Cancer Prevention and Recovery

The following article, a collaborative effort, was written for educational purposes and to raise awareness. If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with cancer, read on.

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CANCER DIAGNOSIS – WHAT TO DO NEXT

Contributed by Beth McNeil Editor/Writer in Cancer Studies and Research:

Getting a diagnosis of cancer can be devastating, but it’s important to know what the diagnosis means, as well as what to do next for the best outcome. Consider getting a second opinion to be sure of the diagnosis. Then when you have a realistic idea of the prognosis, it’s time to consider treatment options and what to expect.

Some cancers come with a difficult prognosis, meaning the cancer is complicated to treat and the survival rates are low. Any late stage cancer, or in other words, a cancer that has metastasized falls into this category. Some specific types are also a challenge to treat and cure. Mesothelioma, a lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, falls into this category. It is rarely curable, and the survival rates are low. However, an early cancer diagnosis has the potential of being treatable, as well as the possibility of a hopeful prognosis. Some types of cancers are more likely to be cured with treatment including melanoma, prostate, testicular and thyroid cancers.

CANCER PREVENTION AND RECOVERY  A List of Do’s and Don’ts

Reported by Laura Crotty

While research towards effective treatments continue, we are closer than ever to cracking the code on cancer. The ongoing development of treatments such as Immuno-Oncology, which uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer, are promising.

Although we have no control over advancements towards a cure, research supports the following lifestyle and dietary practices, both within our control, to be associated with prevention and recovery.

TIPS FOR CANCER PREVENTION AND RECOVERY:  

-        MAINTAIN A HEALTHY WEIGHT: Although studies have shown a possible link between certain foods and cancer prevention it is important to keep in mind that one of the best, medically proven things one can do to reduce cancer risk is to maintain a healthy weight. Consult with a healthcare professional on which type of exercise program is best for you.

-        AVOID INFLAMMATION: For those suffering from chronic inflammatory conditions, it is best to seek treatment sooner than later. A study from MIT confirms a longstanding theory why inflammation and cancer are linked. In a report by Anne Trafton for MIT News she states “In these chronic inflammatory conditions immune cells produce highly reactive molecules, which can damage DNA. Inflammation also stimulates cells to divide.  The simultaneous DNA damage and cell division during inflammation can lead to cancer because dividing cells are more vulnerable to mutations caused by DNA damage”. One of the things that people can do with chronic inflammation right now is to avoid exposures that would be problematic; for example certain foods that lead to DNA damage could be avoided (cured meats, deep fried foods) states Bevin Engelward MIT Professor of Biological Engineering and Deputy Director of the MIT Center for Environmental Health Sciences.  

-        KEEP IT COLORFUL: While attending culinary school years ago, I was lucky to have the opportunity to study under Annemarie Colbin the author of The Book of Whole Meals and Food and Healing. Both critically acclaimed works are helpful resources for those interested in health-supportive foods. Annemarie always taught ‘the more color the better’ when selecting foods; utilized in treatment and prevention programs, apply this strategy when planning your meals. Aim for five colors on your plate. Color (natural) in food means a variety of vitamins and minerals are present, which increases the variety of health-supportive nutrients you are nourishing your body with.  

-        KEEP IT NATURAL: For prevention and recovery it’s best to avoid extremes in food, whether in preparation or ingredients. Foods should be as close to their natural state as possible without additives or preservatives. With so many allowable additives in our foods (over 10,000, yikes!), the Enviromental Working Group or EWG’s Dirty Dozen Guide to Foods Additives makes it easier to navigate what to avoid. Optimally choose foods that are organic and free of processing (tip: stick to the outer aisles in the grocery store to avoid temptation). Use cooking methods that are gradual, gentle such as braising, stewing and lightly sauteing. Avoid deep-frying or using a microwave. Use saltless seasonings and fresh herbs and spices whenever possible.

-        INCORPORATE MORE PLANT-BASED FOODS INTO YOUR DIET: The American plate is changing. According to The American Institute for Cancer Research two-thirds of your plate should consist of plant-based foods rounding out the remaining 1/3 with animal protein. Karen Collins, MS, RD states ‘plant foods probably offer protection in a number of ways. They provide thousands of phytochemicals, which are natural plant compounds. Many are antioxidants, which seem to protect and repair our DNA. Some antioxidants appear to affect cancer cells, controlling how they grow or spread. The vitamins and minerals in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans also help produce and repair DNA and control cell growth’.

 

THINGS TO AVOID WHILE IN RECOVERY:

 -        ALCOHOL: When the body metabolizes alcohol, it produces acetaldehyde, a chemical compound that may damage DNA, which can lead to cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, if you drink it is recommended to do so moderately if at all while in recovery. Moderate drinking is defined as one drink/day for women and up to two drinks/day for men. If you drink more on a regular basis the risk for developing cancer can increase incrementally, depending on the amount of alcohol consumed.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a standard alcoholic drink in the United States contains 14.0 grams (0.6 ounces) of pure alcohol. Generally, this amount of pure alcohol is found in

-        12 ounces of beer

-        8-9 ounces of malt liquor

-        5 ounces of wine

-        1.5 ounces, or a "shot," of 80-proof distilled spirits (liquor)

Chart Published By: The National Cancer Institute

-        STRESS: Effective coping strategies to deal with stress can greatly improve your quality of life by supporting a healthy lifestyle as well as relieving symptoms that are related to treatment. The support of friends and family, counseling, relaxation techniques (meditation) and exercise are effective methods to reduce stress.

-        SUGAR: Although sugar is not directly linked to increased risk for developing cancer, it’s empty calories may lead to obesity, which is. “The average American consumes 89 grams of sugar per day, which is two to three times the recommended amount; cutting added sugar is an easy way to slim down and reduce your risk for cancer” says Crystal Langlois, RD, LD Director of Nutrition at The Cancer Treatment Centers of Americas hospital in Atlanta.

-        HOT BEVERAGES: The IARC or the cancer agency of The World Health Organization has identified very hot beverages, drinks that are 149 degrees Fahrenheit, as a probable carcinogen and probably causes cancer. It is important to note that in the U.S. coffee, tea, hot chocolate and other hot beverages are usually drunk at a lower temperature and therefore do not pose a risk.

The following soup is an quick and easy way to incorporate the power of plant-based foods into your diet. My recipe, inspired by Gourmets 1963 Cream of Mushroom Soup, offers a plant-based version, however the use of butter instead of olive oil gives this soup a wonderful full-bodied richness. Mushrooms have long been valued for their healthful benefits. “Some of the most immunosupportive agents come from mushrooms, and this is one of the reasons why they’re beneficial in both preventing and treating cancer” states Dr. Mercola a board certified Osteopathic physican and surgeon. Certain mushrooms are more medicinal than others ‘the compound lentinan in shiitake mushrooms has been found to increase the survival rate of cancer patients’ Mercola states as evidenced in this study. When consuming mushrooms it’s best to use organic to avoid pesticides and/or other chemical additives.

Cream of Mushroom Soup

Inspired by Gourmets 1963 recipe for Cream of Mushroom Soup

Ingredients:

-1 cup of shallots, minced

-3 Tablespoons of butter or olive oil

-4 T all-purpose flour

-4 cups vegetarian or regular chicken broth

-1/2 pound of organic shiitake mushrooms, coarsely chopped

-1/2 pound of white button mushrooms, coarsely chopped

-1/2 Tablespoon vegetable seasoning salt

-1/2 Tablespoon umeboshi vinegar

-black pepper

-parsley sprigs

-hard crusted bread

Directions:

Saute the shallots in butter. Add the flour and stir for 4-5 minutes until fragrantly ‘toasty’. Add the stock, one cup at a time whisking to blend. Bring to a simmer, adding the salt. Add the mushrooms and simmer for 30 minutes. Puree the soup in a blender; taste and adjust the seasonings to your liking (pepper can be added here as well as the seasoned salt). Pour into 4 small sized serving bowls and garnish with a sprig of parsley. Serve with a generous slice of hard crusted bread.

Yield: 4 Servings

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Laura Crotty