Volume 4 Issue 3 - Nurse Patricia Peat

Originally published in Issue 3 2005 icon

Nurse Patricia Peat and her baby son

Patricia Peat is a registered nurse. Following years of experience in oncology, combined with research into natural approaches to cancer she now runs Cancer Options.

Cancer Options is a specialised team of practitioners who provide individual consultancy and coaching into treatment and making decisions for all approaches to cancer.

Details of their services are available at www.canceroptions.co.uk or by calling 0845 009 2041.

Q:
I have breast cancer, and have been diagnosed with bone metastases. I have a fairly painful area in my hip, but am otherwise 0K. The doctors have suggested radiotherapy, but having heard of the side effects, I am keen to follow natural approaches. What would you recommend?

A:
Actually, when it comes to bone metastases, I would highly recommend the orthodox options, particularly when it comes to pain control. There are two main aims when someone develops bone metastases. The first is to control the pain and I have never seen anything in the complementary field that has any effect on this. Radiotherapy, on the other hand, is excellent for achieving this, and can usually be given in one dose, rather than a prolonged course. Anti-inflammatories and acupuncture can also be helpful. Pain from bone metastases can be severe, and seriously effect quality of life, so the sooner it is tackled the better.

The second aim is to preserve the integrity of the bone, and prevent the density diminishing which can lead to fractures. The orthodox approach is to use biphosphonates, which have proven themselves very effective at preventing breakdown of bone, and also bring some pain relief.

This can be given either orally, or as a regular intravenous treatment. Some of the latest research shows that the earlier it is used, the better the prevention. Also, zoledronic acid is looking to be very effective.

On the complementary side, there has been little effect. There is a strontium supplement, which has recently been shown to be effective against osteoporosis, though research has yet to be done for bone metastases. There is hope this will be useful as strontium is used to treat bone pain as an injection (unfortunately only in prostate cancer at the moment though).

On the dietary side, recent studies have shown that a combination of watercress, chives and rocket are more effective than the currently used anti-osteoporosis drug (Miacalcin, a calcitonin extract from salmon) at preventing bone breakdown. But I don’t anticipate that complementary medicine can achieve much for you with this particular problem.

Q:
I heard recently about a scanner for diagnosing suspicious moles, as an alternative to having to have them removed. Do you know where this is available?

A:
Yes indeed, this does look like an ideal development, preferable to taking off every suspicious area and having it analysed.

It is a hand-held scanner, which is placed in contact with the skin, and directs separate impulses of infrared, red, green and blue light at it. Blood, the dark skin pigment melanin, and the skin protein collagen all absorb and reflect different wavelengths of light in different ways, and this is analysed by computers. Diagnosis is based on interpreting the distribution of the substances in the skin.

The company claims imaging technique increases diagnostic accuracy from 70 to 90%. NHS machines are available at: Addenbrooks, Bedford, Norfolk and Norwich and Solihull. You do need a need a GP referral for this.

Private clinics are at; Anecla Central London, Burghley Park Clinic, Swindon, Lifescan UK Guildford. Cost 200.00.

Q:
I have heard that PSA is not a reliable tumour marker for prostate cancer, which has me worried. How much should one rely on tumour markers and can they mislead you into making the wrong decisions?

A:
There is no simple answer to this; it is a wide and complex issue. PSA has been used for many years for both detection and management of prostate cancer and in the vast majority of cases will provide a reasonable guide to what is happening. But at times it is inaccurate and that really reflects how cancer cells behave as they develop and what elements they excrete to survive in their environment. So PSA may be an accurate guide for someone initially but become less so as time goes on.

Your oncologist will be aware of this and will be skilled in adapting the assessment to look at the wiser picture. It is often the underlying trend of the marker measured over a period of time which gives a clearer picture than small rises or falls in measurement.

New and more reliable markers are being discovered all the time and it should not be long before PSA is replaced. There are many tumours for which reliable markers have yet to be discovered but that will also change.

Due to the nature of cancer, we are unlikely ever to achieve 100% reliability. The majority of doctors will include analysis of tumour markers into the overall picture, including scans, x-rays and how the person is feeling, and it is always best to view them as a guide rather than an absolute.

Advice from The Cancer Experts - your questions answered
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