The critical part of diet is to eat a well-balanced diet to help maintain your strength so that your own body is capable of aiding the medical treatments in doing their job. Your immune system, to a degree, is dependent on proper nourishment. Every professional I have talked with speaks in terms of calories, vitamins and minerals, always in moderation and well balanced but sufficient to support your body even though you may not feel like it.
Often, patients lose their appetite due to the treatments or to the disease itself. In this case, it is important, even critical, to force yourself to eat a sufficient and well-balanced diet to give your system proper nourishment. This is no time to even think about dieting. Try your best to maintain your weight.
Of course, all of this must be tailored to the patient's needs by their personal physician. For patients who are losing excessive weight, a high fat diet may be recommended. For those whose treatments make it difficult or impossible to eat, health professionals will encourage any intake of food which provides calories, even if that means a diet of ice cream sodas.
The second word of caution is to look carefully at any purported cure that is based on a specific diet. Where, other than psychologically, is the potential benefit? I have looked in depth into such fad cures as macrobiotics, megadoses of certain vitamins, coffee enemas and even Laetrile. They are appealing to an individual who has been denied hope by a physician or a person who does not want to work within the medical system and is looking for the easy way. Believe me, if it were there, it would be well documented. There would be many more successes than those who were cured by spontaneous remission or psychotherapy. Don't get me wrong. Spontaneous remission and psychotherapy are wonderful, but they can be more often successful, in my opinion, when applied with orthodox medical treatments than alternative therapies.
Researchers believe that the mechanisms at work in response to hopefulness are identical to those involved with placebos. If you believe that a treatment for an ailment will be helpful, you are much more likely to benefit from it. The placebo effect has often been used to explain why treatments like Laetrile seem to cure some cancer patients even though credible scientific studies have never found therapeutic value in such treatments.
The Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council in a 1980 publication entitled "Toward Healthful Diets" stated, "Sound nutrition is not a panacea. Good food that provides appropriate proportions of nutrients should not be regarded as a poison, a medicine, or a talisman. It should be eaten and enjoyed." What upset many was the board's conclusion that there was no specific dietary advice appropriate for all. The board recommended balance in food selection tempered with moderation in consumption.
Many people today have unrealistic notions about what nutrition can accomplish. Certain enthusiasts even claim nutrition can cure cancer.
Nutrition does play an important role in the prevention and treatment of cancer, but it is not a cure-all. This view is supported by Dr. Richard Rivlin, chief of nutrition services at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. "It is a tragedy when nutrition is viewed as the sole means of prevention and treatment of cancer, particularly when established methods of attacking the disease by surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy are abandoned for the illusory benefits of a 'holistic approach' using nutrition exclusively," said Dr. Rivlin.
He added, "Nutrition is an important adjunct to any treatment plan, one that has often not been utilized enough, but nutrition should not be expected to do the job entirely on its own."
Nutrition is essential while a patient receives drug and radiation therapy. One technique, called hyper-alimentation, involves intravenous feeding with a concentrated solution of nutrients that enable the patient to maintain weight without eating. This keeps a patient strong enough to fight the disease.
Careful scientific studies have shown that "organic" diets, coffee enemas, megadoses of certain vitamins, and the use of Laetrile or pangamic acid are of no value in the treatment of cancer. As a matter of fact, megadoses of certain vitamins such as A, D, E and K can be damaging. Laetrile, in particular, is harmful because its cyanide content can be quite toxic.
While vitamin C has been demonstrated in controlled tests to have no benefit in fighting cancer, many people ask about it. Possibly, this is because Linus Pauling, who won a Nobel Prize in a completely unrelated field, recommends it highly. My advice to you is to talk to your physician. Under certain circumstances, it could counteract the beneficial effects of a particular cancer drug. If your doctor says it will not hurt you, take it if you personally believe in its merits.
On a visit to Fox Chase Cancer Center, I was discussing with Dr. Sears, an oncologic surgeon interested in immunology, successes he was having with an experimental protocol using monoclonal antibodies. He stated that one patient came for a check-up with extremely yellow skin. Dr. Sears asked the patient how he was feeling and he replied that he felt perfect. He volunteered that if the doctor was worrying about the color of his skin, it was because he was taking 50,000 units of carotene a day!
Dr. Sears told me that there were three patients on this protocol who were doing outstandingly well. He had realized that each of these three were taking megadoses of something, each different, because they believed in it, and he had assured them it would not conflict with their treatment. I have thought about these comments and come to certain conclusions. First, since each of the substances were different, it was obviously not the substance that benefitted the patient. Three out of three is such a small number that it could have been strictly chance that each who did so well took a megadose of something.
I prefer to believe that the result is a combination of two more likely scenarios. First, is that of a placebo. The patient, believing the megadose would help, actually aided the monoclonal antibodies or their own immune system in destroying the cancer. Even more important, I believe, is the fact that this demonstrates that these people are fighters. They are not willing to sit back and do nothing. They were not even willing to sit back and let their doctor try to treat them with a great new treatment. They were going to do everything in their power to fight this disease. Maybe, and I think this is most likely, this demonstration of dedication and determination gave them the infinitesimal advantage to tip the scales in their favor and make the combination of everything actually accomplish the purpose for which it was intended.
Nutrition is an important consideration to every cancer patient; however, it provides the best results only when approached with realistic expectations. Eat a well-balanced diet sufficient to maintain your strength and follow your qualified physician's advice.