Career and cancer: do they go together?

December 17, 2009 by  
Filed under CANCER

workCancer and cancer treatments come with severe symptoms that can interfere with a person’s private and professional life. Many years ago, cancer patients had to stop working during the time when they were battling the disease. Thus, a diagnosis of cancer could then mean the end to a career.  This, however, may have some long term effects on the patient’s well being as well as getting back into normal life after treatments.

Nowadays, about 60 to 80% of cancer patients continue to work or return to their jobs after treatment, according to studies compiled by Rutgers University researchers, as reported in this Boston Globe report.

Why would people want to work through cancer?

  • For many people it is a financial necessity.
  • It can improve quality of life. Work keeps the mind busy and off the pain and other symptoms.
  • It helps some people to heal faster.

Why is working through cancer more feasible now than before?

According to CancerCare Executive Director Diane Blum

“Twenty years ago, being treated for cancer was a full-time job. Now symptoms are managed better, treatment is outpatient. People are often able to live their lives with some semblance of normality.”

However, there are other factors involved as well. For one thing, the attitudes in workplace have changed.

The stigma that comes with being ill, at least with cancer, has lessened over the years. Employers and colleagues are showing more understanding and consideration to cancer victims and survivors. With the aid of technology, flexible working hours and home office are now commonly practiced and widely accepted. The US Family and Medical Leave Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act provides people with severe illness protection from unrightful dismissal due to health problems.

This doesn’t mean that the cancer-work combination is easy. It is very difficult and highly challenging. But this challenge might just be the motivation that a patient needs to get back to his or her feet. However, as long it is medically feasible and appropriate supervised, and as long as the patients get support from the people around her or him, it can work.

According to Stacy Chandler, a social worker at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center:

“People who are living with cancer appreciate kind words and gestures from people, but they also appreciate opportunities to feel normal. Patients are trying to achieve a new normal. It’s a really hard thing to achieve.”

Photo credit: stock.xchng

Helping cancer patients retain their fertility

December 8, 2009 by  

laboratory2Cancer treatments sometimes come with a price – infertility and inability to have children. This is especially hard on women.

While men have the option to have their sperms frozen before starting chemo and radiation therapy or undergoing radical surgery, this doesn’t work for women for a number of reasons.

  • Cryopreservation of female eggs did not really produce successful results. Human eggs do not fare well during the freezing and thawing process.
  • Women usually produce only one mature egg at a time, once every menstrual cycle. While more eggs can be artificially induced to mature, as what is done in IVF, this process can be detrimental to the cancer patient’s health. In addition, the patient might not have the luxury to wait for the eggs to mature before treatment is initiated.

A new research funded by the National Institutes for Health (NIH) may just give female cancer patients some hope.  Researchers at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine looked into the possibility of maturing and preserving eggs outside the body. As a first step, the researchers were already able to maintain human follicles, which are little sacs containing immature eggs, in the laboratory for 30 days. Furthermore, they were able to grown these cells to near maturity.

There are still two steps to finish before women can fully benefit from the technique. The second step is to induce the cells to undergo “meiosis”, a process wherein half of the genetic material is shed off in a cell called polar body while the other half is retained within the mature egg, ready for fertilization.

The process of meiosis has been already initiated in the lab by researchers at Stanford using stem cells, producing sperm-like cells. More work needs to be done before this technique can be applied to produce mature eggs but wheels are in motion. The Stanford study was also funded by NIH.

The third and final step is still to figure out how to cryopreserve mature eggs without causing damage. This is currently the focus of many research studies.

Currently, the most common method to help women preserve their child bearing potential is still to fertilize the eggs and cryopreserve the resulting embryos. However, this presents problems for women who do not have partners or whose partners are not willing to provide the sperms for fertilization.

Also in development is a technique which entails freezing part of or a whole ovary which can again later be implanted when the woman is ready for reproduction. However, this doesn’t work for those with ovarian cancer. There is also the danger that undetected cancer cells may be present in the ovarian tissue and that by introducing the said tissue later, new cancer cells are introduced back into the body.

According to Dr. Duane Alexander, M.D., director of NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD):

“The new technique could provide an option for women and girls who have cancer and are not yet ready to start families. An additional benefit is that it will allow researchers to more closely follow the process by which immature eggs grow and mature. In turn, these observations may lead to new advances for treating other forms of infertility.”

Photo credit: stock.xchng

Gerson Therapy

July 8, 2008 by  
Filed under CANCER

Gerson Therapy is an alternative cancer therapy based on the theory and practise of removing toxins from the body, and cleansing the body, particularily the liver, utilizing treatments such as coffee enemas. The use of organic foods and supplements then boosts the metabolism.

Considered a holistic, nutrition based, metobolic therapy it was created by Max Gerson, a German physician.

From the Gerson Institute site: “The Gerson Institute is dedicated to healing and preventing chronic and degenerative diseases based on the vision, philosophy and successful work of Max Gerson, MD. The Gerson Therapy is a powerful, natural treatment that activates the body’s own healing mechanism through consuming organic vegetarian foods and juices, detoxification and natural supplements. ”

Based on Dr. Gerson’s Book, A Cancer Therapy: The Results of Fifty Cases and the Cure of Advanced Cancer By Diet Therapy, the therapy includes:

  • Flooding the body daily with nutrients from about 20 pounds of organically grown fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Consuming 13 glasses of juices along with three meals daily
  • Stimulating the metabolism through potassium, thyroid and other supplements
  • Animal fat, excess protien and sodium are avoided
  • Coffee enemas are utilized to detoxify the liver

American Cancer Society statement regarding Gerson Therapy:

Available scientific evidence does not support claims that Gerson therapy is effective in treating cancer, and the principles behind it are not widely accepted by the medical community. It is not approved for use in the United States. Gerson therapy can be dangerous. Coffee enemas have been associated with serious infections, dehydration, constipation, colitis (inflammation of the colon), electrolyte (salt and mineral) imbalances, and even death.

Per the National Cancer Institute: In 1947 and 1959, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) reviewed the cases of a total of 60 patients treated by Dr. Gerson. The NCI found that the available information did not prove the regimen had benefit.

From the Mayo Clinic, CNN Report: Gerson therapy. No conclusive proof of the Gerson therapy’s effect on cancer is available. Some people on this regimen report feeling more energetic, often due to the large amounts of caffeine absorbed through the colon as part of this therapy.

As with any alternative therapy you should discuss all health care choices with your physician.


Healing the Gerson Way: Defeating Cancer and Other Chronic Diseases by Charlotte Gerson, Beata Bishop, Joanne Shwed, and Robert Stone.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.