Cancer Treatment: Holistic Approach

Cancer Treatment: Holistic Approach

CANCER is one of the most difficult disease to cure or heal. So far, no effective treatment for cancer has been found—especially when it has metastasized or spread to other vital organs. Standard medical treatment such as chemotherapy, surgery and radio-therapy does not always work. They are very expensive and there is no guarantee of a cure. These can only extend the life of a patient for a few months or years. That is why for many, being diagnosed with cancer is like being handed the death sentence.

Why is a cure for cancer so elusive? The problem comes from lack of understanding of what cancer truly is and what causes it. The dominant paradigm is that cancer is purely a physiological ailment that requires medical treatment. It is the invasion and spread of malignant cells in the body. These cells may come from the food and substances that are considered carcinogenic—including smoking. Thus, it is necessary to wage war on these cellS—search and destroy—using whatever means necessary: chemical/laser warfare, surgical strikes, etc. Only doctors (especially oncologists & surgeons), nurses and medical technicians can be relied on in this war against cancer. The patient must have the will to fight cancer. Oftentimes it ends in death which is considered a defeat.

To regard cancer as purely a physiological and medical problem is most likely one of the main reasons why it is difficult to cure cancer. It is based on a dichotomy between the body and the mind.  A more revolutionary approach to cancer treatment promoted by oncologists such as Drs. Carl Simonton and Bernie Siegel is to regard cancer as a psycho-somatic disease that requires a more holistic approach to healing. Instead of looking at a particular part of the body or an organ that is affected by cancer, it is helpful to understand the person as whole—the joyful and sorrowful mystery of his/her life, the frustrations, anger, grief, alienation, shattered dreams, failed relationship, etc. It is important to know his/her story. The body is affected by the state of the mind and the soul. Thus, the question that should be asked is: what has been happening to this person before the onset of cancer. One of the findings in studies conducted among patients is that stress caused by sense of loss, anger, guilt and anxiety, a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness can lower the body’s natural defense or immune system and contribute to the growth of malignant tumors and cells.

The question that also needs to be asked is: what are the benefits of having cancer?

For some, it is experiencing the loving care and concern which is lacking in one’s life.

It could also be a means of escape from an intolerable situation, the inner pain or hurt that one has been carrying. It can be an honorable exit, a subconscious suicide. The mind has a powerful effect on the body—it can contribute to sickness as well as to wellness or healing.

Thus, in dealing with cancer patients, there are three dimensions of healing that we should look at:  physical (body), psychological (mind) and spiritual (soul). All these are connected and they influence each other. That is why healing must be holistic.  A more holistic approach can mobilize the power of the mind and of belief. That is why psycho-therapy, counseling, meditation, visualization, prayer and other eastern modalities can be helpful in this.

The healing of cancer patients can no longer be left just to medical practitioners—the doctors and nurses—and drug companies. Psychologists, priests, spiritual healers and other practitioners of alternative medicine should also be involved. This requires humility on the part of those in the medical profession and openness to collaboration with others in the healing process.

The physical disease may be a symptom for the need for inner healing. Forgiveness and reconciliation form part of the healing process. The healing of the mind and soul may lead to the healing of the body. But even if it does not lead to physical healing, the inner healing itself can already be considered as an achievement. Death, if it comes, will no longer be seen as a defeat.