Note: In this book, 15 cancer doctors share the details of their treatment protocols and answer difficult questions about cancer. Each physician is given their own chapter in the book. The page you are viewing contains sample material; to read the rest of the book, you can place your order for the book from the publisher, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble. You can also buy the Kindle Edition.
Chad Aschtgen, ND, FABNO, (Doctor’s Website), is Board Certified in naturopathic oncology and specializes in integrative cancer care. He received his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, Washington in 2005, and subsequently completed a two-year, hospital-based naturopathic medical residency at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), near Chicago, Illinois. Dr. Aschtgen returned to the Pacific Northwest in 2008 and has been providing integrative oncology services since then at the Institute of Complementary Medicine in Seattle and at Providence Western Washington Oncology in Olympia.
Dr. Aschtgen provides expert naturopathic care for people with cancer or to those who want to prevent cancer or who have a family history of cancer. His primary role is to provide supportive treatments to patients who are also receiving conventional oncology treatments, such as chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. He utilizes nutrition and lifestyle counseling, herbal medicines, vitamin and mineral therapies, as well as other modalities to support optimal wellness in his patients before, during, and after they receive treatments with their oncologists. Whether newly diagnosed, undergoing conventional treatments, or long-term survivors of cancer, those facing the difficulties of cancer have a great resource in Dr. Aschtgen.
Dr. Aschtgen works closely with his patients to create unique, customized, integrative, and holistic treatment plans that take into consideration all aspects of their health and medical care. His patients receive safe and effective natural therapies that are specifically designed to improve overall health and well-being, decrease symptoms, and aid in fighting disease. Committed to patient-centered care, Dr. Aschtgen is available to communicate and coordinate treatments with other members of his patients’ care team, including their families, medical and/or radiation oncologists, surgeons, cancer care managers, and other practitioners.
Dr. Aschtgen is an active member of numerous professional organizations, including the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP), American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians (OncANP), Society for Integrative Oncology (SIO), and the Washington Association of Naturopathic Physicians (WANP).
The Benefits of Integrative Medicine
Conventional oncology focuses on eradicating the body’s tumor burden. Surgery is very successful at removing gross disease, while radiation and chemotherapy are variably effective at destroying and/or controlling macro and microscopic disease. However, none of these modalities focus on changing the underlying factors that caused the cancer to develop in the first place, nor do they discourage ongoing tumor cell activity.
Integrative cancer care, which may involve naturopathic, complementary, allopathic, and other types of medicine, focuses upon altering the underlying processes that lead to cancer development and progression. There are some people, such as those with inherited genetic mutations, for whom some of these underlying processes can’t be altered. Fortunately, only a minority of patients fall into this category. The majority of people within the scientific and medical community contend that most cancer is caused by environmental factors, or exposures that are external to the body, and will therefore respond to treatments.
What Is FABNO?
FABNO is an acronym for Fellow of the American Board of Naturopathic Oncology. Naturopathic physicians who have successfully completed advanced post-graduate training with an accredited integrative oncology residency program, and have passed a rigorous evaluation, are eligible for board certification in Naturopathic Oncology. According to the Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians, “These physicians meet the highest standard of the profession as specialists in naturopathic oncology… and have demonstrated competence in both naturopathic and conventional medical oncology.” Furthermore, the organization states, “Naturopathic oncology is the application of the art and science of naturopathic medicine to the field of cancer care and treatment. Naturopathic oncologists work both in hospital oncology settings and in private practices, bringing their wisdom, perspective and experience to aid oncology treatment teams that seek the best positive outcomes for their patients.” Board-certified naturopaths take into account the best current medical evidence when making decisions about how to optimally care for their patients. This is a complex balancing act in which they must consider the scientific research literature, established practice guidelines, their clinical experience, and individual patient needs and desires when establishing a treatment protocol.
How My Training Has Affected My Approach to Treating Cancer Patients
Because of my training, I have both a deeper understanding of and greater appreciation for the conventional medical approach to cancer care than if I had been a non-residency trained naturopathic doctor. During my two years of post-graduate training, not only did I use my naturopathic tools of care to support patients, but day in and day out, I worked alongside numerous physicians: medical, radiation, and naturopathic oncologists; gastroenterologists and surgeons, and witnessed their work firsthand. Occasionally, I assisted with major surgical procedures, radiation planning, chemotherapy infusions and managing complex, sometimes emergency medical situations. In my first year of residency alone, I had the opportunity to meet, track, interact, and have case discussions about more than 2,000 cancer patients, so my training has been greatly augmented by my direct clinical experience with these patients.
I am grateful for this experience, and believe that I have a higher level of competency in treating patients because of my training and experience. I’m able to complement my patients’ conventional treatments more effectively because I understand and appreciate them. I’m also able to better assess the compatibility between my treatments and those of the oncologist, and ensure that potential adverse interactions between them are minimized. In fact, combining oncology treatments with naturopathic treatments can be inappropriate at times, because there may be potential interactions between, for example, herbs or nutrients, and chemotherapy. Because of my understanding of oncology treatments, in certain situations, I am more conservative with treatments than some of my colleagues who aren’t residency-trained. Conversely, in other situations, I am more aggressive with certain treatments than my colleagues who aren’t Board Certified (FABNO) or residency trained.
Unfortunately, not all naturopathic physicians have the opportunity to do post-graduate residency training, nor do most state licensing boards require naturopathic doctors to undergo this type of training. Although I suspected it was valuable, I now believe that it’s crucial for naturopathic doctors to have extensive, advanced training in an oncology environment if they wish to competently support their cancer patients while they are undergoing conventional treatments.
There is evidence that conventional medicine helps many people with cancer, which is why I collaborate with oncologists in my work. But we (medical professionals) also know that other types of therapies can help patients. These include things like nutrition, physical activity, sleep and stress management; herbal medicines, and vitamin and mineral therapies, among others. I use treatments that have the best track record for effectiveness, based on the following: clinical evidence, the known mechanisms of action behind the treatment, the patient’s biochemistry, and my past experience of treating patients. While some of my decision-making is based upon the results of placebo-controlled clinical trials, this type of evidence isn’t available for all of the treatment interventions I might consider. Furthermore, these trials don’t allow me to effectively evaluate the entire body and all of its systems, which is what we do in naturopathic medicine.
In summary, as an integrative physician, my goal is to support my patients’ health as they go through chemotherapy and radiation, while providing them with additional therapies that may have anti-cancer benefits. As well, I try to provide treatments that will prevent their cancers from recurring and which will increase their long-term survival.
What Cancer Is and What Causes It
I tell my patients that cancer occurs when a person’s cells no longer perform optimally, and stop following the directions provided by the body’s DNA instruction manual. Of course, this is an oversimplification of the process because the body is a complex organism. Cancer-causing processes are occurring all the time in everyone as a result of numerous factors. These include DNA damage from radiation (both natural and man-made), pollution (or other toxic environmental substances, such as industrial solvents), normal oxidative stress, and ordinary mistakes in DNA replication during cell division (typically corrected by normal cellular processes). These factors sometimes allow or even cause cells to thrive unchecked, and to continue to grow and divide inappropriately.
Local and systemic inflammation, infection, and an excess of insulin or estrogen may also stimulate ongoing and unwarranted cell growth and division, which can then initiate other processes that may cause mutations of the DNA code. For example, in a healthy person, estrogen stimulates breast tissue growth, which is one of estrogen’s normal functions. But when a person has breast tissue cells that have been injured and transformed into diseased or pre-cancerous cells, both naturally occurring and foreign sources of estrogen can cause excessive cell growth and division, further damage cells, and lead to increased DNA mutations and eventually, tumor cell activity.
A healthy body is typically able to correct many of these processes through its own DNA repair and pre-programmed cell death (apoptosis) processes and the immune system’s surveillance strategies, which allow it to identify and destroy abnormal cells, but the body has a limited ability to sustain ongoing injury. When the immune system is under stress from any of the aforementioned factors (e.g., excessive insulin or estrogen, inflammation, and infections) it may not be able to prevent the development of cancer.
Environmental factors are thought to cause as many as 90 percent of all cancers. Such factors include: exposure to industrial carcinogens, radiation from the sun, environmental pollutants, contaminated foods, and changing lifestyle patterns. The foods that we eat and our daily activities have changed significantly over the past 100 years. For example, as a society, we consume less natural food than our ancestors and are also more sedentary. Both of these factors have increased our risk for developing cancer, among other chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and autoimmune conditions.
As previously mentioned, infections also play a role in cancer development. For example, the human papilloma virus (HPV) is known to increase the risk for developing squamous cell tissue cancers, especially of the uterine cervix, but it’s not a straightforward relationship, because not everyone who has this virus will get cervical cancer, nor does everyone with cervical cancer have the HPV virus. Similar correlations have been found among other types of cancer and infections.
Order your copy of the book to finish reading this chapter. The following are additional sections contained in this chapter:
- Treatment Approach
- Preventing and Minimizing the Adverse Effects of Anti-Neoplastic Therapies
- Managing Symptoms
- Peripheral Neuropathy
- Changing the Body’s Internal Terrain
- Treating Inflammation
- Addressing Nutrient Deficiencies
- Eliminating Oxidative Stress and Increasing the Body’s Antioxidant Capacity
- Balancing Insulin and Glucose
- Treating Hypercoagulation
- Improving Immune Function
- Physical Therapies
- Dietary Recommendations
- Supporting the Hormones
- Lifestyle Recommendations for Healing
- Treatment Considerations
- Treatment Outcomes
- Roadblocks to Healing
- What More Patients Should Understand When Researching Cancer Treatments
- Resources for Low-Income Cancer Patients
- How Family and Friends Can Support Their Loved Ones with Cancer
- Dangerous/Ineffective Cancer Treatments
- Recommended Books/Websites
Buy the book to finish reading this chapter.