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by Dr. Robert Boyd

When you or anyone in your family receives a cancer diagnosis, it can be an incredibly difficult and fearful time. People are usually given little time to process the mental and emotional aspects of a diagnosis before being shunted immediately into treatment. While treating and addressing cancer in a timely manner is critical, patients also deserve to have a doctor that is taking steps in the background to ensure the most efficacious results. Here is what every doctor needs to be doing prior to starting treatment:

1) Checking (and preventing) side effects

The side effects of chemotherapy and radiation can be severe; intractable nausea and vomiting, muscle/joint pain, nerve pain, fatigue, mouth sores, digestive issues, reduced appetite and weight loss are just a few. Depending on the medication, certain side effects are at a higher risk versus others. You need to know which ones are the most common for whichever medication you are starting and, most importantly, have a plan in place. These side effects are much easier to prevent than they are to treat. At best, your doctor needs to have you on a comprehensive plan prior to starting treatment so that the risks of these side effects are mitigated. Lastly, if symptoms do occur, a plan needs to have been put in place beforehand to prevent them from getting worse.

2) Improving Effectiveness of Treatment

Did you know that the time of day for receiving chemotherapy can improve effectiveness? Or that certain supplements (herbs, nutrients, vitamins, etc.) can actually enhance the effect of certain chemotherapies and radiation? Researchers around the world do. In addition to timing and supplements, there are many different dietary and lifestyle interventions that can be put in place to enhance the effectiveness of treatment. Fighting cancer needs to be approached from a complete lifestyle perspective. Yet, many doctors don’t have time to pay attention to the plentiful research backing these additional therapies. Make sure your doctor knows about these options.

3) Pay attention to your genes

Your genetic data from companies such as 23andMe.com and Ancestry.com/dna can unlock critical information in regard to the effectiveness of certain medications and risk of side effects. What is truly great about this information is that it is completely specific to your genes. Knowing this information prior to treatment gives us a precise look into whether or not you respond well to certain medications. Even if that is the only medication option you have, we can at least know what side effects you are at highest risk for and put a plan in place to mitigate those symptoms.

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