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Can Surgery Spread Cancer?

Prepare yourself for Cancer Surgery

(Chris Woollams. CANCERactive) This article looks at the question, Can Surgery spread cancer? The answer is clearly, Yes. But there are suggestions in this article on ways to minimise the risk and any potential damage. Having the right diet for surgery, taking certain supplements and even taking an antihistamine drug called Cimetidine may even help).

Two thirds of cancer patients have surgery. But over the last 10 years a debate is heating up over whether this supposedly life-saving, orthodox medical approach to cancer is actually making matters worse. Cancer surgery may increase the risk of spreading cancer.

The truth is that this is not a new debate. As long ago as 1995 the Lancet printed an article about whether prostate cancer surgery could spread the disease.

At the risk of being dubbed alarmist (as I was when I repeated the Lancets concerns over the dangers of radiotherapy causing healthy tissue damage), in the interests of patients contemplating surgery (16,000 people next month in the UK alone), we should at least try to clear the matter up!

Cancer is a multi-step process 

As readers will know, at CANCERactive we believe cancer is a multi-step process. The steps include inflammation, to forming rogue cells, to needing a blood supply, to growing a tumour, to metastases and much more.

It is not a linear process. Recent studies have shown in some cancers like colon cancers, the firing off of rogue cells occurs very early in the process. They then lie dormant waiting to be stimulated into action. And this is why people who have had their colon cancers cut away, suddenly experience secondary cancers in distant parts of their body several years later.

And so we always refer to cancer as an all over body disease; one which loves glucose and growth hormone and hates oxygen and a strong immune system.

Cutting out a lump in one place, unless the diagnosis has been made at an extremely early stage, is unlikely to remove all the biochemical imbalances and messages around your body.


For a long time there have also been rumblings about the possible dangers of cancer spread when having biopsies, for example, in breast cancer or prostate cancer. The issue is called seeding. Namely that when a needle is used up to 15 times to take samples across an area, it might hit an area of cancer on probe 3 and pass just a few cells on when probing all the following areas.

Just such an article appeared in the BMJ (July 2004) quoting a report from Australian surgeons whose stated view was that continuing liver biopsies gave rise to a serious risk of seeding and stating that such biopsy was useless and dangerous.

No doubt your surgeon will have his own views but be aware that there have been several studies over the years suggesting that fine needles can pick up cancer cells from one location and transport them to another, non-cancerous, one.

I know of someone who had a gist, a balloon like growth extending out from his stomach wall. The surgeon said it was an easy operation he would give it to a junior, who would first conduct a biopsy. The patient went to America for a second opinion, to a surgeon who specialises in gists. He said that to touch it with a biopsy was to risk it flaring up, gists were extremely dangerous when attacked and in the operation the surgeon had to be sure to get every last cancer cell out.

So, can surgery spread the cancer?

When the body is cut with a knife several things happen. 

  • The tissues need to heal. The area is inflamed and damaged the cells there will produce localised hormones called eicosanoids in response. An excess of bad eicosanoids, for example prostaglandins, has been implicated in starting and worsening the cancer process. It is imperative that people having surgery try to minimise this localised inflammation. Omega-3, ginger, garlic, aloe vera, curcumin, and resveratrol can all help. (Vane and others)
  • Next, stem cells rush to the area to repair the damage. But stem cells are known, in the presence of localised oestrogen - the female sex hormone, to stay in the trophoblast state. This can also result in cancer, so it is imperative to reduce your oestrogen levels. (Wang, British Columbia)
  • As they grow, cancers like breast cancer typically attack bones. The bones strengthen and defend themselves by producing growth hormone which the cancer cells use to further their own growth. Oncologists are talking about using Bisphonates to stop the bone attack and cut growth hormone levels. But just as worrying is the body´s production of growth hormone to heal cuts and tissue damage. Major surgery will produce a large growth hormone response. (This is one reason why I believe strongly that people with cancer should not touch one drop of mass market cows´ dairy. Because of the way the cows are kept, it increases blood levels of IGF-1, a growth hormone)
  • Recent studies covered in icon Cancer Watch have shown that cancers produce secondary pre-cancer cells much earlier than previously thought. These rogue cells pass round the body to other tissues where they and their oncogenes lie dormant. This is one reason why it is imperative cancer patients fundamentally change their lifestyle to avoid repetition of the things that gave them cancer in the first place.
  • Life Extension Magazine reported in America as early as 1985 that cancer surgery increased the risk of metastases. By 2001 the British Journal of Cancer contained an article stating that removal of the primary tumour may result in sudden acceleration of the metastatic process. By 2009 in the Annals of Surgery, researchers reported that cancer surgery itself can create an environment in the body that greatly lessens the obstacles to metastases. This corroborates observations that relatively soon after surgery, metastatic lesions quickly emerge that were not necessarily evident prior to the surgical procedure. (Bill Fallon, Life Extension magazine).
  • In icon we covered Italian Breast cancer research (Dr Romano Demicheli) which looked at women having mastectomies at the Milan Cancer Institute. The conclusion made was that some women relapsed quickly and the surgery had created biochemical changes promoting cancer cell and blood supply growth, increasing tumour growth.
  • One process seems to be that cancer cells need to stick together to form tumours (that you can see), and they need to stick to other tissues to spread round the body.  And surgery can free cancer cells to roam, and seems to increase the stickiness. That stickiness can be overcome. One protector is the common, over-the-counter medicine Cimetidine, or Tagamet - an antihistamine used for indigestion and stomach/duodenal ulcers - click here to read more about Cimetidine. It inhibits histamine action*; and histamines are the very chemicals that help stick cancer cells together! It´s a very useful side-effect from a very cheap and out-of-patent drug!
  • Surgery uses anaesthetic. This is known to reduce the immune system. Doctors typically measure the white cell count, but as we continually point out, there are many different types of white cells (T-cells, B-cells, macrophages etc). Research has shown that surgery greatly reduces the numbers of Natural Killer (NK) cells circulating in the blood you will have a much harder job to kill off a cancer cell after surgery. Readers will know that we have always advocated going into surgery with a strong immune system we have suggested a combination of astragalus, cats claw, turmeric, echinacea, total natural vitamin E, zinc, selenium, grape seed extract and natural vitamin C with bioflavenoids. Vitamins D and K have also been shown to help fight cancer cells in research.
  • Recent research findings have shown that tumours actually produce chemicals that stop vascular growth to cancer cells in other parts of the body. In other words the cancer cells need a blood supply in order to grow into a tumour but the main primary tumour actually stops rivals forming. Remove the primary and the others come out to play. A great deal of research has focused on Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF). You can suppress yours with curcumin, green tea (EGCG), resveratrol, milk thistle and genistein (in soy and red clover). But we have told you all this before too.
  • The drugs and anaesthetic used during surgery, and the stress involved, can make the body more acidic. Cancer tumours are highly acidic. Research from Arizona, Chicago and H. Lee Moffitt has shown that acid conditions in the body increase metastases from tumours and that acidic conditions favour these metastatic cells ´taking hold´ and forming new tumours. But there is much you can do to alkalise your body through diet. 
  • Finally, as if all that was not enough back to the gist. Cancer tumours are often quite orderly fellows with a protein coat around the outside to protect them from attack. If the surgeon doesn´t remove the whole thing, he may break the perimeters and allow cells to escape.
Little or no Research

Many people are now suggesting that the only treatments that should be considered for cancer have randomised, double blind, placebo controlled Clinical Trials to support them. This ´gold standard´ of research is often used to dismiss complementary therapies which have ´evidence´ but not this gold standard trial to support them. But the cold fact is that, while drugs increasingly do use this form of Clinical Trial, Surgery has no such evidence to support it. In 2009, Norwegian Scientists even went as far as saying that the problem is we just don´t know whether breast cancer is better left alone, after a finding that women having no mammograms in a six year period had less cancers and greater survival rates than those having annual mammograms and subsequent treatment. Equally, options such as Cimetidine - which, in research, seems to double survival in prostate cancer, increase T-lyphocytes, and even help in prostate biopsy and surgery, have yet to come face to face with a Phase III clinical trial. Nor will it, because it is out of patent and so Big Pharma has ceased its interest.

So what´s a boy (or girl) to do?

Prepare yourself. Above I list some natural protectors plus a common drug, Cimetidine, to take well in advance of surgery. It is essential that you follow a Diet for Cancer Surgery including key supplements.

Next, talk to the surgeon. Over the last ten years surgeons have been trying to minimise surgery damage with keyhole treatments and lumpectomy rather than full scale removal. But there may be alternatives. A surgeon, as with all oncologists, has a legal duty to lay out all the options available to you. His ignorance is no defence in that duty.

So, ask about alternatives. For example as regular readers will know, we have championed HIFU over traditional prostate surgery for newly diagnosed patients. It is already used for some kidney cancers and there are over 60 private clinics offering HIFU in Europe. Furthermore, the Karolinska Institute in Sweden concluded three successful Clinical Trials on the use of Ablation (localised hyperthermia similar to HIFU) in 2011.

Worse, the stock, traditional response post-surgery that the surgery was successful and the patient is all clear, might also be found to be one more piece of cancer mythology to be exposed as science increases our knowledge of the cancer process.

Clearly this really is an area where
complementary and alternative cancer treatments might be well worth exploring?

People about to have surgery - whether they be cancer patients, or older people having general surgery - would do well to prepare them selves thoroughly, following a careful diet, boosting their immune systems, taking natural compounds that can reduce cellular inflammation and looking to reduce the conditions of cancer throughout their bodies in advance.
* NB.
Cimetidine (Tagamet) may inhibit the action of anti-coagulent drugs - and so you should always consult your doctor before taking it. However, there are a number of case studies and trials on cancers from prostate, to colorectal and melanoma going back to a report in 1979 from the Lancet.

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