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Why Cancer Comes Back

Published by Connealy, MD on February 1, 2024

Why Cancer Comes Back

Cancer recurrence is unfortunately becoming increasingly common. Recurrent cases typically happen when cells break away from an original tumor or evade treatment and begin to grow again at the same site or a new location in the body. It is estimated that one in six people who are diagnosed with cancer will experience cancer recurrence, with brain cancer, ovarian cancer, and lung cancer being the most likely to return. The fear of cancer recurrences weighs heavily on a patient especially after treatment. It is most common to be diagnosed within 2 years of previous treatment, but as time passes, it becomes more unlikely that the cancer will return.  

Below are commonly high recurrence rates:

  • Glioblastoma (~100%)
  • Epithelial Ovarian Cancer (85%)
  • Lung Cancer (30-75%)
  • Bladder Cancer (40-54%)
  • Pancreatic (36%)
  • Cervical: (35%)
  • Lymphoma (30-40%)
  • Breast (30%)

Cancers typically come back because conventional treatments do not reach all the cancerous cells or address why the cancer occurred in the first place. It is believed that cancer takes up to 10 years to develop in the body. It is a perfect storm of stress, poor nutrition, toxin exposure, traumas, and other terrain imbalances that result in cancer growth. Conventional treatments like the ones below are unable to fully address the terrain, and often weaken healthy tissues inhibiting the body’s natural ability to detect and kill cancer cells. 

Surgery: Surgeons cannot identify and remove all cancerous tissue, leaving some cells behind.

Chemotherapy & Radiation

  • Not all cells are killed by chemotherapy & radiation.
  • Some cells produce molecular changes making them resistant to these treatments, which allows them to continue growing. Because of this, it is common for recurring cancer to be more aggressive.
  • These treatments can push cancer cells into “hibernation”– dormant cells can grow very slowly and are difficult to detect on conventional screenings.

Radiation: Exposure to radiation from various screening methods can cause cancer to return or exacerbate the growth of cancerous cells that were left behind. 

Micrometases: Some cells can break away from the primary cancer and move undetected throughout the body.

Increased Stress Hormones: Stress hormones such as estrogen and cortisol can cause cancer recurrence by triggering an immune response, specifically neutrophils, which can wake up dormant cancerous cells. It is common for patients to experience stress after undergoing treatment, however, keeping stress low is one of the most important elements of preventing recurrence. 

Cancer is a systemic disease. Although it is common to treat individual organs and tissues, a holistic approach is necessary for preventing its return. We have influence over many factors that cause terrain imbalances leading to cancer. Some of these include: 

  • Diet – PUFA intake, nutrient deficiencies
  • Cellular metabolism 
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Exposure to EMFs / ionizing radiation
  • Excess serotonin
  • Sunlight exposure
  • Exposure to toxins and industrial chemicals 
  • Stress – physical and emotional

Safe screening tools are important for monitoring cancer recurrence. Because various treatments are so hard on the body, it is important to keep exposure to radiation as low as possible. Some radiation options include:

  • Full-body ultrasounds: detects new growths, blockages, and can measure blood flow to tissues
  • Thermography scans: uses an infrared camera to detect heat patterns and blood flow in body tissues. 
  • QT Imaging: a breast screening tool that uses an ultrasonic imaging system that creates high-resolution images to detect abnormalities
  • Liquid biopsies: blood test that detects signs of developing cancer cells or circulating tumor DNA

(Read more about screening here)

Healing requires taking a complex look at what is happening in the body and often, a complete overhaul of our lives. There is usually not one factor contributing to cancer recurrence, but rather a complex set of imbalances that led to its development in the first place. We have to evaluate all the conditions like the ones previously mentioned (cellular metabolism, hormones, etc). Many aspects are in our control including diet, stress reduction, and sunlight exposure. Conventional treatments unfortunately miss this.  

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