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Detecting cancer at the earliest stages

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According to the latest statistics from the World Health Organization, cancer was responsible for the deaths of nearly 10 million people globally in 2020.1 That’s one out of every six deaths worldwide. Though these statistics are daunting, cancer doesn’t have to be a death sentence. 

As the adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. You can start today by reducing or eliminating known cancer risk factors and making healthy lifestyle changes. Technology is also on your side. Several advanced screening tests and diagnostic tools can detect cancer at the earliest stages, leading to better treatment outcomes and improved survival rates.

What causes cancer?

Before we delve into early cancer detection, let us first look at some of the main risk factors. While many believe genetics play a prominent role in cancer incidence, research suggests otherwise. In a landmark study published in the New England Journal of Medicine,2 data collected from 44,788 sets of twins revealed that, “Except for certain types of familial cancer… the contribution of hereditary factors to the development of cancer is thought to be relatively minor.” Instead, the analysis showed that lifestyle choices and environmental factors were much better indicators of cancer risk. 

According to the medical research company American Medical Research, LLC, toxins cause 70–75 percent of all cancers, viruses and other infections are responsible for 20–25 percent, and the remaining less than 5 percent of cancers can be linked to electromagnetic pollution and genetics.3

This is good news. It means most people can eliminate or reduce their exposure to many of cancer’s leading risk factors. Ridding your body of toxins, eating the right foods, reoptimizing nutrient balances, reducing stress and generally engaging in healthy lifestyle practices can go a long way toward preventing cancer in the first place. 

If you still have that nagging feeling that something may be off, please do not ignore your intuition. Any issues you are experiencing should resolve in about a month. If they don’t, you should check in with your doctor. I often ask patients how long they have really been experiencing discomfort or symptoms, and the answer is sometimes months—even years. 

Whether you want to get to the bottom of an existing concern or find out if cancer is brewing somewhere sight unseen, it may be time to consider early-prevention screening tests. These diagnostic tools can detect cancer before it has a chance to wreak havoc on your health. 

The best early-prevention screening tests

At the Cancer Center for Healing (CCH), we use a multitude of screening tests that reveal whether a patient has cancer, how far advanced it is, and whether or not current treatment protocols are working. Most of these tests require a prescription from your doctor. If you’re not already working with an integrative cancer physician, you can find one in your area by doing a physician search on the following medical association websites:

RGCC testing

The Research Genetic Cancer Center (RGCC) offers a variety of blood tests that detect the presence and abundance of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) and cancer stem cells (CSCs). CTCs are problematic because they break off from the original tumor, migrate throughout the circulatory system and look for new places to grow. 

CSCs, located within a tumor, can self-renew and regrow even after conventional treatments such as chemotherapy. 

One of the biggest downfalls of conventional cancer treatments is that these modalities alone can’t eliminate CTCs and CSCs. And because CTCs and CSCs are responsible for 95 percent of all metastases and deaths from cancer, it is imperative these cells are eradicated along with the tumor. The definition of cancer-free  or remission  is that CTC and CSC levels are zero.

That’s where RGCC testing comes in. Oncotrace is one of the top screening tests we use at my clinic. Oncotrace checks for CTCs throughout the body and can tell us where the cancer is most likely located. This test is key for identifying melanoma, kidney cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer and sarcoma. 

For patients already diagnosed with cancer, there’s Onconomics+. In addition to checking for CTCs and CSCs, this test reveals which of the 49 most common chemotherapies, natural agents and other drugs will work most effectively on the type of cancer a patient has. This invaluable insight helps us create a personalized, targeted and effective treatment plan for every single individual. 

Why we use RGCC vs. GRAIL for early detection

The RGCC blood test is the most accurate diagnostic tool we have for detecting CTCs. RGCC tests help with early diagnosis, shed light on tumor progression and relay information on the efficacy of several drugs and other agents on specific cancer types. 

A company named GRAIL has developed a test called Galleri, which looks for circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA). This test may be best suited for late-stage cancers as it estimates tumor progression rather than the quantitative CTCs the RGCC tests measure.

NutrEval FMV

As an integrative cancer physician, I place a great deal of importance on treating the root cause of the disease and the person as a whole. As I state in my book, The Cancer Revolution (Da Capo Press, 2017), “Cancer is a disease of the entire  body, not just a body part.” And restoring proper balance and rebuilding and repairing your “inner terrain” is crucial—not only for cancer care but for overall health and wellness. 

One test we use regularly is the NutrEval FMV (first morning void). This urine test zeroes in on key nutritional deficiencies and provides a screenshot of a patient’s current nutritional status. Examining more than 125 biomarkers, this test tells us if a patient lacks 40 common antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, essential fatty acids and other specific nutrients. Additionally, NutrEval FMV can identify nutrient malabsorption. 

This comprehensive diagnostic tool allows us to create a personalized supplementation program to shore up a patient’s nutritional status and ensure their bodies are stable, in good working order and in the best position to fight or ward off cancer effectively.

The Cancer Profile

The Cancer Profile is widely used by many integrative cancer physicians to identify cancer in the earliest stages. In some instances, this test can detect cancer more than a decade before malignancies can be found using other routine tests. 

The Cancer Profile casts a wide net, testing for several markers. One of the most important is HCG, the hormone typically produced during pregnancy. Because most tumors also produce HCG, any amount of this hormone found during testing could indicate a greater cancer risk. 

PHI, or phosphohexose isomerase/glucose phosphate isomerase, is an enzyme the Cancer Profile looks for as well. PHI disrupts normal cell metabolism and changes it to a process called glycolysis. During glycolysis, cancer cells thrive, producing energy in a low-oxygen setting. Elevated PHI enzymes indicate a more cancer-friendly environment in the body and serve as an early warning sign. 

Thyroid hormone function is also evaluated using the Cancer Profile. Thyroid hormones play a crucial role in regulating your body’s basic metabolic rate, and metabolic rate is tied to the amount of oxygen your body uses and how available that oxygen is to your tissues. The Cancer Profile test functions on the premise that the more oxygen your cells have, the fewer cancer cells will be found throughout the body.

Other important markers this test searches for are a liver enzyme called gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase (GGTP), which can indicate liver disease and damage, and the non-specific tumor markers CEA and DHEA sulfate. CEA, found in some types of cancer, is a foreign protein that stimulates the body’s immune response, while depletion of the adrenal hormone DHEA is a strong indicator of a weakened immune system. 

Though the Cancer Profile does not require a prescription, I strongly advise you to work with a physician who can help you interpret the results and create a specific treatment plan geared toward your individual findings. 

Toxins, not genes, the major cause of cancer

Most people can eliminate or reduce their cancer risk, despite heredity. This is because less than 5 percent of cancers can be linked to genetics or electromagnetic pollution (radiation), compared to the 70–75 percent of cases that are caused by toxins, and 20–25 percent caused by viruses and other infections

Other important lab tests

There are a handful of other basic lab tests we use at CCH that may help determine cancer risk. 

High-sensitivity C-reactive protein

Inflammation throughout the body is an early warning sign of several chronic, degenerative diseases, including cancer. A simple blood test can check for chronically elevated levels of C-reactive protein, a key marker of inflammation. This test is also available without a prescription, but again, it’s best to work with your doctor to discuss the best course of action. 

Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c)

Since some studies suggest that sugar, in tandem with diabetes and obesity, may increase the risk of developing certain types of cancer, knowing where your blood sugar stands is important. HbA1c measures your average blood sugar level over the last three months. Note: A low-carb, low-sugar diet is a great way to lower HbA1c levels and stave off your risk of blood sugar issues and other serious health concerns. 

Beyond the lab: bioenergetic testing

Bioenergetic testing, which looks for energy imbalances in the body, is an excellent complement to blood tests and other diagnostic screening tools. This type of testing can reveal which toxins and infections you may currently have and how well your glands, organs, hormones and other systems are functioning. It can also shed light on which nutritional supplements and foods would most benefit you. 

Acupuncture meridian assessment checks for energy flow disruptions along acupuncture points on a patient’s fingers and toes. These energy impedances are important because detecting these imbalances in specific organs in the body gives us insight into areas that may be associated with cancer. This type of testing can also reveal which remedies will bring the body back into balance and detect subtle imbalances before they progress and become problematic. 

Additional screening tools

Thermography

Breast cancer is the most common cancer worldwide, responsible for 12.5 percent of new cases diagnosed in 2020.4 While mammography is the darling of conventional cancer screening, it isn’t the best or the most accurate tool available. Thermography testing, which uses infrared imaging technology, detects and measures heat in addition to vascular patterns within the breast that may be indicative of cancer. 

A skilled technician or doctor trained in finding and examining these problematic vascular patterns can often detect cancer long before a mammogram. Better still, thermography scans do not expose patients to radiation. 

PET and CT scans, X-rays and MRIs

We recommend PET and CT scans and X-rays less frequently than the other screening and diagnostic tools discussed above because of radiation exposure. A single PET scan exposes you to more than 600 times the radiation of a standard chest X-ray, which is something to be taken into consideration. That said, there are times when these diagnostics may be useful. A PET scan, for instance, can show whether cancer is localized or if it has spread to other parts of the body. 

CT scans and X-rays are similar. An X-ray uses a broad beam of radiation aimed at the body from one angle, while a CT scan uses a thin beam to obtain images of the organs and soft tissues from multiple angles. Both CT scans and X-rays also have their place and may be necessary at times, but they do emit radiation, albeit at a much lower level than PET scans. 

MRIs have long been used as a cancer screening tool, and we routinely utilize them at my clinic. However, we only recommend non-contrast MRIs that do not use gadolinium, the dye typically injected during contrast MRIs. 

Ezra and Prenuvo have both developed cutting-edge, whole-body MRI scans that forego the dye and use the latest technology to obtain comprehensive images of the soft-tissue areas of the body. Whole-body MRIs quickly and accurately provide thousands of detailed images that can detect abnormal growths early and are an excellent preliminary cancer screening tool. 

Though the number of diagnostic tools available can be overwhelming, patients shouldn’t worry about which ones are right for them. Work with a trained integrative doctor along with your regular doctor or oncologist to create the best plan for detecting cancer at the earliest stages. 

The takeaway here is the sooner cancer is detected, the better. The modalities discussed in this article can help find malignancies earlier, give insight into individualized and effective treatment plans, and set the stage for the best possible outcomes. 

 

 

1 

 World Health Organization, Cancer fact sheet. February 3, 2022. www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/cancer

2

N Engl J Med, 2000; 343(2): 78–85

3

American Medical Research, LLC, The Cancer Cascade (October 2004).

4

World Cancer Research Fund International, Worldwide cancer data. March 23, 2022. www.wcrf.org/dietandcancer/worldwide-cancer-data

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Article Topics: Cancer, oncology
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