To find out about how to manage the side effects of Cervical Cancer Treatment, FoundHealth interviewed an esteemed advisor, Dr. Metzger.
Deborah A. Metzger, PhD, MD, FACOG is a gynecologist and reproductive
endocrinologist whose major interest is the integrated treatment of women with complex
medical problems. She has lectured extensively throughout the world, published widely
in peer-reviewed journals and textbooks, and is one of the editors of Chronic Pelvic Pain:
An Integrated Approach, the first book on the subject. She is also the Medical Advisor
for Stay Fertile Longer.d chemo.
What alternate options do I have at stage 2B cervical cancer if I do not want chemo/radiation treatment?
2B is really hard because it’s right on the boundary between needing to be surgically managed and responding to radiation and chemo. Some 2B is contained within the cervix. Some may be on one side of the cervix, but close enough to the lymph nodes where it’s the higher risk, but it really does down to surgery.
At a very, very early stage that’s very localized, if a woman wants to continue to have children, they can cut out a piece out and leave the uterus intact. When it’s spread to lymph nodes beyond the cervix, it’s a combination of chemo and radiation. There are some non-chemo treatments that are becoming available. There’s high-dose IV vitamin C, and other intravenous treatments. Those are all experimental. Oncologists generally don’t like a woman to be on any other alternative treatment when they’re taking care of her, even though it may improve their responses and decrease chance of complication. Vitamin C and E may reduce risk of complications from radiation. It even helps with chemo. There are a lot of medical articles on this subject. It can make a big difference in side effects, and also in benefits.
We’re at a real frontier right now. There are so many new treatments being developed in that area. Some are antibody based, meaning that can actually shut down the cancer by just giving antibodies, which has less of the risk of chemo. That is the future of cancer therapy. There are couple of people doing experimental work where they take a person’s cancer cells let them grow, inject them into an animal, let the animal grow antibodies, then inject them back into the patient.
Avastin is a relatively new drug prevents cells from making new blood vessels. When a cancer starts to grow, it’s only going to grow if it has a good blood supply. It’s called vascular growth vector, which causes new blood vessels to be forms. If you block that, cancer doesn’t really get big. The hope was that it would make it go away, but it’s currently being used just to prevent tumors from growing.
What treatments exist for nerve damage caused by radiation?
Not much. There is some evidence that hyperbaric oxygen, ACE inhibitors, antioxidants, anticoagulants and acetyl-L-carnitine may have some benefit. Some of these approaches are most effective when they are started immediately after radiation therapy. For some people, given enough time, they might get some of the neurological function back. The problem is the fibrosis, the scarring when the tissue is irradiated enough, the blood vessels go away, it’s just dead tissue that’s being kept alive. But there are radiation techniques that might limit these effects. One is to give radiation from different directions each day so no one tissue gets too high a dose. Radiotherapy to the cervix can be localized by placement of rods of radioactive material into the cervix, then after a period of time they are removed.
For coping, it depends on what nerve is affected. I see some patients with post-chemo brain fog and fatigue and just not feeling well. Their quality of life is not all that great. There are things that can be done, including the nutritional supplements I mentioned earlier, and finding what else is weighing them down. Are they gluten sensitive? Has their body accumulated heavy metals? Are there other food sensitivities? After chemo is a good time for cleaning out the body so that it can cope. Chemo is toxic. For some people these residual effects can last the rest of their lives, and others slowly get better. But most people feel that’s a small price to pay for having their lives.
Why does pre cervical cancer keep coming back? Is there anything I can do to stop this?
Precervical cancer, known as dysplasia, is primarily caused by high-risk HPV. It’s a sexually transmitted disease. In another 20-30 years it may not exist because of the vaccine that women are getting to prevent HPV. For right now, having regular Pap smears is a way of catching it before it becomes cancer. Recommendations vary, some say every year, others say every three years. Dysplasia can come back if you get a different type of HPV, the original treatment did not get rid of all of the abnormal cells or your immune system is not up to the task.
How can bladder damage from radiation be reduced? Burning, stinging, low bladder capacity and other side effects often occur.
Bladder damage from radiation comes from the free radicals that form in normal tissue and ultimately result in permanent damage. Much of this bladder damage can be prevented with antioxidants: selenium, Vit E, Vit C, and plant based favonoids, polyphenols, and carotenoids.
How promising is herbal treatment of cervical cancer?
There are oncologists that specialize in integrative treatment. Botanicals used with chemotherapy have been found to reduce multidrug resistance to cancer.
A study on a Chinese blend containing cinnamon, astralagus, ginseng, and curcumin found that, when combined with traditional chemotherapy, the chemotherapy was more effective and there were significantly fewer side effects compared to those taking a placebo. Seeing a Chinese herbalist alongside your oncologist would definitely be worthwhile. Looking at that outcome, that’s pretty impressive.
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