If you develop prostate cancer, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that most prostate cancers grow very slowly. In fact, if you have prostate cancer, you’re more likely to die of something else before you die of the cancer.
The bad news is that prostate cancer treatments may kill the cancer – but they might kill you as well. Or they could cause other problems. Here are three common problems with prostate cancer treatment – and what you should use instead.
Problem #1: More Aggressive Treatment
When it comes to treating potentially deadly diseases, we tend to assume that more is better. But it’s important to consider the potential side effects of more aggressive treatments. In fact, new research has revealed that for a certain type of cancer, upping your radiation dose won’t actually save your life.
For a study published in JAMA Oncology, researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis evaluated data from approximately 1,500 intermediate-risk prostate cancer patients from 104 radiation therapy oncology groups. They compared 748 men who received standard radiation treatment to 751 men who received radiation treatment with escalating doses. They then evaluated the survival rates of the two groups.
After eight years, 75% of the standard group was still alive, compared to 76% of the escalating-dose group. This difference isn’t statistically significant, especially when you consider that these figures account for deaths from all causes. (In total, 51 of the patients died from prostate cancer.) The prostate cancer deaths in the two groups accounted for 4% and 2% of the participants, respectively, which still isn’t a statistically significant difference.
There were some upsides to the escalating-dose treatment. The men in this group tended to experience slower tumor growth and had lower rates of recurrence and metastasis. Despite the fact that these improvements didn’t translate to better survival rates, they could be considered indicators of better quality of life. However, these benefits may be canceled out by the increased risk of side effects, including urinary irritation and rectal bleeding, which in some men persisted for years after treatment ended.
The researchers caution that it’s best to weigh the pros and cons of aggressive radiation treatments on a case-by-case basis. But I think you should go a step further and weigh whether you actually need radiation treatment at all. A number of natural approaches have been shown to be highly effective against prostate cancer. For example, studies have shown that combining the nutrients rosemary, curcumin (found in turmeric), resveratrol, and ursolic acid (found in apple peels) can fight prostate cancer as well as drugs. You can find rosemary and turmeric in the anti-inflammatory supplement Reduloxin and combine it with Advanced Resveratrol Formula and an apple for a snack.
I’ve written quite a bit about prostate cancer, how to treat it, and how to deal with the side effects, so check the archives for additional information. As with all cancers, your best outcome is going to be when you have two doctors. One to advise you with natural therapies, and one to advise you with conventional therapies.
Cancer isn’t something you should tackle on your own. Having two practitioners to work with can help walk you through the variety of treatment options and how to best integrate them. The bottom line is that there are a lot of options out there for addressing prostate cancer – don’t make an escalating dose of radiation your automatic go-to.
Problem #2: Prostate Cancer Treatment Can Cause Sudden Death
It’s no secret that cancer treatments come with side effects. It’s very hard to kill cancer cells without affecting healthy cells. So it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of various treatment options. And when it comes to treating prostate cancer, researchers have just uncovered a very large con. Here’s what it is – and why you may not need to worry about it.
Prostate cancer cells grow more rapidly in the presence of testosterone. So many doctors choose to treat prostate cancer with androgen deprivation therapy (ADT). In fact, about half of men begin ADT within a year of receiving a prostate cancer diagnosis. ADT uses various drugs to deprive cells of the action of testosterone.
While ADT can be a very effective treatment for prostate cancer, it is not without significant side effects. That’s because your healthy cells, particularly the cells in your bones and muscles, need testosterone. And, so does your heart. Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) were concerned that ADT was increasing the men’s risk of cardiovascular disease and sudden death.
Sure enough, there was a link. And the BWH researchers were able to pinpoint the cause. As you may know, electric pulses actually govern your heartbeat. But ADT can cause electrophysiological changes that throw the heartbeat off.
In particular, testosterone helps shorten the time interval that cardiac cells need to rest before they can contract again. This is called a QTc interval. Taking away the testosterone lengthens the QTc interval. The BWH study of more than 70 men receiving ADT confirmed that their QTc levels lengthened compared to those of men with prostate cancer who were not receiving ADT.
Previous research has linked QTc interval prolongation to arrhythmia and sudden death. This seems to be the link explaining why prostate cancer patients receiving ADT begin to have heart trouble.
If you have prostate cancer, I certainly want you to treat it. But I don’t want you to trade it for heart problems – especially heart problems that can result in sudden death. The good news is that you don’t have to. There are natural ways to treat prostate cancer and to limit the negative effects of ADT, which leads us to problem #3 – and an amazing way to avoid these problems.
Problem #3: Reducing Your Testosterone Production
Since testosterone causes prostate cancer to grow faster, the first treatment doctors use to fight prostate cancer involves reducing the body’s testosterone production. What most doctors won’t tell you is that prostate cancer usually progresses despite testosterone reduction. This points to the fact that other factors are at work.
One of these factors is surprising. It’s the female hormone estradiol. And a new study now shows that estradiol fuels up to one half of all prostate cancers in a way similar to testosterone. This information is vitally important for both the prevention and the treatment of this common cancer.
In the study, researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College used a new technology to examine prostate cancer tissue. They studied the prostate cancer tissue from 455 different cases. They discovered that half of the prostates had special estradiol receptors on the surface of their cells. The receptors made these cancers especially sensitive to estradiol. But there’s more!
They also found that the cases of prostate cancer that had these receptors were the most deadly forms. This helps to explain why prostate cancer is so mild in some cases, while being so aggressive in others. It also sheds some light on how to best prevent and treat this most deadly form of prostate cancer.
What Every Man Needs to Know
Estradiol is the primary sex hormone for women. But men also make it. Their bodies use an enzyme called aromatase to convert testosterone into estradiol. And as men get older, the action of this enzyme gets stronger, causing them to have higher levels of estradiol. And although estradiol is great for women, it is no friend to men.
In fact, an increase in estradiol can cause gynecomastia. With this condition, older men actually start to develop breast tissue. It’s also a common cause of many other problems. These can include the weight gain, decreased sex drive, impotence, depression, and muscle weakness that happens to men as they get older.
Estradiol levels are also increased by obesity and excessive alcohol.
Here’s the point. As estradiol levels get higher, the risk for estrogen-stimulated prostate cancer becomes stronger. This fact leads to three important considerations that every man should know about.
First, when it comes to fighting the threat of prostate cancer, it’s not enough just to check PSA levels. In addition to checking PSA, all men over the age of 50 should also have their estradiol levels and their testosterone levels checked. They should do this at least every two years.
A healthy level of estradiol is less than 1/20th of the testosterone level. The lower, the better. If the ratio is higher than 1/20, there are specific herbs, as well as medications that will diminish the effect of aromatase.
One herbal preparation that has worked for some of my patients is an extract of the passion flower plant called Chrysin. This extract contains the bioflavonoid 5,7 dihydroxyflavone. You can find Chrysin at most health food stores. The usual dose is 500-1,000 mg per day.
Another natural preparation is a proprietary Chinese herbal combination that comes from Chi's Enterprises called Myomin. The dose is from one to two capsules, taken two to three times a day. You can reach Chi's at 714-777-1542.
Another way to reduce elevated estradiol levels is with a medication called anastrozole. It also goes by the trademark name of Arimidex. The tablets come in 1 mg strength. The usual dose to reduce estradiol levels is one half a tablet (½ mg), taken twice a week. Taken at this dose, this medication is almost always without any side effects.
The result is a reduction in estradiol, along with an increase in testosterone. Next, older men should avoid excessive alcohol consumption and weight gain. These are the two most common lifestyle causes of high estradiol to testosterone ratios.
Beating prostate cancer is not only possible, it’s probable if you fight it the right way. But it’s impossible to kill the cancer if the treatment kills you first. So make sure you’re working with an integrative physician who knows how to fight prostate cancer and protect you from any conventional treatments your oncologists wants to use. It could make the battle a lot easier.