Coping with Prostate Cancer
Being diagnosed with prostate cancer can be a life-shattering experience, although the prognosis for 5 year survival is very high. There are alternative/supplemental treatments, to the standard treatments, that actually provide a cure so that after remission there is disappearance of the cancer and no recurrence. In this blog I outline some of the information I have encountered in the past few years.
A number of years ago a friend of mine died from prostate cancer. He was a little older than me, a WWII veteran who as a senior officer in the military police had been assigned in the closing weeks of the war as a liason officer with the British forces in the north of Germany. We knew each other through an organization called the Scottish American Military Society. He would tell the fascinating story of the immense power of the bagpipes. In one city in northern Germany, an SS commander would not surrender his forces to the advancing British Army. The British commander, not wanting to attack with his forces, with the resultant casualties amongst his troops, decided to use his ultimate weapon — his pipe band! This pipe band moved forward, and within earshot of the enemy, started to play. Eventually, the Germans started to try to wipe the band out with mortar fire. The band moved and started again. After a few hours of this ‘cat and mouse’ manouvering, the Germans acknowledged defeat and surrendered!. My friend was a great example of the best in the U.S. Army and it was a great honor to salute him at his funeral. But back to the sad circumstances of his death and the problem of prostate cancer.
This was the closest I had come to the disease and I was concerned about my ignorance of it and also of whether I needed to be concerned for myself. <--!I will relate my experiences below.–>
A few years ago I met a particularly vibrant and exciting person through my work. I have since come to consider him a special friend with whom I share a number of common interests. He is a successful businessman with a lovely family and the kind of person who was keeping himself in good shape by continually exercising.
Shortly after I met him I learned that he was a prostate cancer ‘survivor’. Ten or more years ago he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and had been given treatments which included radiation and chemotherapy. The cancer had gone into remission for a few years but then, about the time I met him, it had recurred and he was again on treatments of radiation and chemotherapy, which I learned about sometime after I met him.
I encouraged him to consider moving to a whole foods plant based (WFPB) diet. While he listened and thought it might be helpful, he was not ready to do that at the time — sometime in the future he thought. Over the past couple of years as I heard of his continued treatments I would again raise the suggestion but it did not take. Sadly, in more recent months he come to experience one of the dibilitating side effects of his treatment. He is now suffering from lympho edema which has balooned his body below his rib cage so that he now has trouble walking and sitting. It is agonizing to see this happen to such a fine person.
I believe, and there is evidence to demonstrate, that if he had adopted a WFPB diet his condition would have stabilized and perhaps he would have seen some reversal of the damage before it reached such a debilitating stage. Perhaps I did not provide convincing arguments to win him over? So it occurs to me that I really should take the time to summarize some of the reasons that I think anyone with prostate cancer should at least supplement whatever treatment he is on with a conversion to a WFPB diet. I cannot compete with the professionals who have written on this subject, but I can provide some summaries of their work highlighting the reasons they give.
How Not To Die, chapter 13, by Dr. Michael Greger
Dr. Greger is a highly respected, best selling author and proponent of the WFPB diet. His Nutrition Facts website and free service provides an immense range of information on the details of plants, nutrition and health. Do sign up for his free daily emails which usually provide a 3-4 minute video on some specific aspect of nutrition.
In his best selling “How Not To Die”, his 13 page chapter “How Not To Die From Prostate Cancer” is a fact filled presentation of the research supporting a WFPB approach to treating prostate cancer. (This presentation is well documented with references to peer-reviewed articles published in leading medical journals). I just list some of the highlights:
- for most men prostate cancer does not progress very aggressively. Five year survival rates approach 100% (note in treating cancer there is little talk of cures, just five year survival rates!) There is time for someone diagnosed with prostate cancer to research the literature, inform themselves and make rational decisions for themselves, based on their personal conditions, prior to opting for medical intervention.
- milk and milk products (butter, cheese, etc.) as well as eggs and poultry are proven in vitrio (in petri dish experiments) to enhance the growth of cancers, including prostate cancers. In human studies with control groups and with prostate cancer patients, such foods promote the growth of prostate cancers. In epidimological studies of human populations a decrease in consumption of these foods correlates with lower incidence of prostate cancer
- exercise is important in fighting cancer, but the impact of significant exercise (such as 1 hour per day, 5 days a week of intense exercise) is not as significant as a WFPB diet in controlling prostate cancer
- There is a long discussion of the value of lignans in the diet to stop the progression of prostate cancer or even in some cases to reverse it. Flax seed is a particular, readily available lignan and consumption of 3 tablespoons per day has been shown to give the desired effect in many people. Note that the flaxseed needs to be milled and to preserve its potency it is a good idea to keep it in the freezer after opening your package.
Here is a video of this information as presented by Dr. Greger. (about 6 minutes)
The Plant Based Solution, Chapter 7, by Dr. Joel Kahn
Dr. Kahn, founder of the Kahn Center for Cardiac Longevity is a best selling author of many books related to cardiac health and nutrition. He has been a vegan for over 40 years having started in his teens.Most recently he produced “The Plant Based Solution” which clarifies why you should be on a WFPB diet.
In chapter 7 of his book, Dr. Kahn highlights the importance of a WFPB diet in preventing, arresting and/or reversing cancer. He devotes much of the chapter to covering the effectiveness of the diet in dealing with prostate cancer. He particularly singles out and advises how to use broccoli as a main nutritional pillar in dealing with prostate cancer. This is an easy suggestion to adopt and follow: do read and heed!
You might also want to read this list of five items that Dr. Kahn suggests for dealing with your prostate cancer.
Prostate Cancer by the numbers
I’m a mathematician and so I always like to analyze situations from a numerical point of view. Here are some numbers as they apply to prostate cancer (these statistics are for the United States — similar numbers apply to other nations in the developed world.)
- population: The population of the United States is about 325,000,000
- prostate cases diagnosed per year: about 165,000
- prostate deaths per year: about 30,000; almost as many as are killed in car accidents
- 5 year survival rate: about 98.2%
Most of these numbers come from the National Cancer Institute website.
Prostate cancer will affect about 11.2% of American males during their lifetime. Most of those affected will be over 50 years of age so this is a significant concern for older males, which is why rectal exams and PSA tests are often ordered for them. Not only do you want to ensure you are monitoring these factors but you also want to be taking proactive steps such as those recommended by Dr. Greger and Kahn to protect yourself.
Diagnosing Prostate Cancer
Certain symptoms might be indicative of prostate cancer, including:
- a frequent need to urinate
- waking up frequently in the night to urinate
- pain or difficulty in urinating
Additionally many physicians will recommend one or both of two tests that are commonly used to look for prostate cancer – a digital rectal exam and the blood test used to detect prostate-specific antigen (PSA). But a firm diagnosis of prostate cancer can only be confirmed by a biopsy.
It should be noted that a digital rectal exam only allows the physician to feel about a third of the prostate gland, so that abnormalities in other parts of the prostate might not be observed.
The PSA test is done on a blood sample but is not usually included in a general blood analysis and usually needs to be ordered as an additional item. Again, some physicians will order this routinely for older men. Generally a PSA measurement of less than 4.0 ng/mL is considered normal. Again, as with the rectal exam, your actual value may or may not indicate a cancerous condition. This article from the National Cancer Institute provides more details on the issues involved.
The Treatments for Prostate Cancer
There are a number of possible treatments for prostate cancer.
The first four treatment options, the last three of which are sometimes combined, are the typical ones that will be prescribed by medical doctors (urologists) in the developed world (which, incidentally, is where most cases occur)
‘Standard’ Treatments for Prostate Cancer Treatments
- wait and see: Once a firm diagnosis of prostate cancer is received a major question is how advanced is it and how quickly is it progressing. A standard approach is to wait a period of time, perhaps 6 months and then repeat the diagnostic tests to determine what is happening. Colin Campbell, best selling author of “The China Study” and “Whole” (see especially pp 34 – 36, the Cancer Minefield and pp. 197 – 202) gives a couple of fascinating reports on his experience with oncologists, waiting, and the effectiveness of a WFPB diet in dealing with cancer.
- surgery: there are many different surgical procedures that are used in the treatment of prostate cancer. These range from complete removal of the prostate to ‘roto-rooter’ surgeries that attempt to restore a normal flow of urine from the bladder. The former procedures are discussed in the Mayo clinic article referenced below. The latter surgeries are discussed in Dr. Greger’s book mentioned above. Generally surgery can only be effective if the cancer is localized — that is it has not metasized and spread through your body. Because of this surgery is often paired with chemo-therapy, as further discussed below.
- radiation: Radiation therapy involves trying to kill the cancerous cells. Its effectiveness depends on the ability of the radiation specialist to actually determine where the cancerous cells are. While radiation can effectively kill cancer cells, the treatment may also kill other cells with side effects not expected. And because of this lack of certainty, chemo-therapy is also added to a radiation treatment approach.
- chemo-therapy: Chemo-therapy is a generally very effective way of killing cancer cells. Unfortunately, most chemo-therapy also kills a lot of cells which are not cancerous — which is why you see all those photographs of cancer patients without hair. As mentioned above chemo-therapy is often recommended in addition to surgery or radiation treatment
These various treatments are discussed in some detail by the Mayo Clinic
Alternate Treatments for Prostate Cancer Treatments
- nothing: if you are sufficiently old, you are not experiencing problems, and the cancer is not aggressive, perhaps the best solution is to just let it be; combined with some of the steps below you might well even arrest or reverse the damage so far created
- fasting: fasting — relatively long fasts of a few weeks — have long been used to cure ailments, especially in other cultures. In the United States the True North Clinic in northern California offers support of fasting as a cure. This is described, in part, in chapter 15 of “The Pleasure Trap” by Douglas J. Lisle and John McDougall. An investment of a few weeks to try this cure might well be a very effective solution to your cancer.
- a few fasting mimicking diet sessions. A fasting mimicking diet is a 5 day process where you greatly reduce your caloric intake. The leading firm in this field is Prolon headed by Valter Longo Ph.D. who has published many papers on the disease treating and longevity benefits of such a diet. Prolon sells a package for the five day fast. You can find many youtube articles featuring Dr. Longo on the internet, such as this. I have done my own FMD and you can read my comments here.
- flax seed and broccoli diet: If you do nothing else, heed the advice of Drs. Greger and Kahn and adopt a diet which include 3 tablespoons of milled flaxseed and 1/2 a head of raw broccoli every day. This is very low cost chemotherapy, in dollars, time and risk. If you do this along with other actions and the other actions demand recognition, give it and keep up the regemin!
- WFPB diet: This is what you really need to do — according to Drs. Greger, Kahn and a host of other researchers in the field of health. *I have been on this diet since February 2012
- Eastern medicine, herbs, etc.: I have not researched this field as it relates to prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is not a very common problem in southeast Asia where these medical practices have evolved over thousands of years. I do use their knowledge in dealing with some other issues. You might well want to research this area.
The Side Effects of Prostate Cancer Treatments
A full discussion of the possible side effects of the standard methods of treating prostate cancer is a very significant undertaking and beyond what I can provide in this article. I can provide some links to other articles on the internet that deal with this very important subject:
- Anyone contemplating the standard treatments for prostate cancer, namely some combination of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, really needs to read carefully the comments on this topic by the Prostate Cancer Foundation. They treat the side effects by type of treatment
- Many men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer are over the age of 60. Many will opt for surgical removal of the prostate feeling this is the least dangerous procedure for them. This article, from Renal and Urology News, provides information on how the risks of surgery increase with age.
- Death is an unexpected side effect of medical treatment. This article from Johns Hopkins identifies medical errors as the third most common cause of death in the U.S. — something to think about. (Prostate Cancer is the 12th most common cause.
Measured against these complications it is important to recognize that there are no known side effects to adopting a Whole Foods Plant Based diet to combat your cancer, either as your sole approach or as a supplement to whatever other treatment you decide to follow.
Case Histories and Other Resources
There are large numbers of videos on prostate cancer, its treatment and the experience of those who have had prostate cancer and have been cured. Here are a few:
- Peter Starr is a well known documentary film maker who also was a stunt driver of motorcycles prior to a serious accident. You can search for some of the videos available on line that feature him and his treatments. Here is an interview with Peter Starr where he talks about his experience in surviving prostate cancer.
- The Truth About Cancer website. Go to the videos section and scroll through the pages to see videos of people who survived cancer, without the standard treatments.
Your Oncology Team
When diagnosed with cancer you are usually quickly passed on to a team of oncology specialists. So quickly, in fact, that you may not pause to wonder what their qualifications motivations are. Of course they want to keep you alive. That is the natural human reaction and they have been taught that is what they are to do. Keeping you alive is very important, too, for their employment and the financial success of the organization they work for. If you die the revenue stream also dies. So they may well want to keep you alive even though you have suffered enough. But it is also true that the revenue stream also dies if they cure you of your cancer. Think about those issues when you talk with your oncologists. Your oncology treatment is a very expensive venture — even if you do not pay the bill directly. What are the steps you take when you make a large purchase that comes directly out of your bank account?
Here are some other things to keep in mind as you work with the oncology team:
- It is likely that the members of your oncology team have little or no training in nutrition — medical doctors usually have no more than one semester course in nutrition during their training. They consequently will not usually contemplate treating your cancer with a nutrition approach. See if it is possible to have an oncologist who is vegan — such a doctor will have a much better understanding of nutritional options and supplementary treatments
- Determine the qualifications and experience of your oncologists. What is their success rate? Have any of their patients ever been cured without remission? Have they been sued or disciplined in anyway for malpractice? Can they provide you with a list of references of people who have had long term survival without serious adverse side effects?
- For any recommended treatments get a clear and detailed statement on the possible adverse outcomes and the likelihood of such results. Remember that those who give you surgery or radiation or chemotherapy will likely recover well from the treatment — likely within minutes. You are the person who will endure the long term effects as you hopefully recover.
- The standard treatments for prostate cancer include one or more of surgery, radiation or chemo-therapy. These treatments generate significant revenues for the medical institutions the oncologists work for.
Oisin Oncology a subsidiary of Oisin Biotechnoglogies is developing a treatment that has demonstrated great effectiveness in reducing and perhaps removing prostate cancers in mice. The research arm is located at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. There they have raised mice with large human prostate cancers growing on their backs. The treatment is demonstrated to reduce a large percentage of the tumor in just days through selective targeting of the cancerous cells and causing the cells to self-destruct. It is hoped that human trials will move forward in 2019. This research uses ground breaking science that may open the door to successful quick treatment of prostate and other cancers.
Conclusions and Recommendations
From my review of the sources listed above as well as other readings over the past few years, my conclusions of the actions to take if you are diagnosed with prostate cancer are as follows:
- It is likely the cancer is not growing rapidly. You should take time to carefully study prostate cancer and the recommendations of your oncology team, but also to consider the other non-invasive approaches to treating the disease
- If you can, and if you are not already on it, immediately adopt a whole foods plant based (WFPB) diet. See the “Getting Started” section of our website. There are no known adverse side effects to doing this.
- Seriously consider a prolonged fast or some periodic Fasting Mimicking Diets (FMDs) to bolster your immune system and help keep the cancer in check
A Personal Note
I have never been diagnosed with prostate cancer, nor even dealt with the concern that it might be in my future. This blog has been prepared only because of the number of really special people I have come to know in the past few years who have been so diagnosed. None of them have adopted a WFPB diet. All of them have taken conventional, intrusive treatments for their diagnosis. All of them are still suffering from their prostate cancer or . . . sadly, some of them have died.
I have been monitoring for prostate cancer for the past 35 years. It was when I was about 40 that I had my first rectal exam. Since that time my annual checkups (which really only occur every 2 – 3 years) have usually included a rectal exam and in some cases a PSA test. It was a bit of a surprise to me to learn sometime in the last 6 months or so that the rectal exam only checked about 30% of the prostate!
Here are some of my PSA scores, which have fortunately always been fairly low (below the 4.0 level at which it becomes a concern.) While I have had blood analyses done many times over the past 20 years. a PSA reading was not always taken. From my records here are some of the results I have.
1/10/2007: PSA 1.80
10/13/2009 PSA 2.05
11/17/2009 PSA 1.10
on 02/01/2012 I adopted the Esselstyn diet and have since been completely on that and a WFPB diet.
04/18/2012 PDA 1.6
10/25/2013 PSA 1.98
12/11/2017 PSA 0.8