Cancer: Treatments & Home Remedies

by Meenakshi Nagdeve last updated - Medically reviewed by Ravleen Sakaria (MS, RD)

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There are many treatments that one can undergo for cancer, which include surgery, stem cell transplant, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, and more. These treatments usually vary on the basis of the cancer stage. Cancer is a disease characterized by the presence of continuously dividing cells. Initially localized at a point called a tumor, cancerous tumors can grow and travel throughout the blood to form new tumors in other locations.

Certain home remedies exist that aim at prevention, while several others focus on stimulating the activities of the immune system. There are also certain kinds of foods that are beneficial when taken by patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy. These include consumption of broccoli, grapes, ginseng, myrrh, green tea, aloe vera, lycopene, maitake mushroom, soybeans, and wheatgrass.

Treatments for Cancer

There are various treatments for cancer. Let us discuss them all in detail below.

Radiation Therapy

In this therapy, cancer cells are directly targeted through high doses of radiation. It works by shrinking the tumor and killing the cancerous cells. However, according to Dr. Thomas F Pajak, and Dr. James D Fox, Anderson Cancer Center, University of Texas, there are many side-effects of radiation therapy, which include fatigue, hair loss, changes in skin, nausea, vomiting, etc. Radiation therapy is almost always accompanied by other treatments.

Chemotherapy

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, drugs are administered inside the body for this treatment. These drugs may be effective in reducing tumor size and destroying cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be given through oral, intravenous, intrathecal, topical, intra-arterial, or intraperitoneal means. It is usually performed in cycles; after one week of chemotherapy, you get a break of three weeks. Chemotherapy has many side effects, which include loss of hair and appetite, difficulty in eating, nausea, fatigue, taste changes, diarrhea, etc.

Surgery

According to World Journal of Surgical Oncology, surgeries are often used to remove the cancerous tumor from the patient’s body. There are different types of surgeries that are used to rid this disease, which involves anesthesia, scalpels, and other sharp tools to cut through the different body parts and reach the tumor. Other surgeries, where the surgeons are not required to cut, include cryosurgery, lasers, hyperthermia, and photodynamic therapy. They involve the risk of infection and pain.

Immunotherapy

According to the National Cancer Institute, immunotherapy treatment helps the immune system fight cancer cells.  It makes use of living organisms to treat cancer. Monoclonal antibodies, adoptive cell transfer, cytokines, treatment vaccines, and Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) are all different types of immunotherapy treatments. It can cause side-effects like pain, swelling, soreness, redness, itchiness, and rashes.

Pencil eraser erasing cancer text written on a white background

Hormone therapy

This treatment targets at stopping or slowing down the growth of hormones that cause cancer. They can be given orally, through injections or via surgeries. Side effects may include hot flashes, vaginal dryness, fatigue, a lower sexual appetite, etc. Dr. Jacinta Abraham, a consultant clinical oncologist at Velindre NHS Trust, Cardiff, UK, has stated in a report published in The American Journal of Medicine that hormone therapy is an extremely effective and comparatively non-toxic therapy for both breast and prostate cancer while some other cancers showcase minor levels of hormone sensitivity.

Other treatments include the use of precision medicine, targeted therapy, etc. Most of the above treatments are used in combination with two or more treatments for effective results. Cancer can be prevented by certain precautionary measures and a balanced lifestyle. By eating healthy and nutritious food, you can ward off incoming pathogens and activate the immune system to fight against the cancerous cells. An additional dietary regime is to be followed as the patient undergoes chemical or radiation therapy as it tends to show various side effects like hair loss and nausea.

Home Remedies for Cancer

There are a number of effective and natural home remedies for cancer including:

Broccoli

Broccoli, a cruciferous vegetable, has been found to be beneficial in reducing the risk of cancer. Broccoli contains certain phytochemicals that have the ability to fight cancer cells, but the exact compound has yet not been identified. According to the National Cancer Institute, broccoli-like all cruciferous vegetables contain a group of substances known as glucosinolates, which are sulfur-containing chemicals. When these vegetables are cooked or chewed, the glucosinolates are broken down to form biologically active compounds such as indoles, nitriles, thiocyanates, and isothiocyanates.

A report published in the Drug Metabolism Review suggests that indoles and isothiocyanates have been found to inhibit the development of cancer in several organs in rats and mice, including the bladder, breast, colon, liver, lung, and stomach.

Grapes

Grapes contain phytochemicals researched as polyphenols. According to the American Institute of Cancer Research, polyphenols may play a role in “preventing cancer formation, inflammation and working as antioxidants in the body”.

Ginseng

Ginseng is a herb that helps in building resistance and fights off infectious agents that seek to damage the body. A study published in the Evidence-Based Complementary Alternative Medicine Journal by Dr. Zhijun Wang, Dr. Rebecca A Wong et al, (Center for Advancement of Drug Research and Evaluation, College of Pharmacy, Western University of Health Sciences, Pomona, USA), states that ginseng, when used in the combination of anticancer drugs, displays enhanced anti-tumor and chemopreventive effects. However, more research needs to be undertaken to corroborate this.

Myrrh

Myrrh is an extract of a tree gum resin. Animal studies show it may possess anti-cancer activity in animal models but this has not yet been duplicated in humans. According to a study report published in the Tropical Journal of Pharmaceutical Research Journal, myrrh induces apoptosis. Although more research is needed to justify its use in the treatment setting. The study further justified the clinical use of myrrh in the palliative therapy of human cervical carcinoma.

Green Tea

Prepare herbal green tea by boiling some leaves in a glass of water until the volume is reduced by half. Grapes, as well as green tea, both contain polyphenols. This phytochemical in green tea may work as an antioxidant, cause tumor cell death and slow the formation of blood vessels- which supply cancer cells with oxygen and nutrients. A team of Israeli researchers published an article in the Amino Acids Journal, which states that the beverage has a certain antioxidant called polyphenol-(-)epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which during chemosensitivity tests demonstrated that it has the ability to inhibit the proliferation of leukemic cells. Although the evidence appears to be promising, more human studies are needed to confirm this.

Soybeans

A 2013 report published in the Food Research International states that soybeans contain phytoestrogens and several other entities that block cancerous cells from using estrogen. It also contains isoflavones that are needed to reduce the risk of cancer in its early stages. It can be taken either as sprouts or as cooked vegetables and demonstrates a possibility to reduce the risk and progression of breast, prostate, and endometrial cancer.

Low-carb Diet

Home remedies for cancer also include the intake of a low-carb diet. Findings of a recent study conducted by Dr. Susan J. Robertson, Dr. Thergiory Irrazaba, et al, suggest that the intake of a low-carb diet may reduce the risk of colon cancer. Another research published in the Breast Cancer Research and Treatment Journal suggests that a low-calorie diet may slow down the spread of breast cancer and a diet rich in dairy products may slightly extend the lives of people diagnosed with colon cancer.

Wheatgrass

According to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, wheatgrass research does not support cancer reduction or prevention. A small study showed that patients taking wheatgrass and undergoing chemotherapy may have a decreased infection risk and a stronger immune system, but larger studies are needed.

Juices & Soups

According to Oncology Nutrition, it is quite an established fact that juices are rich sources of vitamins and nutrients. Freshly obtained juice from fruits like apples, bananas, mangoes, and cherries can be a healthy part of an individual’s cancer-fighting diet but preference should be given to the consumption of whole fruits & vegetables first. This aids in boosting the immune system of the individual, making them strong enough to fight the incoming pathogens. It is good to have cucumbers, carrots, bananas, corn, spinach, and peas even if you are already suffering from cancer. These can be consumed in soups, which are very nutritious.

Aloe Vera

This herb can be consumed raw, in the form of juice or jelly. According to Cancer Research UK, in cancer care, there are reports of using it as a treatment for sore skin from radiotherapy. However, additional research is required to corroborate these claims.

Lycopene

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, lycopene is found in abundant quantities in tomatoes, guava, papayas, grapes, apricots, and watermelon. These antioxidant compounds are effective in the removal of free radicals that stimulate cell division.

Maitake Mushroom

According to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, maitake or “dancing mushrooms” animal studies showed that maitake may inhibit tumor growth. Research in humans to test this is currently in progress.

Exercise

Research suggests that exercising an hour daily reduces the risk of contracting breast cancer in women of any age or any weight. According to Michigan State University researcher Sheila Hebert’s 2014 report, products like spin bikes are quite useful for getting quick and easy exercise at home.

Protein, Fat & Fiber

According to Dr. Ying Liu, Dr. Graham A. Colditz study published in the Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, intake of vegetable protein, vegetable fat, dietary fiber, and nuts during adolescence may help to reduce the risk of breast cancer. Cancer patients are also advised to have lentils or sprouts as they are rich in protein.

Things to Avoid

A research report published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition lists foods to be avoided to reduce the risk of cancer. It is also advised to avoid the intake of processed and red meat:

Processed and red meat: Cut down on hot dogs, beef, lamb, and pork as they contain a high amount of saturated fat. According to the Cancer Council, eating fewer quantities of red meat would reduce the risk of prostate and colon cancer as well.

Tobacco: According to a report published in the American Association for Cancer Research, smoking causes cancer in the lungs, mouth, throat, larynx, pancreas, bladder, cervix, and kidneys. Avoiding tobacco altogether is the best health decision you’ll ever take. Adopt various strategies with the help of your doctor to discard tobacco from your life completely.

Sugar and high glycemic index food products: A team of Italian researchers published a study in the Scientific Reports, which stated that a high glycemic index (GI) or high glycemic load (GL) diets may increase cancer risk by affecting insulin-like growth factor. These food products contain very high calories, which can result in obesity. Thus, eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly to keep your weight under check. Failing to do so can lead to many health complications, in the long run, one of which can be cancer.

Psychological stress: People feel that they are under mental, physical and emotional pressure from time to time. As per the National Cancer Institute, it is said that those who experience stress frequently over a long period of time, may develop serious health conditions. When people undergo stress they take to bad habits such as over-eating, excessive alcohol intake or smoking, all of which can increase a person’s risk for cancer. Those whose family members had/have cancer are more prone to contracting this disease due to a shared inherited risk factor. Thus, they need to be more careful.

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About the Author

Meenakshi Nagdeve, Co-Founder, Organic Facts is a health and wellness enthusiast and is responsible for managing it. She has completed the Nutrition And Healthy Living Cornell Certificate Program, Cornell University, US. She holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from IIM Bangalore and B. Tech in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science from IIT Bombay. Prior to this, she worked for a few years in IT and Financial services. An ardent follower of naturopathy, she believes in healing with foods. In her free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.

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