Your oncology pathway serves as a vital journey ensuring delivery of quality care during and after cancer treatment. Nevertheless, no matter how well managed this process, it is often fraught with challenges, it can be complex, confusing, worrisome and for many people the journey could seem never ending.
The process will always begin with the initial testing phase, leading to your diagnosis, together with a prognosis of possible outcomes and the development of a specific treatment plan designed to maximise your oncology treatments. It is this initial stage your identity can transition from who you were, into, ‘a person with cancer’
The next phase is the process of treatment, and the experience of living your life with the physical and emotional consequences.
Then as treatment goals are achieved, a stage of remission, ongoing monitoring, and the transition to ‘cancer survivor’.
Nutritional support is not standard practice within an oncology team, yet inadequate nutrition is prevalent among many patients with cancer and can have a significant detrimental impact on prognosis. Therefore, turning to an extensively trained and independent researcher could be one of your best decisions.
Working with Caroline, in a process known as integrative oncology strictly adheres to complementing and maximising your oncology therapy through the precise diet and lifestyle.
I have been diagnosed and I am about to or have begun treatment
I have been through treatment, and I would like to accelerate my healing and reduce the risk of recurrence
Cancer is prevalent in my family, I would take preventative action, to reduce the risk of cancer development
STEP 1: We begin with removal or reduction of potential drivers of cancer growth, known as carcinogens, these include junk, processed foods, anti-nutrients, environmental and/or chemical exposures, and consider sources of emotional distress. Then replace these negatives with positives such as cancer fighting foods and including enjoyable physical activities, together with optimising sleep and relaxation.
Next the health of your immune system must be evaluated. A cancer develops despite surveillance of your immune system, so the question must be asked, what caused your immune system to become distracted? The factors will be numerous, but potential drivers include inflammation, most often caused by a diet that induced sugar toxicity, creating a large number of sugar damaged proteins (called glycosylated), or deficiency of immune system essential nutrients, such as essential fatty acids, vitamins specifically vitamin D or vitamin A, but most likely there is a complex combination of stressors that led to an imbalance allowing a cancer to develop and grow.
STEP 2: Optimise your health for oncology treatment, to maximise the possibility for success. This is where the emerging and fast evolving field of pharmacometabolomics is involved. Pharma, meaning oncology treatments and metabolomics, meaning the way your body uses food for energy, are integrated into an evolving medical field of research which literally studies the effect of what and when you we eat and how this impacts your bodies response to a specific drug.
There is now no longer any doubt that what you eat can significantly affect your outcome from cancer treatment!
STEP 3: Maintaining a healthy weight is vital to long term treatment success and therefore the most critical aim of nutritional support is to minimise unintended weight loss.
Although listed as a third step, monitoring weight is an ongoing process. Weight loss is present, depending on the cancer, in 15% to 40% of cancer patients at diagnosis and is frequently the first sign of the physiological changes that have resulted from the presence of cancer.
The condition known as cancer cachexia, considered a wasting syndrome, can have a tragic effect. Onset of cachexia is indicated not just weight loss, but loss of muscle strength, extreme fatigue, and lack of appetite, all combining to make life very difficult. These effects can significantly reduce the number of treatment cycles a person can undertake, and considerably reduce your quality of life. Horribly, cancer cachexia is thought to contribute to 28% or cancer related deaths, and the reason I chose this for my MSc dissertation.
The objective of personalised nutrition aims at reducing drivers of cachexia and ensure you are using food in the best possible way to maintain a healthy weight.
Cancer cachexia cannot be treated via drugs, and thus, not understood within the medical community, therefore advice, although aimed at being supportive ‘just eat anything you want’, which based upon my research, I believe is misguided and could actually increase the drivers of cachexia.
Pharmacometabolomics is the integration between metabolism and effectiveness of oncology treatment
Your cancer is in remission, oncology treatment is over, so now is the time for monitoring and the wait and see, and also begins your transition into cancer survivor. Now is the time for celebration and the opportunity to accelerate healing and return to maximal health.
Oncology treatments can have a significant impact on the body, their aim is to kill fast growing living cells.
Although recent immunotherapy treatment is more focused, the vast majority of chemotherapy drugs whilst destroying the cancer cells, also have the same effect on other fast-growing healthy cells including your immune cells – leaving you prone to infections, cells in the lining of your gut, leaving you with problems eating, and as everyone knows, hair follicles, leading to the dreaded hair loss. Left to heal on their own, these cells can recover, they are healthy, but sometimes this can take months and potentially even years, thus extending you time as a survivor of cancer.
The role of your PNP is now to view all your physiological systems, to nourish, repair, rebalance and normalise, including addressing drug induced nutrient deficiencies, balancing hormones, healing the gut, restoring your microbiome.