Two views on canine cancer: homeopathy vs. conventional

Homeopathy, along with new discoveries in conventional medicine, are coming to similar conclusions about how to more effectively treat cancer.

Heidi was upset when her golden retriever was diagnosed with cancer last year, but she wasn’t all that surprised. Two of her friends also had dogs with cancer, and when she went online to find a support group to help her through her own pooch’s experience, she found thousands of other people in the same situation.

Approximately one in three dogs will die of cancer. Some breeds are more susceptible than others – for example, boxers, Bernese mountain dogs and golden retrievers. In my work as a veterinary surgeon and homeopath, I treat cancer cases on a daily basis. Many come to me at an advanced stage in which, from a conventional viewpoint, little more can be done. Over the years, I have developed treatment protocols that use the homeopathic understanding of disease, and that incorporate conventional medicine, supplements and attention to diet as well as homeopathy.

Most believe that the conventional understanding of disease and homeopathy are worlds apart. But the longer I practice, the less I believe this to be so. It’s simply that homeopathy focuses on the underlying energetic/dynamic nature of disease, while conventional thinking mainly concentrates on the physical manifestations of disease. There is actually no single philosophy of conventional medicine, yet homeopathy has a clear set of laws for the understanding and treatment of disease. Conventional medicine is focused primarily on what we can see – e.g. bacteria, viruses and DNA – and medicines are aimed at either removing the perceived cause of illness or its symptoms through antibiotics, anti-inflammatories or new treatments aimed at the genetic level. The understanding of cancer from both conventional and homeopathic viewpoints is actually starting to converge, with each philosophy arriving at the same conclusion but coming from completely different viewpoints.

The homeopathic view on cancer

Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843) is known as the originator of homeopathy, a complete system of medicine based on the principle of like cures like. It recognises that disease is based on dynamic disturbance affecting the whole individual. The symptoms the body expresses (e.g. pain or vomiting) are in effect the language of the body and the way it reveals disturbance so we can act on it.

Our current conventional understanding of cancer (see below) is confirming for homeopaths just how advanced Hahnemann was in his understanding of disease. Here are two very important principles that Hahnemann understood nearly 200 years ago:

1. Treatment should be based on the individual’s expression of disease – i.e. the symptoms. What this means in cancer terms is that there is no such thing as a homeopathic medicine for, as an example, a carcinoma. The homeopathic medicine must reflect the characteristic symptoms of the individual who has the carcinoma – for instance, restlessness at night, or an ulcerated tumour without pain.

2. Some diseases that are not treated correctly (they’re suppressed instead) can create chronic illness for the individual that can then be passed on to offspring as an inherited susceptibility. Examples include problems like diabetes, arthritis and colitis. Hahnemann recognised that cancer was a manifestation of chronic disease and that it has two distinct aetiological aspects:

• There is a basic inherited susceptibility of an individual to cancer.

• There are exciting/irritational or suppressive causes on both the physical and psychic planes of existence that activate the susceptibility – e.g. injury, burns, drugs, alcohol, improper food, grief or sexual suppression.

Homeopaths recognize cancer as an expression of chronic disease specific to the individual, regardless of the given cancer type, that can be inherited and/or triggered by external causes both emotional and physical.

The conventional view on cancer

A. Genetic level

Science is in the process of unravelling DNA, and a high percentage of research funding goes to identifying the genes implicated in diseases such as cancer, and trying to understand how they are regulated. The current conventional viewpoint about the origins of cancer is now fairly uniform and believed to be irrefutably genetic. There is no such thing as a gene for lymphoma or a mast cell tumour; all cancers involve a number of genetic changes known as mutations, and many of the genes involved can be common to a number of different cancers.

There are some interesting observations coming to light at the genetic level that once again confirm what we know at the dynamic/energetic level. For example, the physical manifestation of a certain cancer phenotype (an observable characteristic such as a mast cell tumor or lymphoma, involving different cell types) can result from different sequences of genetic mutation that affect many different biological processes. Therefore, what can appear as a single named cancer can behave differently from the apparently same cancer in another individual. The resulting cancer is but a small part of the story; we are looking at individuality, which is and always has been, central to the understanding of disease from a homeopathic perspective. The conventional conclusion is that commonly affected genes are multifunctional and part of complex interactive networks. So in essence, the more we look at cancer at the genetic level, the more complex and individual it becomes, posing enormous problems for developing generic conventional medicines.

More recently, evidence has been found for the existence of a small number of tumor stem cells that have defined sets of mutations and a set phenotype, and have the ability to promote an environment similar to wound healing that never heals. These cells also have high proliferative potential and can acquire drug resistance. From the homeopathic viewpoint, this may give us an understanding of why so many remedies that have excellent action in cancer cases have also an affinity with injury and trauma – for example, Bellis perennis and Symphytum.

It is also suggested that cancer can be caused by so-called epigenetic events that can alter the expression of genes rather than mutating them. In effect, this means there are changes in how the genes are switched on or off. This can occur spontaneously or be heritable, as with gene mutation. It may also go a long way to explain at the physical level how an event like grief can result in the expression of cancer. It could even explain observed changes in offspring caused by the state of the parents at the time of conception. In these examples, the energetic changes may be encountered by the organism ultimately as a chemical change that then alters gene expression.

While heritable factors affect susceptibility, they are only a small part of the story. Environmental influence is well documented as the major factor in tumor production.

B. The cellular level

It’s widely accepted that there are six qualities or common features a cancer cell must have to be successful:

1. Self-sufficiency in growth signals

2. Insensitivity to anti-growth signals

3. The ability to evade apoptosis (natural cell death)

4. Limitless reproductive potential

5. Sustained angiogenesis (new blood vessels being formed from existing ones)

6. The capacity to invade tissues and metastasize

This understanding is in many ways the easy part, as it tells us largely what we know at an end result level. It does provide us with clues for developing new material dose treatments – e.g. a lot of new cancer supplements are combinations of substances called adaptogens, which target one of the tricks cancer cells have of avoiding natural cell death. We have of course for many years used treatments such as chemotherapy to act on the rapid reproduction of cancer cells. It is very important to remember that the mechanisms cancer cells use to gain advantage are all important to some degree to normal healthy cells. This is a big problem for conventional cancer therapy which targets healthy as well as cancer cells.

It’s becoming clear that the future of medicine may lie in the use of bespoke treatments for the individual. This is something homeopathy has always done, and that the conventional world is fast recognising as the way forward. Homeopaths will continue to look at body symptoms as language, while in conventional medicine treatments may involve gene sequencing and medicines affecting the individual array of genes that need switching on or off. Ultimately, it’s the same thing.

In the not-too-distant future, we may look back in disbelief at all the untargeted chemotherapy and radiotherapy currently being used to treat cancer. And that will be a blessing for humans and animals alike.