Friday, 15 March 2019

The lack of action is killing us - Chris Lewis

This week Chris of Chris’ Cancer Community shares his views on how big charities just aren’t cutting it in the cancer world…

My working life has changed dramatically since the start of 2019, and it is all incredibly positive! SimPal is now serving families across the entire UK and we are working with some incredible partners, which is making life a lot easier. As things in the charity world continue to evolve, we are being contacted by national companies who are disillusioned by giant charities, and can see the impact we are having in the community. Being small we are restricted what we can take on due to limited finance, but we are open and honest with people. Our work is innovative, and we are very agile, due to the way we work in a fast moving sector. The projects I do personally are getting more high profile, and I am working with some of the largest names in cancer today. Attempting to improve the communication between clinicians and patients, removing politics and making time of the essence! 

I have been involved with the cancer sector for approximately ten years now, and I have become totally bored with most things I see and hear in the UK. We have moved on from booklets to flashy internet communication which is a lot more user-friendly and convenient. The information is up to date and appropriate, and we have created groups on social-media where like minds can discuss and share as much as they like. But what of substance has actually improved in that time? 

Recently, I have attended meetings from local to national level and still the issues discussed remain the same as ten years ago. The inequality of life for people affected by cancer. How poorer people have become once they get cancer. The lack of job opportunities for people affected by cancer. Hospital parking charges, not enough money given to certain cancers, the lack of progress in specific tumour types and staffing numbers decreasing. The same questions coming up time after time, year after year. Just this week there was a meeting of minds from Macmillan Cancer Support and Cancer Research to talk about many of these issues, and they were proud when they talked about COLLABORATION, wow! These two organisations can’t stop massaging their egos over what incredible work they do. Everywhere you looked were adverts about them, and of course the obligatory ‘patient story’ to make everyone feel better about what they do! 

This is not a collaboration but a cartel, which was also attended by ex-employees now plying their trade in the NHS! These are the organisations that are supposedly there for us when we need them most. But what are they doing? We know they are successful in the advertising world, where you certainly have to be wealthy to exist. Most people know their brands of course, but I suggest not for anything they have done for them? More about being drip fed by constant advertising on tv, social media, and public transport etc. It is obviously working as they are financially the two largest cancer charities in this country. What impact are they having in the cancer community? Their opinions are the first we ever hear when cancer makes the news. It is as if what we are seeing is not official unless they have had their comments. Cancer research and cancer support are two of the broadest terms used in the sector. So, who can argue with them? Trying to get specific answers though, is like asking questions to MI5. 

With our country in such a political mess, we are seeing absolutely no action at all in healthcare, but who is challenging the Government? I see a lot of money in their accounts for ‘lobbying and campaigns’ but what is the result? Everyone concerned seems very happy with the status-quo, all drawing healthy salaries, being rewarded well for failure. The same names and faces travelling on the cancer roundabout. Some of the worst communicators I have ever met. No private business would be run like this, with a ‘jobs for the boys’ approach. 

Meanwhile cancer continues to take lives on a daily basis, as the number of people affected increases. My belief is that it is the ‘modern day plague.’ Everyone is affected so why is there such a lack of urgency? The system is totally broken, if there was one in the first place. Silo working is as apparent now as it was when I started my work. Everyone is only interested in their own empire with no one responsible for looking at the bigger picture. Unfortunately, the facts are very stark, that we cannot rely on the people who tell us they are there to help us. Nothing will change unless we make it happen. Of course, it is difficult enough to cope with the disease, let alone fight for what we need, but this is the state of affairs we find ourselves in. Things will not change within this current system.

This issue is not only about money it is about desire to make change happen, and I don’t see that from any leadership in the cancer sector. It is stale and washed up, and certainly doesn’t reflect the people it is there to represent. This is becoming a national disgrace! 

As always these are my own opinions based on my own experiences. Please feel free to share your own below.

Read more posts from Chris here.

Friday, 8 March 2019

The mystery of fats and oils - Philip Booth

This week Philip Booth of My Unexpected Guide; learning from cancer discusses the mystery of fats and oils…

Wow, this is an area that I have found so hard to understand and not sure this blog will shed much more light on it. Indeed whether it be margarine, butter, coconut or olive oil we have been told at various times they are bad and good for us. There are whole books dedicated to this topic….there is so much conflicting information out there - well isn’t that true for lots of this health stuff! Anyway, where to begin? 
Cartoon by Russ
Well, last week I had the results of a comprehensive blood test with my integrative doctor looking at my ‘Ethythrocyte Essential Fatty Acids’. It gave numbers for a bewildering thirty plus different Fatty Acids. On top of that there seem to be so many generalisations about saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, but each fat is unique and I understand that even the smallest variation can have significant effects in the body.

I’ve learnt that prostate cancer likes fat as well as sugar (see previous blog with Jane McLelland here). Last year research confirmed that fat contained within the Western diet, in combination with genetic factors, can cause prostate cancer tumors to spread (i). Previously there had also been research showing saturated fat, Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and Eicosatetraenoic acid (EPA) intakes were related to the risk of advanced or fatal prostate cancer, but not to non-advanced prostate cancer (ii). However there are still some significant question marks over the research. For example could those saturated fats contain more pesticides - and what do we mean by ‘fats’ in the research. Nevertheless some scientists argue that diets high in omega-6 fatty acids relative to omega-3 fatty acids may be associated with the increased prevalence of chronic diseases, like certain cancers.

Dr Geo Espinosa (iii) for example writes: "There is no conclusive association between eating fat, including saturated fat and prostate cancer. However, there are two possible exceptions, too much Omega 6-fatty acids and consumption of trans-fatty acids. Omega 6 fats are good for the body but only when in the balance with Omega-3 fatty acids. The omega-6 to omega-3 ratio in the standard American (heart attack) diet is 20 or 30:1, omega 6 to omega 3. The healthier ratio is 2 or 1:1, respectively.”

I like how Chris Woollams of CANCER Active (iv) summarises it: “Omega-3 is far more beneficial than 6 and 9. And the omega-3 from fish has completely different benefits (anti-inflammatory, longevity, brain health, cachexia minimisation) to that of flaxseed (toxin elimination, antioxidant, anti-oestrogen). And there is little conversion between the two - you need to eat both."

Interestingly my Omega 6 was the higher end of normal and my omega 3 was the lower end of normal. This is one area I can clearly take action; the suggestion being to balance this is by having 2gms of Cleanmarine supplement per day and increase eating walnuts and pumpkin seeds. I’ve already started this. It is also worth noting I am avoiding fish oils as there are a lot of mixed messages about them even particularly the cheaper ones. 
Update 19.02.19: See useful discussion re fats and prostate cancer hereUpdate 7.3.19: See great talk by Dr Mason about saturated fats and Omega 3 here (it is the third film in the article - not cancer specific so doesn't take account of issues noted above but nevertheless improved my understanding of this issue).
Two mysteries and two delights

There were a couple of other mysteries in my results. One was raised levels of trans-fats. These are the partially hydrogenated oils; basically an industrially created unsaturated fat. Since trans structured fats are unnatural, eating them causes chaos in the body including hardening of blood vessels and increased inflammation. I’ve looked several times at what I am eating and can find no foods with trans fats. 
Update 18.02.19talking with an integrative doctor I hear that cooking olive oil can change the fat and could be responsible for this change? I rarely fry with olive oil but certainly have done.

The second mystery was that my Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) reading was low and should indicate a low Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) reading and it didn’t? Of course blood cells live for around 120 days so could this reading have something left over from a while ago? I don’t think so.

In my recent NHS blood tests I was delighted to see my cholesterol level, that in previous years had been just over the top end of normal, had come down (note cholestrol is not all bad). I was also delighted to see my triglyceride levels were at the lower end of normal. Chris Woollams writes (v): "A number of studies have shown that high levels of triglycerides in the blood are linked to lower survival times. We have covered research, for example, on the link between blood triglyceride levels and prostate cancer resurgence. Some oncologists in London have already been using complementary treatment statins in small doses to reduce plasma levels of bad fats.” This of course links again to Jane McLelland work re starving cancer.
Stearic and oleic acid

Another area of interest in my blood test results was the relation between stearic and oleic acid. The body converts excess stearic acid to oleic acid. In fact it can also convert the other way; the body has its own ideas about the various fatty acids it needs, and can create most of them. The exceptions are the omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, mentioned above, where we do have control.

It is argued by some scientists that in many cancers, the ratio of oleic:stearic acid increases with the severity of the cancer (vi). This seems to indicate that oleic acid is not a useful addition to the diet when one has prostate cancer; it can help make blood cells pliable but in that process could help cancer cells migrate. Some research from 1990 concluded (vii): 'The red cell membrane stearic acid to oleic acid ratio was analysed in 34 men with histologically proven carcinoma of the prostate and distant metastases. This ratio was expressed as the saturation index (SI). A mean SI of 0.97 was found in control patients without evidence of any malignancy whereas all patients with advanced prostatic cancer showed a reduced stearic to oleic acid ratio (mean SI 0.466). Untreated patients had a significantly lower SI (mean 0.36) than those who had responded to hormonal therapy (mean 0.547; P less than 0.0001). A drop in SI correlated well with more advanced disease as judged by radiological findings and serum PSA. It is suggested that red cell membrane SI correlates well with radiological and biochemical markers of advanced prostatic carcinoma and may be used as a marker to assess progress and response to treatment.'

Calculating my SI meant taking the stearic acid result and dividing it by the oleic acid ie in my case 0.87; but how much store should I place in this? Confusion for me multiplied when I realised that oleic acid is found in wonderful oils like olive oil, extolled for its health-giving properties and in less good oils like the vegetable oils. While stearic acid is a fat found in red meat and has been vilified for many years. Before I panicked it is also argued that an oleic-dominant ratio is seemingly an artifact of the cancer and probably unrelated to diet. 

So I will continue with some minimal olive oil, add more omega 3, maybe very occasionally have a bit of butter from grass-fed cattle and place my trust in the research that shows a Rainbow (viii) or Mediterranean Diet (ix) can play a key role in tackling cancer. More of my nutrition in another blog. 

Coconut oil

To finish I wanted to look at coconut oil as it was once feted as an oil to include in diets and is also a key oil in the Keto Diets that claim to help tackle cancer (x). Well more on Keto in another post but alot of what I’ve read to date raises concerns for me about that approach for prostate cancer (although there maybe some exceptions depending on the type of Keto Diet). Anyway June 2017 saw a report saying coconut oil increases LDL, or “bad” cholesterol - but the news was confusing as it also can raise HDL, or “good” cholesterol levels (xi). For me, on balance, there is still not enough research showing impacts of this oil and there is enough evidence with it being a saturated fat to raise concerns for those of us with breast or prostate cancers (xii). I will sadly be cutting this largely from my diet.

So loads more I could write on this but must stop now.