When oncologists diagnose cancer, they do so by where its primary site is: breast or prostate, lung or liver, and so on. They also "grade" it, by looking at biopsied cells under a microscope, and seeing how different they are from normal cells, such as how undifferentiated they have become. A third and equally important factor in cancer diagnosis is determining if the cancer has spread from its initial location and, if so, how far. This is called "staging," and ranges from Stage I, with no spreading, to Stage IV, with extensive spreading.
This spreading process is known as metastasis. Generally, the less a cancer has spread, the easier it is to treat, and the better the prognosis. This is the goal of "early detection." Stages I, II and III indicate that the cancer has spread only to nearby lymph nodes and/or organs next to the primary site. The higher stages generally indicate a larger tumor size and more organ involvement. When cancer reaches Stage IV, it usually means that the cancer can no longer be effectively treated with localized therapies such as surgery or radiotherapy.
Some varieties of cancer can respond to chemotherapy, even when they have reached Stage IV. A form of uterine cancer called choriocarcinoma, for example, and testicular carcinoma, show a 90% response rate. Unfortunately, these and the other types of cancer that have responded well to chemotherapy only are relatively rare forms. The more common types of cancer – breast, prostate, lung, colon and others — are generally poorly responsive to the currently available cytotoxic drugs.
Cancer cells behave differently, including their response to chemotherapy drugs. Even when a cancer shows a good initial response to chemotherapy – when they start shrinking or even disappearing -- in most cases the cancer eventually grows back. This is called reoccurrence and, unfortunately, at this point chemotherapy can be of little value. This is understandable because the chromosomes of cancer cells continually mutate. Even chemotherapy that is initially very successful does not kill 100% of all the cancer cells. Those that survive are innately more resistant to chemotherapy, and can mutate to become even more resistant. The new tumors they create will be equally resistant, not just to the chemo agents initially used, but to cytotoxic drugs in general.
Unfortunately, when conventional cancer treatments become ineffective in stopping the progression of Stage IV cancer, most doctors are prone to give up. "There is nothing more that can be done," they tell their patients. (The more accurate phrase would be, "There is nothing else that I know to do.") At this point, they will advise their patients to find a good hospice for end-of-life care, and to get his or her "affairs in order."
Most of the patients who come to Oasis of Hope have Stage IV cancer, and have already been through this painful process; have heard these exact words. But here they find an entirely different environment, and an entirely different approach to late-stage cancer. Our doctors have a whole arsenal of proven therapies to treat late stage cancer with – there is plenty that they know they can do. They are eager to work with their patients and will fight for them as long as their patients are willing to fight for themselves. At Oasis there truly is Hope for patients with stage IV cancer. Here are some of the reasons why:
Advanced Integrative Protocols
Almost a half-century of continual research has given the Oasis of Hope medical staff a profound understanding of the cancer process, the mechanisms that cancer cells employ to defend against chemotherapy and other conventional protocols. We are therefore able often able to employ integrative therapies that make cancer more responsive to chemotherapy, even for cancers that had only a poor response previously. By adding certain pharmaceutical-grade supplements and "safe" drugs, we can block or get around the defenses that cancer cells use to survive chemotherapy, and amplify molecular mechanisms that make them more vulnerable so the drugs can work effectively.
As an example, one of the more recent strategies we are employing is "epigenetic therapy." Epigenetics refers to changes in genetic expression that are not the result of fixed structural alterations to the genome. Epigenetic changes are reversible. Some of the defenses against chemotherapy that cancer cells develop are the result of epigenetic changes to the chromosome. Oasis of Hope has discovered nontoxic methods to reverse these changes, rendering cancer cells incapable of activating such defenses.
Oasis of Hope doctors also use a wide array of proven alternative and complementary therapies that protect the body's healthy tissues from being damaged by cytotoxic substances, so that chemotherapy is much more tolerable for the patient, with far milder side-effects.
Extended longevity with High Quality of Life
No cancer hospital or physician can put every patient's cancer into remission. In some cases, cancer continues to progress in spite of everything that the doctors and patients try.
However, even in these cases, Oasis of Hope can most often significantly slow the cancer down. Our doctors use proven, safe and well-tolerated measures that can make the cancer less aggressive, and throw obstacles in its path to inhibit its growth and spread.
Some of these measures include "signal modulation therapy" which slows tumor growth by interfering with growth factor signaling. We have anti-angiogenic strategies that suppress the growth of the new blood vessels that are vital for cancer's growth and spread. We use anti-metastatic therapies that inhibit the ability of blood-borne cancer cells to migrate through blood vessel walls, which they need to do to establish new nests of tumor cells. Then there are immune-stimulant protocols that revivify the body's immune cells, and enable them to attack cancer cells with renewed vigor. Thus, even in cases where it hasn't been possible to completely remove all signs of cancer, or control it indefinitely, Oasis of Hope has the knowledge and experience that can help patients achieve extra months or years of high-quality life.
Peace of Mind, Flourishing of the Spirit
Since Oasis of Hope's founding, addressing the psychological and spiritual needs of its patients has been an integral part of our program. We don't call ourselves an integrative cancer center just because we recently converted a supply room into a yoga studio! Every patient has as much access as they want to our professional counselors, who have many years of experience helping people fighting cancer. We have regular programs facilitated by staff members, by volunteer prayer partners and by other patients that create an incredibly supportive fellowship that helps patients to break out of the isolation and dread that so often afflicts them. Patients frequently express their gratitude upon rediscovering their appreciation of each day they have here on our wonderful earth, and can fully experience the tranquility and hope of their faith.
Before any patient puts his or her health in the hands of any doctor, clinic or hospital, they should insist on seeing hard data showing the success rates for the type of cancer they have. Fine words and compelling theories are one thing, but survival rates are the "proof of the pudding."
Oasis of Hope recently analyzed our four-year survival statistics for Stage IV patients with several common types of cancer, including breast, lung, ovarian and colorectal cancer. What we found was that they are consistently and significantly higher than those calculated by the National Cancer Institute, drawing on nationwide data. For some cancers Oasis of Hope's survival rates are actually twice as high. (Click to see our Survival Statistics)
We are proud of this record, but also humbled: We feel that one death from cancer is too many. We know that we still have a long way to go. That is why we never stop researching new approaches and protocols, never stop trying to understand the mechanisms of cancer and learn even better ways to help every one of our patients recover their health and lead long, productive and happy lives.
So if you or a loved one have been told that "nothing more can be done" for a stage IV cancer – don't believe it! Oasis of Hope is here to fight for you and with you every step of the way, using the most advanced and creative clinical strategies available, and to help ensure that whether you have months or decades left to you on earth, you will really be living!
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Empower yourself over cancer. Order the Oasis of Cancer Cancer Battle Plan in which Dr. Contreras will teach 12 actions you can take to beat cancer.