Although specific cancers can impact organs and tissues within the body, this disease also results in a systemic disruption of function. One of the most noticeable reactions is the effects that cancer has on the immune system, and how this can change physical ability and needs. Alterations on a cellular level result in overall differences that can impact the manner in which the body is able to respond to an outside infection.
Different Impacts on the Body
Although benign tumors can be a lesser cause for long term care and concerns, these cancerous growths can still be linked to a disrupted immune response. The reason this is the case is due to the fact that the growth process of any type of cancerous cell follows the same chemical triggers within the body. This means that the immune system will respond in the same way, regardless of whether a tumor is malignant or benign.
Tumor growth is an out of control division of cells. As cells divide, they release proteins that signal the immune system to respond and remove the old cells that are being replaced. However, since cancer growth is uncontrolled, the immune system goes into hyper mode, as nutrients in the body are diverted to produce more T cells. This also causes the immune system to adapt in terms of detecting possible threats, and this hyper-vigilance can lead to further autoimmune issues.
However, since the triggers from the tumor growth are taking precedence in regards to immune response, other infections may also be able to infiltrate with greater ease. As a result, individuals with any type of cancer will often experience a lowered immune response. This makes them:
- More susceptible to contracting disease
- More likely to spend a longer time in recovery
- Prone to multiple courses of antibiotics
- Apt to not regain full function after illness
This will often make it necessary to supplement dietary and lifestyle practices to better support immune function, and also to take preventive measures based on how much the immune function is lowered.
Treatments, Malignancy, and Immune Response
Further concerns over immune function may be based on the specific type of cancer, but also on treatment responses. Malignant tumors tend to produce more trigger proteins, and this can overwhelm the immune system more quickly. Cancers which directly impact the lymph glands, the bone marrow, or the blood directly will also present a lessened response, since these diseases have both a direct and indirect impact on immune response.
Along with the influence of the disease, patients may also experience more immune depression from different treatments. Radiation therapy slows the production of red blood cells and this impairs the ability of the immune system to produce white blood cells. Chemotherapy can result in a systemic toxicity to cells, both cancerous and otherwise, and this can also reduce the resources that the immune system is able to pull upon.
Immune Support and Health Benefits
Although it is important to include immune support with any type of cancer diagnosis, this also has a highly specific application. Mono-clonal and antibody therapies are also used to treat many cancers, and a revived immune function can further benefit the effectiveness of these types of treatments. This makes immune support a necessary focus for the wellbeing of all cancer patients.
- Proper sleeping habits – maintaining good sleep cycles is vital to the immune function, since it offers the body a period of rest in which to regenerate. Certain hormones, especially HGH, are secreted and utilized at their highest during late night sleeping. This makes it very necessary to not only receive enough sleep, but to also ensure that quality and timing of sleep is optimal.
- Stress reduction – although it can be a difficult time to attempt stress reduction, practices which encourage calm and positive states of mind are necessary for a proper immune response. Practices such as breathing, journaling, meditation, and even walking can be highly beneficial to stress reduction, and can also improve circulation, which directly impact the immune system.
- Nutritional support – proper eating habits also ensure that the immune system can function. This may be especially difficult when facing side effects from cancer treatments, but supplementation with nutritional drinks and whole foods can improve vital function.
- Herbal support – certain herbal supplements can be used to boost and protect the immune system. These can include plants which de-toxify the system in order to reduce the burden on the immune system, and plants which improve immune function through nutrient supplementation. A common immune support tonic that is used with cancer patients is Essiac, which is a mixture of cleansing and nutritive plants.
- Vitamin support – a number of vitamins and minerals can be helpful in either boosting immune function, or providing support through the elimination of free radicals. Some helpful supplements include Vitamins B6, B12, C, D, selenium, and zinc.
Recommended Preventive Measures
Since cancer patients will be faced with a compromised immune system, preventive measures can also be helpful in boosting the immune system. This is because less infection in the body will allow the immune system to regain balance and begin to function properly. Prevention can become a vital way to ensure that the healing process may be more effective.
- Avoid superfluous contact – this includes touching other people and touching strange surfaces. Germs are most frequently spread through touch, so limiting exposure situations is also a good idea.
- Request support from family and friends – educate loved ones about the secondary issues that can accompany cancer, and ask them to respect practices which will minimize the contraction of disease.
- Practice air health – airborne microbes also present a harmful threat to the immune system, so good air health is also a valid method of prevention. Although outdoor contact may need to be limited with a face mask, indoor air can be highly cleansed with specific grade HEPA filters.
- Hygiene – minimizing contact risk can also include health precautions such as cleanliness. This includes the living space and surfaces, as well as the person and soft surroundings.