Although UK government statistics suggest that cancer survival is at the highest rate ever, a cancer diagnosis remains a distressing and frightening experience. As a herbalist, I am sometimes asked about herbal medicine for cancer and whether there is any evidence for using herbs to improve survival times. In fact, there is some evidence that certain herbal medicines may help various aspects of cancer care, especially when used alongside conventional cancer treatment. See this review article on herbal medicine for cancer.
Based on research such as this I feel I am able to provide the latest evidence-based information on functional herbal therapy for cancer. In particular for those people who want to reduce their risk of cancer and ensure they have the best chance of living a long and healthy life.
I want to stress that the research discussed on this website relating to herbal medicine or nutritional therapy and cancer is not a substitute for medical advice or for the standard of care treatment offered by conventional medicine. However, having said that, I believe that there is published research available to us that does suggest a benefit from some forms of complementary therapies for some aspects of cancer management and for cancer prevention.
For example, according to the World Health Organisation between 30 and 50% of cancers are preventable. The WHO also suggests that modifying key risk factors can help to reduce your risk of developing cancer.
So, I feel that I am able to provide recommendations based on current guidelines from the World Cancer Research Fund that aim to prevent cancer. One of these recommendations is the suggestion that it is better to meet nutritional needs through diet alone, than through supplementation for cancer prevention. Ensuring an adequate intake of phytonutrients supplied by a nutrient-dense diet may be one way I might suggest to achieve this.
I also provide information to people that need support during conventional cancer treatment, with an emphasis on the best evidence-based diet for the cancer patient. It is extremely important to understand that most herbal medicines should be avoided during conventional cancer treatment. However, there is some research that suggests a few key exceptions exist that may help to support and improve the conventional cancer treatment outcome.
Even aggressive conventional cancer treatments do not always completely eradicate malignant tumours. On the other hand, natural approaches alone are generally not very efficient at killing cancer cells or controlling the growth of tumours. Sometimes a combination of these approaches may offer the best outcome, especially in relation to improving quality of life.
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