Carotenoids: Studies of cervical dysplasia and carotenoids indicate that low concentrations of selected serum carotenoids (alpha carotene, beta carotene, lycopene, zeaxanthin, and beta cryptoxanthin) are associated with an increased risk of cervical dysplasia. Dosage: 75,000 IUs of mixed natural carotenoids twice daily for treatment Flaxseed and/or Pure Fish Oil:
- Essential fatty acids, in the form of flaxseed or uncontaminated fish oil, decrease the formation of PGE2, a type of prostaglandin that acts as a messenger molecule to promote inflammatory pathways in the body. Some prostaglandins can actually inhibit cancer growth and support healthy immune function, while other prostaglandins promote cancer. Omega-3s (found in fish oil and flax oil) support the "healthy" prostaglandin pathways, preventing disease and abnormal cell growth. Dosage: Take up to 2 Tbs. of flax oil daily and/or up to 3,000 mg fish oil daily with a minimum of 1,000 mg of EPA and 600 mg of DHA.
- Vitamin E-Mixed Tocopherols:Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant, and low levels of this vitamin have been associated with an increased risk of all stages of cervical dysplasia. Supplementing with vitamin E to raise serum levels is associated with a decreased risk. Vitamin E also promotes tissue healing. Dosage: 400-800 IU daily.
- Selenium-L-selenomethionine: Selenium is another important antioxidant that protects against many cancers, including cervical cancer. It is an important mineral for activating optimal immune functioning. L-selenomethionine is more bioavailable and more easily absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract.
- Dosage: 200-400 mcg daily.
- Zinc: This is another important immunity-building mineral. It also helps heal tissue.
- Dosage: 30 mg daily.
- Probiotics-Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium spp.: Probiotics are known to have an important role in the maintenance of normal flora in the gastrointestinal tract. They are also essential for the detoxification of excess oestrogens from the body through the bowel along with dietary fibre. Probiotics also support optimal immune function, as 70 percent of our immune cells reside in the gut.
- Dosage: at least 10 billion CFU daily with food.
- Green tea extract: This has been shown to prevent and/or treat HPV-related lesions. Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) inhibits cervical cell proliferation and induces cell death (apoptosis) for cancer cells. It therefore possesses antitumor effects.
- Dosage300 mgs daily.
- Indole-3-Carbinol (I3C):This chemical compound is found in cruciferous vegetables, including cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and kale. I3C has been shown to prevent abnormal cell growth and tumor progression. 13C increases the protective 2-hydroxyestrone without increasing the other harmful oestrogens.
(Schauch, M: 2017)
To conclude, a comprehensive outline has been given as to the possible causes, treatment and the prevention of cervical cancer, on every level, conventional, integrative and holistic. The advice given here is to acknowledge that treatment or prevention does not have to be confined to one modality. Integration of the best of both the conventional and holistic approaches has proven in many conditions to be beneficial and positive outcomes are our only concern.
Should you wish to consult a registered homeopath, please go to: www.findahomeopath.org.
Gill Graham www.consultanthomeopath.com
Cervical Cancer, Mayo Clinic, [on-line] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cervical-cancer/symptoms-causes/syc-20352501
Homeopathic treatment of cancer with Banerji protocols [online] Available at: https://cdn.intechopen.com/pdfs/26491/InTech-Homeopathy_treatment_of_cancer_with_the_banerji_protocols.pdf
Weil, A. Cervical Cancer. [on-line] Available at: https://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/body-mind-spirit/cancer/cervical-cancer/
Schauch, M (2017) Cervical Dysplasia & Cervical Cancer: Natural Therapies for Treatment and Prevention [online] Available at: https://www.betternutrition.com/features-dept/cervical-dysplasia-cervical-cancer-treatment-prevention
Stubbs, R. November 2018, NHS cervical screening Programme. [on-line] Available at: https://phescreening.blog.gov.uk/2018/11/30/phe-to-launch-national-cervical-screening-campaign-in-march-2019/