Surgery in the Cancer Fight: Is Less Actually More?
I have been thinking recently about the place of surgery in the fight against cancer. We all know people (including myself) who have experienced surgical procedures on the road to cancer-free wellness. I shared recently that I have some concerns about the surgery-rich atmosphere in the fight against breast cancer. Especially given the fact that there does not appear to be any significant benefit for those who elect to have the more invasive breast removal surgery. I just posted a study on the website (www.MPoWRStAug.org) in the Cancer Research Section, Stress Reduction Subsection about the concept of 'Surgical Stress'. This idea was new to me - that the body actually has a stress response to surgical procedures that might be cancer promoting and lead to recurrence or metastasis. More specifically, "evidence from animal and clinical trials has demonstrated that surgery-induced stress is a powerful factor promoting malignant cancer growth." (See article, p. 1)
I have long wondered why the data for mastectomy patients wasn't significantly better than for lumpectomy patients. It seems counterintuitive. If you take off the breast tissue that was so dangerous in the first place, doesn't it seem logical that you have removed the single biggest variable in a woman's breast cancer fight? But, truth be told, the data does not support this. There is no significant statistical benefit for mastectomy patients in terms of either recurrence or long term survival. So ... why is that?
This concept of surgical stress may be part of the answer. No doubt the cancer journey is multi-factorial - we teach our cancer fighters and survivors that there is no magic pill or bullet that will solve all of our cancer challenges. Rather, this disease is systemic and many factors most likely contribute to the cancer's ability to bind, grow and move, as well as to the immune system's ability to keep the cancer cells at bay. But it seems likely that surgical stress could be a part of the problem.
Take a look at the study. It's also interesting that some of the detrimental aspects of surgery stress are positively influenced by healthy nutrition and lifestyle practices. All the more reason to get on board with our mission immediately. The evidence continues to mount: the healthier we live, the more effective the fight.