Home
About the Center
Actions
Management
Contact Us
Directions/Travel
Visitor Information
Clinical Staff
Health Conditions
Laboratory
Lectures & Events
Links
Literature & Articles
New Patients
News
Search
Success Stories
The Dispensary
Disclaimer

 

 

 

An Integrative Approach to Treating Cancer

Dr. Michael Schachter reports success utilizing nutrition, lifestyle changes, supplements and herbs, detoxification and other complementary modalities  

            The longstanding approach to cancer treatment has been to deal with the tumor as a foreign invader, removing as much as possible surgically, radiating it to reduce the size, and managing it with chemotherapy. Although some cancers may respond to such treatment, others will not and, often, this conventional approach can do more harm than good by undermining the very resources the body needs to attack the cancer.

            So believes Dr. Michael B. Schachter, whose integrative medical practice in Suffern, the Schachter Center for Complementary Medicine, has been involved with alternative and complementary medicine since 1974. Claiming to have a high success rate Schachter says that following a lumpectomy for breast cancer, and even with the involvement of several lymph nodes, his patients rarely experience a recurrence of cancer within five to eight years if they continue to adhere to his program Schachter nonetheless never uses the term "cure." He approaches cancer as if it were a chronic disease like diabetes. And his measure of success is not a tumor's size, but quality of life and survival.

            Schachter's approach presupposes the body has the ability to heal itself under the proper circumstances and it places less emphasis on destroying the cancer at all costs. Instead, the focus is on building up the body with non-toxic treatments so it can deal with the cancer.

            "There has not been much emphasis [in conventional medicine] on dealing with the possible causes that have brought about the cancer and, by possibly dealing with that, one might be able to affect the course of the illness," says Schachter, 62. "The general orientation of the integrative cancer specialist is somewhat different. The body has the ability to heal itself given the right circumstances and, when cancer develops, it is because of some kind of breakdown in the body's systems."

            Most cancer research has concentrated on changes in the size of the tumor as the determining factor in whether or not a particular treatment has been successful, according to Schachter. If the tumor shrinks by 50 percent, the treatment is considered to be effective, he says.

            "Unfortunately, a change in the size of the cancerous tumor has little relationship either to the survival of the patient or his/her quality of life," notes the physician. "This is true because the tumor consists not only of cancerous cells, but the body's defensive cells as well, and shrinking the tumor kills both types of cells, reducing the body's ability to fight the cancer."

            Oncologists rarely communicate to their patients that conventional treatments will not always improve their chances for survival, emphasizes Schachter. For example, women with breast cancer are not generally told that radiation following a lumpectomy and axillary lymph node removal will not extend their lives, and men with prostate cancer are not told that there is "no statistically significant evidence" to indicate that a radical prostatectomy  or any kind of radiation therapy will improve their chances for survival, he says. "On the contrary," he adds, "in both examples, the patients are usually presented with these options with the implication that these treatments are absolutely necessary and that there are no other choices."

            Cancer develops as a result of mutations involving three specific classes of genes, according to Schachter. The first, proto-oncogenes, normally stimulate routine cell division, but, after mutations, accelerate wild cell division. The second class, tumor suppressor genes, will under routine conditions help to prevent cells from dividing abnormally. After mutating, however, they fail "to put on the brakes," he says. And lastly, DNA repair genes, which repair damage to other genes, are unable to do their job following mutations.

            These mutations are inherited from parents or result from environmental influences, such as chemical exposure in food, water and air; radiation; insufficient exposure to protective factors like vitamin D from sunlight, minerals, and anti-oxidants; and other exposures. Environmental mutations accumulate over time so that cancer is more common as we age, according to Schachter. "The more mutations present in the cancer cells, the more bizarre, angry and aggressive the cancer," he says.

            In addition to being toxic and suppressing the immune system, radiation and chemotherapy are highly mutagenic and carcinogenic, according to Schachter, who points out that such treatments may contribute to the development of mutations in cancerous cells rather than killing the cells as they are intended to do. This helps to explain a well-known phenomenon after conventional therapy using these treatments:  when a cancer recurs, it is almost always more resistant to further treatment and more difficult to treat, he says. "At the very least, when using these treatments, we should be paying attention to ways of building the body simultaneously to reduce their adverse affects," he suggests.

            Schachter says the various complementary and alternative treatments he administers at his center can be used alone or to counteract the negative effects of radiation and chemotherapy. He works with patients, who have chosen to undergo radiation and/or chemotherapy as well as those who are seeking alternatives.

            "Numerous in vitro and animal studies provide evidence for the cancer killing effects of nutrients and other natural substances," says Schachter. "These substances are frequently damaging to cancer cells, but protective of normal cells. Furthermore, these same nutrients are synergistic with conventional treatments, improving therapeutic results and reducing the toxic side effects of the conventional treatments."

            Schachter's program begins with an "avoid list" that includes: sugar, alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, white flour products, hydrogenated fats, chemicals in foods, fluoride, aluminum and Teflon cookware, non-prescription drugs, mercury-containing amalgam fillings, electric blankets, lead-containing lipstick, synthetic hair dyes, proximity to high voltage power lines, waterbeds, metal rimmed eyeglasses (that weaken an individual's energy field), tight and restrictive clothing (especially bras that should not be worn more than necessary and should be as loose as possible to permit lymph drainage), microwave ovens, and anti-perspirant deodorants (which contain aluminum).

            Dietary recommendations will include a wide variety of fresh, whole organic foods with an emphasis on vegetables, fruits and whole grains, and high quality animal protein foods. If tolerated, a significant amount of the diet will be raw foods. Most patients are asked to take a large number of oral supplements, including vitamins, amygdalin (sometimes called Laetrile), herbal combinations, and certain enzymes and essential fatty acids.

            Many patients also receive an injectable treatment program involving high doses of Vitamin C and amygdalin, a variety of minerals (including selenium, calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, manganese, molybdenum and chromium) and well as other nutrients and substances to enhance the body's defense against cancer, improve the patient's sense of well being or directly affect the cancer cells in a therapeutic way, according to Schachter. Intravenous hydrogen peroxide therapy and ultraviolet blood irradiation are also incorporated.

            Various detoxification procedures account for another aspect of the program. At the same time, the physician may add hormone balancing, homeopathy, stress management and imagery techniques, massage and other forms of bodywork, acupuncture, spinal manipulation, and magnetic therapy. Fresh air, sunlight and exercise are important ingredients of the complementary and alternative approach and conventional medicines may be recommended as needed, says the physician.

            If Schachter's patients are experiencing so much success by utilizing complementary and alternative treatments, why aren't more conventional physicians incorporating such modalities into their programs? "Can you imagine if it was really known by people just how bad these things are?" he poses, referring to the dangers associated with pesticides, herbicides, food additives and other pollutants with which the average child and adult comes into daily contact at home, in school and at the workplace. "What effects would it have on the chemical industry, the fertilizer industry, the processed food companies and this is not even talking about the medical-industrial complex? We're talking about billions and billions of dollars and changing society's whole way of looking at things. It's unbelievable what the implications are of some of this stuff."

            "As many people as die from cancer, there are probably more people making a living from it if you take everything into consideration," says Schachter. Radiation treatments are a "cash cow" for the hospitals, he believes. "I encourage most patients to at least look at the statistics," he says. Schachter believes radiation is warranted in very few instances, although he says it can be useful in certain circumstances.

            The criticism of complementary and alternative medicine is often that there are no studies to prove the effectiveness of these treatments. Schachter concedes, "There are very few. They are mostly clinical or anecdotal reports because, for the most part, who is going to fund these studies? It now costs almost $900 million to get one drug approved by the FDA. Who has the money to be able to do this? And all of the alternative approaches use multi-variables. We clean up the diet. We try to get people to exercise. We give them nutritional supplements. It's not a model to be used like a drug, where you put a group on a placebo and another group gets it. It's not as measurable. There would have to be very gross kinds of measurements and what you are really looking at is survival. There are very few doctors who are doing this, especially with cancer patients, because many doctors have been persecuted for questioning the conventional realm."

            Schachter does not accept medical insurance and he says there is no way he would be practicing integrative medicine if he did. His program is well outside the HMO model of care. Cancer patients spend at least an hour and a half with a physician's assistant at his office to develop a program tailored to the individual, and then another hour with him on the same day or later in the week to refine that program. Still another hour with a nutritionist or lifestyle counselor at the center is also required in the beginning. Follow-up visits generally require an hour with Schachter because the patients have so many questions and the programs are so complicated, he says.

            Board certified in psychiatry and chelation therapy, Schachter graduated from Columbia College and received a medical degree in 1965 from Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons. He did a year's internship at the Hospital for Joint Diseases and a three-year residency in psychiatry at Kings County Hospital. A general psychiatrist first, then head of emergency services at a hospital in Rockland County, and, finally, the head of a clinic by the early 1970's, Schachter was involved with what was then called orthomolecular psychiatry, which had to do with creating an optimal molecular environmental in which the brain could overcome psychiatric problems.

Schachter noticed that a mega-vitamin therapy that was being used at the time also cleared up allergies, gastrointestinal problems and other medical ailments the patients were experiencing. "It turned out there was a very close relationship between psychiatric problems and lifestyle, nutrition and supplements, and so on," he says.

When his father developed a blockage of the arteries in the legs, he underwent chelation therapy. From not being able to walk more than a couple of blocks, his father was soon able to take long walks, says the physician. After Schachter's mother developed brain cancer, he spent months traveling in both this country and abroad seeking treatments that would help her. In the process, he became familiar with alternative cancer therapies. In 1974, he started the Schachter Center for Complementary Medicine.

Schachter is the co-author of The Food Connection (Bobbs Merrill), and Food, Mind and Mood (Warner Books); and the author of The Natural Way to a Healthy Prostate (Keats Publishing). He was a major contributor to Burton Goldberg's An Alternative Medicine Definitive Guide to Cancer (Future Medicine Publishing).

For further information, contact Schachter at (845) 368-4700, email his office at office@mbschachter.com, or visit his website, www.schachtercenter.com.

Andrea Barrist Stern

Andrea Barrist Stern is associate editor at the Woodstock Times in Kingston, New York, and editor of special sections for Ulster Publishing, its independently owned parent company.  This article appeared in the August 2003 edition of Ulster Publishing's annual health resources guide for the Hudson Valley and  is reprinted through the courtesy of Ulster Publishing.

 

 

             

 

 

 
 

Important Note: You are encouraged to seek the advice of a competent medical professional
before making any decisions that could affect your health. See our disclaimer.

2012 Michael B. Schachter, M.D., P.C.
Reproduction of the content of this website is strictly prohibited.