By Kirsten West ND, LAc

There is a common assumption that the best way to treat and manage disease, is with the knowledge of the disease itself. For example, prostate cancer is treated using a “Prostate Cancer” protocol. This is similar for breast cancer, colon cancer, etc. While this premise makes sense, and many of us have been conditioned to think this way, this may not be the best way to “manage” disease.

The reasons are numerous, in a nutshell, it comes down to the fact that not every cancer is the same. The reasons it began, its primary growth factors, and therefore, the ways to manage it, are different. In fact, some may actually go so far as to say that the word “cancer” it too all-encompassing as melanoma and, for example, colon cancer, act very differently. In addition, one breast cancer may be very different from the next.

Society is a great way to look at and explain the phenomenon. “You are the company you keep” is an adage that may carry a good amount of wisdom. It is no surprise that most of us tend to reflect and maintain the behavior of our peers. This is most evident in high school. Here the demarcation of social class, behavior, and aspiration really begin. While there are some exceptions, those kids who surround themselves with high achievers, tend to be fairly high achieving themselves. And likewise, those who hang with the “bad” crowd are more susceptible to transgression and future failure. Basically, those that are closest to you, tend to shape your social environment and potentially, your future societal growth.

This seems to be the case for cancer cells as well. In fact, the key aspect of cancer may not actually be in the cells themselves, but instead, in the cells and processes around them- their environment or as we like to call it, their “terrain.”

It is this premise that creates the foundation of Optimal Terrain’s™ approach to disease and to cancer. It is also why we ask for pages of health history, family history, nutritional intake, environmental exposures, several labs, etc. etc. All of these things comprise the terrain. In fact, it is all of these things, that outline the reason why there is not a given protocol for any given cancer. The causes, the factors, the reasons why a cancer cell had the ability to take hold, create a tumor, and grow, are defined by things other than the very name of the tumor itself – (i.e. breast cancer).

A cell that is exposed to a lifetime of inflammation, or environmental exposures, high stress hormones, skewed ratios of sex hormones, glucose, growth hormones, (and the list continues) has a greater risk of becoming cancerous. If it is surrounded by the “bad kids”, its future may take a very different direction than the cell surrounded by the “good kids”, those cells following “the norm/status quo” amidst, low inflammation, metabolic balance, hormonal regulation and the like. This is why it is so imperative to focus on the terrain, and push change there. By mitigating physiological stressors, the future of a cancer cell can be altered and its creation, potentially thwarted.

Granted, there are some who are born with a greater predisposition to develop disease. A few years ago, Angelina Jolie was a great example of this. Genetic testing did reveal she was positive for the BRCA 1 gene/mutation. About 50-70 women out of 100, who carry this gene, typically develop breast cancer prior the age of 70yo (and most, at younger ages) while 8 out of every 100 women, without this mutation, will develop cancer by the age of 70yo[i]. However, there is something very important to note here, there are many women, with this mutation, who never develop cancer. Why? Mutations are not alone in determining who gets cancer. Instead, it is the extracellular environment, the terrain, which is likely to play a larger role.

Conventional oncology care tends to focus on the tumor cells themselves. There is a very good reason why they do this as the ultimate goal is to eradicate the body of cancer. However, if we do not change the environment around the cell, the risk of recurrence is higher.

What makes a tumor, has more to do with the terrain, than many scientists, researchers and doctors, may have once thought. And while it is true, that we all have tumor cells at any given time, the chances that they run with the “bad kids” may be entirely up to us. This is the premise of Optimal Terrain™ and the purpose. By changing the terrain we change our cellular society, promote long term health and the management, as well as remission, of disease.

To watch a fascinating Ted Talk, by Mina Bissell (the pioneer of this way of thinking), please go here: https://www.ted.com/talks/mina_bissell_experiments_that_point_to_a_new_understanding_of_cancer


[i] National Cancer Institute. (2016). BRCA1 and BRCA2: Cancer Risk and Genetic Testing.. Retrieved at: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/genetics/brca-fact-sheet

Saey, T.H. Dangerous Digs: Genes and Cells. Science News 2013 Sep; 184 (#7): p. 20