The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a major disruption of cancer care that translates into delayed diagnoses and treatment, disrupted clinical trials, and a healthcare system that has been reorganized to prioritize pandemic control.
For the most part that’s a terrible thing, resulting in tens of thousands of deaths that could have been prevented. See our Issue #1087 for the details. But, as that article noted, there IS one type of cancer where delay can actually be a benefit: prostate cancer.
This isn’t the first time I’ve pointed out that if ever there was a cancer where you can start with the natural approach and not jump into a radical surgical procedure right away, it’s prostate cancer — and today, we’re going to look at the reason why…
The prostate gland is the size of a chestnut and sits nestled below a man’s bladder and in front of the rectum. It is essential for sexual function. Prostate cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in America for men.
The role of the prostate is to make some of the fluid that helps keep sperm alive and healthy, and the muscles of the prostate make sure semen gets ejected forcefully from the urethra during ejaculation.
The prostate also encircles a man’s urethra and helps regulate closing of the bladder’s sphincter muscle so semen doesn’t enter the bladder, as well as closing the seminal ducts during urination so urine can’t get in there either.
Finally, the prostate transforms testosterone, a male sex hormone, to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is a more potent form of testosterone. DHT helps stimulate male characteristics, like hair growth and loss. It also causes the prostate to grow.
Diagnosing prostate cancer
This growth of the prostate is often tied to cancer. The good news is that just about all prostate cancer is adenocarcinoma, and that type of tumor grows very slowly. In fact, according to autopsy results for older men who died of other causes, most also had undiagnosed prostate cancer.
As the saying goes, “Most men die with prostate cancer, not because of it.” And that little fact indicates why delays in treatment can be the smart move.
For diagnosing cancer, many doctors start with a PSA blood test, looking for prostate-specific antigens, which are proteins made by cells in the prostate gland as it grows. Elevated PSA levels may mean cancer, but they can also mean the prostate is growing for other reasons that have to do with infection or age, a condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH.
Modern medicine believes that most men with a PSA level between four and ten have a 25 percent chance of having prostate cancer. Higher PSA levels lead to additional types of screening, such as a digital rectal exam or imaging tests.
If the diagnosis is prostate cancer, doctors often urgently recommend prostate removal surgery, called a prostatectomy. However, the science shows that most of the time there is no need to be in a rush.
Delaying treatment rarely impacts outcome
The results of a large U.S. database study recently published online in JAMA Network Open found surgery for prostate cancer patients can safely be delayed.
After looking at the outcomes of over 32,000 prostatectomy patients, researchers concluded that the number of days between prostate cancer diagnosis and prostate removal did not increase the risk of negative outcomes.
In other words, if a patient chose – or was told he had to delay – having his prostate removed, the data shows it didn’t matter whether he waits 30 days or 180 days—that’s six months. And according to the researchers, this holds true even for very high-risk patients.
This data reinforces what’s been found in clinical practice by many alternative doctors who encourage “watchful waiting” for most men with prostate cancer. This is great news for men with prostate cancer because they can safely try natural interventions and treatments to slow or stop their disease before turning to radical surgery that will remove their prostate.
But there are exceptions to this casual attitude. A small number of cancers – around ten percent – are aggressive, i.e. fast-growing and also in danger of metastasizing to other parts of the body. Those should be treated quickly. While this study seems to suggest even these high-risk patients can delay as much as six months, it would make me worry to wait that long to treat an aggressive cancer. If such a cancer metastasizes. . . well, I won’t say it’s “game over,” but you’re in deep trouble.
If you are diagnosed with prostate cancer (and I’ve been there myself), it is essential to press your doctor for every type of test to determine whether yours is aggressive. Most likely it’s not, and you’ve got plenty of time to try natural and alternative treatments.
Too often, doctors want to treat nonaggressive prostate cancer with invasive, damaging surgery or radiation. But the opposite mistake can also occur – opting for “watchful waiting” when in fact the patient has an aggressive prostate cancer that needs to come out now.
Also, “watchful waiting” may be the selected method to find out if a cancer is aggressive. If you receive a positive diagnosis, the doctor may suggest waiting two months to see if your PSA number soars in spite of your natural treatments. That can be a tipoff that your cancer is aggressive. An imaging test can then further confirm it.
Simple lifestyle and dietary changes
Some of the most effective natural therapies to fight prostate cancer that I’d recommend include:
- Diet and exercise. Studies show that men who eat a vegetarian, or plant-based, diet have the lowest rates of prostate cancer. In addition, exercise helps prevent obesity and boosts the immune system, which are both critical in fighting cancer.
- Vitamin D. A 13-year Harvard study of 2,399 men reported that men with high blood levels of vitamin D cut their risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer almost in half (45 percent) when compared to men with lower levels of vitamin D.
- Selenium. The Nutritional Prevention of Cancer Trial found men who took 200 mcg of selenium a day enjoyed a 49 percent reduced risk of prostate cancer when compared to men who took a placebo. Other studies have confirmed selenium significantly reduces prostate cancer risk.
- Pomegranate juice. Scientists who conducted studies on rodents found antioxidant rich pomegranate juice had a chemo-preventive effect against prostate cancer.
- Beta carotene. Harvard’s Physicians’ Health Study found that supplements of beta carotene can reduce the risk of prostate cancer in men with low carotenoid consumption.
- Lycopene. A carotenoid found in highest amounts in cooked tomatoes, lycopene appears to slow the growth of prostate tumors.
- Saw palmetto. This herb is a popular way to naturally treat an enlarged prostate.
- African plum extract (pygeum). While it doesn’t shrink an enlarged prostate, this herb helps with the urinary symptoms of a swollen prostate, such as discomfort and pressure.
- Green tea. Thanks to its massive antioxidant load, green tea has been shown to slow the progression of prostate cancer.
- Turmeric. In a study published in the Journal of Nutritional Reviews researchers found this spice helps reduce inflammation, prevents the spread of cancer and has the potential to be used therapeutically against prostate cancer. Another study in the International Journal of Oncology found curcumin—the active ingredient in turmeric—can stop prostate cancer from developing.
- Intravenous vitamin C (IVC). IVC is a common therapy used by many natural and alternative doctors to treat cancer. A study published in the Journal of Functional Food for Health and Disease found IVC improves tumor markers and PSA in men with prostate cancer.
These are just a short list of nutrients that can help prevent and treat prostate cancer. In addition, there are numerous effective natural and alternative therapies for prostate cancer.
It’s also important to any anti-cancer lifestyle to limit stress, remain hydrated by drinking eight cups of water a day and to sleep a full eight hours each night. I also recommend infrared sauna as a valuable method to detoxify the body and stress cancer cells to the point where they expire on their own.
While it’s never ideal to lack access to medical care, in the case of prostate cancer it really can be a blessing. Especially if you take the time to overhaul your diet and lifestyle and give some attention to natural remedies while you wait.
I have to caution that none of these therapies is a foolproof miracle cure. You need to monitor your condition throughout, getting periodic PSA tests and, if possible, imaging tests, to see whether the tumor is growing or shrinking.
- “The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cancer care.” By Mike Richards, et al. Nat Cancer 1, 565–567 (2020). https://www.nature.com/articles/s43018-020-0074-y
- “How does the prostate work?” Created Feb 15 2011 for NCBI.
- “Dihydrotestosterone.” Taken from You and Your Hormones, (an education resource from the Society for Endocrinology). https://www.yourhormones.info/hormones/dihydrotestosterone/
- “Alternative Treatments for Prostate Cancer.” Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian on November 11, 2019 for WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/prostate-cancer/guide/alternative-treatments-for-prostate-cancer2#1
- “What Is Prostate Cancer?” From the American Cancer Society.
- “High-Risk Prostate Cancer Patients Can Wait 6 Months for Surgery.” By Diana Swift, December 8, 2020. https://www.medpagetoday.com/hematologyoncology/prostatecancer/90089
- “Screening Tests for Prostate Cancer.” From American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/tests.html
- “How to shrink the prostate naturally.” By Jennifer Huizen on March 17, 2018