Saturday, January 9, 2016

What I Think I Know About Natural Medicine for Brain Cancer

When I was writing the first edition of Healing without Medication I interacted with a doctor who had success in treating brain cancer in someone I knew (he lived another 15 years) with antioxidants. Several years before writing the second edition of this book I myself was diagnosed with a brain tumor that shrank about the same time I started taking the turmeric-derived antioxidant curcumin. 


Because I also have a hereditary clotting disorder, I opted not to have even a brain catheterization (putting a tiny tube in an artery in my groin to take a look at the tumor), much less surgery and chemotherapy. I spent hours and hours with neurosurgeons showing me MRIs and CT scans and speculating over just exactly what the black spot on the film might be. I happened to be taking an antioxidant called curcumin, and the growth of the tumor happened to stop. I opted to leave bad enough alone, and I have had no further problems, although my neurosurgeon tells me I now have a hole in my head. I don’t suffer any disability from my brain tumor – if in fact that was what it was. 

A lot of the evidence for curcumin as a treatment for brain cancer is on the “well, it seems to work” level. That isn’t always a bad thing, especially when there aren’t any other alternatives. Over the past few years there is mounting evidence that curcumin may be part of nature’s answer for brain cancer. 

The formal evidence for using curcumin treatment is limited to just one kind of brain cancer, glioblastoma. Moreover, researchers have looked at curcumin as a tool for increasing the susceptibility to treatment with an oral chemotherapy agent, temozolomide, TMZ, which is known by the brand names Temodar and Temodal and Temcad. (This medication is also used to treat a form of brain cancer called astrocytoma, but it hasn’t been researched as part of a treatment for astrocytoma. ) Curcumin also seems to help brain cells survive oxygen deprivation, to last longer when a tumor can’t be beat. Researchers have been looking at curcumin as a purely complementary treatment, something that is used with mainstream medicine, not as an alternative to medicine. 

There isn’t any guarantee that curcumin will help kill a brain tumor—and even if it does, it’s important to remember that dead tumors swell. When any kind of therapy kills off the cancer cells in a tumor, they are removed by inflammation, which temporary increases the size of the tumor. Some holistic doctors have experienced extreme frustration with the fact that when they finally found treatments that worked, their patients stopped them because other doctors erroneously read tumor death as tumor growth. It is not inconceivable that treatment can make the consequences of a brain tumor worse, temporarily, even after it defeats the cancer. 

With all of these caveats, I do recommend curcumin as part of a complementary healing program for brain cancer, provided you aren’t currently taking chemotherapy. There is a specific brand of curcumin that probably works best named Longvida. This particular formulation of curcumin is modified so it is stable in the bloodstream longer, long enough to cross the blood brain barrier, in its active form. Any curcumin product that is made with Longvida would be my first choice. It isn’t necessarily to take a very high dose of Longvida. Clinical trials (with humans, not lab rats) found morphological changes in brain tissue in just 30 days from taking just 80 mg of curcumin a day. That’s 1/5 of the dosage you will get from any of these products that cost between $0. 50 and $1. 50 a day. Curcumin will not interfere with any medical treatment you get for brain cancer, and it just might work. I’m glad I gave it a try. 

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