How can I improve my body terrain and tumor microenvironment?

The cells in the tumor microenvironment play a role in your cancer’s development, spread, and response to treatment. Conventional carethe cancer care offered by conventionally trained physicians and most hospitals; examples are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy, self carelifestyle actions and behaviors that may impact cancer outcomes; examples include eating health-promoting foods, limiting alcohol, increasing physical activity, and managing stress, and complementary carein cancer care, complementary care involves the use of therapies intended to enhance or add to standard conventional treatments; examples include supplements, mind-body approaches such as yoga or psychosocial therapy, and acupuncture can all improve your body terrain to make your tumor microenvironment less supportive of cancer. The most powerful approach combines all three types of care.

Body terrain issues reflect your natural internal states that are out of balance. To be most effective in addressing imbalances, we recommend identifying whether you have any imbalances and working to return to balance. A physician or other licensed health professional can test for these imbalances related to cancer: 

  • Bleeding and coagulation imbalance
  • Blood sugar and insulin resistance
  • Hormone imbalance
  • Immune function
  • Inflammation
  • Oxidation
  • Your microbiomethe collection of microbes living on and within your body

Testing and supporting your terrain

In chapters 13-19 of his book, integrative physician and CancerChoices advisor Keith Block, MD, describes how to determine which aspects of your internal terrain you most need to target. He provides protocolsa package of therapies combining and preferably integrating various therapies and practices into a cohesive design for care for addressing each terrain feature as well as a general protocol for broad-spectrum supplementation for terrain support.

Block KI. Life over Cancer: The Block Center Program for Integrative Cancer Care. New York: Bantam Dell. 2009.

If you find an imbalance, work with a health professional to develop a plan to return to balance, and then retest as needed to check progress and maintain balance.

Functional medicine physicians, integrative medicine physicians, and oncology naturopaths routinely evaluate some of the less commonly tested imbalances, such as oxidation or microbiome imbalances. We provide guidance on these medical professions.

Cancer treatment and optimizing your terrain: a two-pronged approach

Modifying your biochemical or microbial terrain, by itself, is not enough to control or cure cancer. On the other hand, conventional cancer treatments alone will not consistently keep the cancer from coming back.1Alschuler LN, Gazella KA. The Definitive Guide to Cancer, 3rd Edition: An Integrative Approach to Prevention, Treatment, and Healing. Berkeley, California: Celestial Arts. 2010; Block KI. Life Over Cancer: The Block Center Program for Integrative Cancer Treatment. New York: Bantam Dell. 2009. A tumor is merely the most obvious symptom of an altered, unbalanced system. For the best outcomes, you need both cancer treatments to remove the tumor and changes in your body terrain to make your body less favorable for recurrence.

Get the most from conventional treatments

Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery focus on killing or removing the cancer “weed.” You first need to use the appropriate treatments for your cancer type. A weed killer may not work if you’ve misidentified the weed and used the wrong pesticide, or if you used a pesticide to which the weed is resistant. Correctly identifying your cancer type and then choosing the right conventional treatment(s) is crucial to success.

Keep the cancer at bay

Even when successful, both the new targeted therapies and the older approaches of surgery, radiation, and old-line chemotherapy often fail to prevent the spread or recurrence of the disease. They neither pick up renegade cancer cells, strengthen the body’s biological balance, nor reach all of the underlying molecular accidents that initiated cancer in the first place. As a result, even if the original malignancy is gone, the remaining biological imbalance creates an environment for cancer to recur.2Block KI. Life Over Cancer: The Block Center Program for Integrative Cancer Treatment. New York: Bantam Dell. 2009. pp. 2-3. Gardeners know that simply removing a weed will not keep your garden patch weed-free for long. You need to tend your soil continuously, keeping the weeds from getting out of control.

The need for conventional care

Unconventional medicine approaches, if used alone (and therefore called alternative approaches) may promote a flawed myth that boosting your immune system through natural or other approaches can eradicate cancer.

Integrative physician and CancerChoices advisor Keith Block, MD, illustrates this when describing the link between immunity and cancer. He replays the all-too-common scenario of a patient saying, “I’m concerned about the side effects of chemo and radiation. I want to do everything possible to get well, but I would much prefer to treat my cancer naturally, by boosting my immune system. Can you help me?”3Block KI. Life over Cancer: The Block Center Program for Integrative Cancer Treatment. New York: Bantam Dell. 2009. p 346.

Dr. Block explains that the immune system is just one of a number of factors influencing cancer. The immune system might not even identify cancer as a potential threat. Cancer’s presence and ability to grow indicate that it has evaded your immune system. The longer the tumor has been growing, the more adept it is at escaping the surveillance of your immune system. But even if your immune system does recognize cancer cells, your normal immune response may not be enough to get rid of the cancer. “Since most cancers have been growing for years by the time they are diagnosed, most alternative and even experimental immune-based treatments are ineffective at best, and could delay effective treatment.”4Block KI. Life over Cancer: The Block Center Program for Integrative Cancer Treatment. New York: Bantam Dell. 2009. p 347.

Dr. Block cautions that you may place yourself at serious risk if you avoid appropriate conventional therapies in the misguided hope that immune manipulation will rid you of your cancer. In most cases, if your cancer is accessible, you are best off having the tumor treated conventionally, and only then enhancing your immune system’s resources. Active immune strategies do have an important role, but to date they are more for containing growth or sustaining a remission than shrinking or eliminating tumors.5Block KI. Life over Cancer: The Block Center Program for Integrative Cancer Treatment. New York: Bantam Dell. 2009. p. 348.

Self-care actions you can take

7 Healing Practices

The 7 Healing Practices and some core healthy habits are an excellent place to start in optimizing your body terrain. The power of these practices and habits lies mainly in their ability to alter your body terrain to make it less supportive of cancer.

Learn how you can make some choices to improve your body terrain:

  • Achieve and maintain a healthy body weight
  • Don’t smoke
  • Limit alcohol
  • Hydrate

Help and support for making changes

Anticancer Lifestyle Program

Using expert videos, animation, text, and interactives, the modules help you make lasting lifestyle changes that will decrease inflammation and enhance your immune system’s ability to fight disease.

Health Navigators Lifestyle Classes

Learn how to change your lifestyle to fully support your health and wellness.

Complementary care approaches

Beyond the conventional medicine approaches that your oncology team recommends, evidence supports the use of many complementary therapies to promote a healthier body terrain. These include mind-body approaches, some supplements and nutrients, therapies that manipulate your body, and more.

Finding complementary approaches

We review complementary therapies for effectiveness—including effects on body terrain—plus safety, expert use, and affordability.

Resources

Anticancer

This book by neuroscientist David Servan-Schreiber inspired the creation of the Anticancer Lifestyle Program.

Anticancer: A New Way of Life

The C-Word

Neuroscientist David Servan-Schreiber discovered his own brain tumor during MRI research. He set out to gather as “much information as I could to see what I could do to help my body fight and resist cancer.” Purchase is required.

The C-Word

Moss Reports

Excellent discussion of the hallmarks of cancer in general and how each complementary therapy affects the hallmarks. The cost of the Moss Reports is not negligible, but many people with cancer find them of considerable value. Purchase is required.

Moss Reports

Dr. Mark Hyman: House Call

Dr. Hyman talks about what we can do to prevent tumors from growing by maintaining a healthy “soil.”

Strategies to Prevent and Treat Cancer

Keep reading about optimizing your body terrain

Authors

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS

Senior Clinical Consultant
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Laura Pole is senior clinical consultant for CancerChoices. Laura is an oncology clinical nurse specialist who has been providing integrative oncology clinical care, navigation, consultation, and education services for over 40 years. She is the co-creator and co-coordinator of the Integrative Oncology Navigation Training at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, DC. Laura also manages the “Media Watch Cancer News That You Can Use” listserv for Smith Center/Commonweal. In her role as a palliative care educator and consultant, Laura has served as statewide Respecting Choices Faculty for the Virginia POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment) Collaborative as well as provided statewide professional education on palliative and end-of-life care for the Virginia Association for Hospices and Palliative Care.

For CancerChoices, Laura curates content and research, networks with clinical and organizational partners, brings awareness and education of integrative oncology at professional and patient conferences and programs, and translates research into information relevant to the patient experience as well as clinical practice.

Laura sees her work with CancerChoices as a perfect alignment of all her passions, knowledge and skills in integrative oncology care. She is honored to serve you.

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS Senior Clinical Consultant

Nancy Hepp, MS

Lead Researcher and Program Manager
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Ms. Hepp is a researcher and communicator who has been writing and editing educational content on varied health topics for more than 20 years. She serves as lead researcher, program manager, and writer for CancerChoices. Her graduate work in research and cognitive psychology, her master’s degree in instructional design, and her certificate in web design have all guided her in writing and presenting information for a wide variety of audiences and uses. Nancy’s service as faculty development coordinator in the Department of Family Medicine at Wright State University also provided experience in medical research, plus insights into medical education and medical care from the professional’s perspective.

Nancy Hepp, MS Lead Researcher and Program Manager

Last update: July 19, 2022

CancerChoices provides information about integrative in cancer care, a patient-centered approach combining the best of conventional care, self care and evidence-informed complementary care in an integrated plan cancer care. We review complementaryin cancer care, complementary care involves the use of therapies intended to enhance or add to standard conventional treatments; examples include supplements, mind-body approaches such as yoga or psychosocial therapy, and acupuncture therapies and self-care lifestyle actions and behaviors that may impact cancer outcomes; examples include eating health-promoting foods, limiting alcohol, increasing physical activity, and managing stress practices to help patients and professionals explore and integrate the best combination of conventionalthe cancer care offered by conventionally trained physicians and most hospitals; examples are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy and complementary therapies and practices for each person.

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