Whole-Person Cancer Care: Alternative Approaches to Treating Cancer

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Whole-Person Cancer Care: Alternative Approaches to Treating Cancer

Are there alternative ways to treat cancer that can be added to standard regimens?

Is it within our power to prevent cancer and other serious illnesses? Should medicine focus on
treating the disease or treating the person? Are there alternative ways to treat cancer that can be added to standard regimens
? Leigh Erin Connealy, MD—who is the founder and medical director of The Center for New Medicine and The Cancer Center for Healing, and a leader in the integrative/functional medicine field—believes in treating people rather than diseases, while determining the origin of illnesses.

Find out about Dr. Connealy’s perspective on cancer and more in her interview with Life Extension’s Michael A. Smith, MD, by clicking here to download this Live Foreverish podcast episode for FREE on iTunes

War on Cancer

A failed war on cancer demands a different strategy

December 2018 marked the 47th year since the war on cancer was declared by President Richard M. Nixon by the signing into law of the National Cancer Act. “The time has come in America when the same kind of concentrated effort that split the atom and took man to the moon should be turned toward conquering this dread disease,” President Nixon stated in his January 1971 State of the Union address. “Let us make a total national commitment to achieve this goal.”

Undoubtedly, progress has been made in understanding cancer, and the odds of surviving many forms of the disease has improved. Yet humanity is a long way from achieving a goal declared long before the birth of many of today’s cancer patients.

Dr. Connealy observed that no form of the disease, as currently treated with chemotherapy
and radiation
, has a 100% survival rate, which makes the addition of alternative therapies for treating cancer a necessity. And while newer treatments are in the pipeline, patients whose disease is at an advanced stage may not have time to participate in a clinical trial.

Whole-Body Health

The Three “E”s of Healing

Eating, energy, and emotion are three important aspects of well-being that are addressed by Dr. Connealy. Understanding the science of food, the body’s energy, and how our emotions affect us is essential to healing.

“We all, as physicians, need to address the whole person,” Dr. Connealy told Dr. Smith. “And what is the whole person? That’s their mind, body, emotions, physical well-being—everything they do, how they live.”

Two Ways to Treat Cancer: Conventionally and Holistically

According to conventional medicine, there are 3 main ways to treat cancer. To briefly describe the three main conventional methods of treating cancer, traditional oncology treats cancer by removing it surgically, targeting the tumor with radiation, or suppressing cancer cell growth with chemotherapy. While these disease-focused therapies comprise one way to treat cancer, Dr. Connealy believes the best way to treat cancer is to add a second approach. New approaches to treating cancer focus on evaluating the whole person.

Patients should have complete bloodwork evaluations when initially seeking treatment. Many factors come into play in the development of a disease. For example, having a high hemoglobin A1c is indicative of chronic elevations in blood sugar, which could predispose an individual to cancer.1 Because cancer survives better in a high glucose environment, it is necessary to change the milieu in which cancer cells live by addressing underlying and often previously undetected conditions like diabetes. High C-reactive protein and low serum vitamin D levels are also associated with cancer risk and should be evaluated.2,3

“Obviously you can’t address whole-body health care in the first visit,” Dr. Connealy added. “It’s going to take several visits to peel the onion of each person.”

Speaking of onions, they are among the best foods to prevent and possibly even help treat cancer, according to Dr. Connealy. In addition to onions and other members of the Allium genus (which also includes garlic and leeks), she recommends green drinks and cruciferous vegetables
such as broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower, which also have chemopreventive properties.4-6

Dr. Smith added that prostate oncologist Stephen Strum, MD, had extended the survival of stage 4 terminal prostate cancer patients by doing nothing but changing their diets.

In her book, The Cancer Revolution, Dr. Connealy emphasizes the connection between toxins and cancer.7 “We are in a sea of toxins,” she remarked. “Food additives, gasoline, plastic, medications, the water, the air we breathe—we are inundated.”

She compared cancer to a world-wide plague caused, in part, by unavoidable toxin exposure.

“One of the single greatest things that anyone can do is to start cleaning up their bodies. You can do simple, little things, starting with your eating.”

The Future of Health Care

From health care to self-care

Health care—its skyrocketing cost and unequal accessibility—is one of the major concerns of our time, but is it being approached the right way? Will endless scrutiny of diseases under the microscope of science find the cure to cancer we are all eagerly awaiting? Or should research focus on the host?

Dr. Connealy believes that self-care is the future of health care. “We can’t afford health care today. We spend twice as much as any country in the world,” Dr. Connealy observed, referring to an approximation of the percentage of the U.S. gross domestic product spent on health care.8

Dr. Connealy observed that there’s not as much guesswork involved in medicine these days compared to the past. “There are roadmaps that you can develop based upon testing.”

For example, measurement of circulating tumor cells can provide an indication of the potential for metastasis.9

When asked by Dr. Smith what it is going to take to get more oncologists to incorporate some of these wholistic approaches into their practice, Dr. Connealy noted that it’s sometimes the patients who are the driving force in accomplishing these changes.

“It’s not that complicated . . . And—the most important thing—it does not harm the patient.”

About Live Foreverish: Join Dr. Mike as he sits down with some of today’s leading medical, health, and wellness experts to discuss a variety of health-related topics. From whole-body health to anti-aging and disease prevention, you’ll get the latest information and helpful advice to help you live your life to the fullest. See the full list of Live Foreverish Podcast episodes
, available on demand.


  1. Goto A et al. Int J Cancer. 2016 Apr 1;138(7):1741-53.
  2. Endo H et al. Circ J. 2018 Dec 12.
  3. McDonnell SL et al. PLoS One. 2016 Apr 6;11(4):e0152441.
  4. Soundararajan P et al. Molecules. 2018 Nov 15;23(11)
  5. Puccinelli MT et al. Int J Mol Sci. 2017 Jul 28;18(8).
  6. Nicastro HL et al. Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2015 Mar;8(3):181-9.
  7. Connealy LE. The Cancer Revolution. 2017 Lifelong Books
  8. Papanicolas I et al. JAMA. 2018 Mar 13;319(10):1024-1039.
  9. Hou J et al. Onco Targets Ther. 2018 Nov 12;11:8053-8061.

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