During the past twenty years, lymphosarcoma (also called lymphoma) has become the most prevalent cancer I treat each year. Moreover, I see more young dogs affected every year with this condition.
Lymphoma is most frequently a cancer of middle age (6 to 9 years) depending on the breed with large breeds having an earlier onset on average. Of the 50 or more cases of lymphosarcoma I treat every year, about ten percent are under 4 years of age.
The reasons for the increased prevalence of this cancer are not clear. Some studies have investigated a connection to chemical and herbicidal exposure, and more research has been done in search of a viral connection, but no definitive connections have been found to date. Over-vaccination as a predisposing factor for all cancers is also suspected, but not by the medical community at large.
Specific genetic predispositions don’t seem to exist for lymphoma but a general predisposition to acquiring a cancer condition does exist in certain breeds and families. We see more cancer in general in Boxers, Giant Schnauzers, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Irish Wolfhounds, and Dobermans. There are also familial tendencies toward cancer in many individual lines of dogs of various breeds, large and small.
The most common early symptom of lymphosarcoma is swollen lymph nodes. The most noticed and generally the most reactive location is in the lower jaw area. These submandibular lymph nodes are not palpable when normal but are easily palpated when enlarged. Other superficial lymph nodes can be secondarily enlarged as well; axillary and popliteal the most common (which are found in front of the shoulder and in the rear thigh area, respectively. Internal lymph nodes not palpable or visible will also be enlarged in this most common, multicentric type of lymphoma. Other forms of lymphosarcoma less commonly seen are gastrointestinal and cutaneous types where multiple tumors appear all over the external body, underneath and under and in the skin.
Along with lymph node enlargement, dogs may exhibit weight loss, lethargy, decreased appetite and fevers. They can also be completely asymptomatic with the enlarged nodes presenting as their only symptom. Most often, owners will reflect that their dogs have been slightly less energetic for a week or two before discovering the swollen lymph nodes.
Unlike certain types of lymphoma in people, lymphoma in the dog is rarely cured, so choosing treatment protocols can be frustrating and challenging for both the owner and practitioner. I have found with my increasing years of experience treating lymphoma, that it remains one of the most difficult cancers to treat holistically. We treat to cure, but successful results are measured by the length of remission.
I always hesitate to speak of percentages when considering possible outcomes with my patients. In patient-oriented medicine (holistic) as opposed to disease-oriented medicine (Western), percentages have little place. Homeopathy treats the patient as a whole not the disease. That’s why each patient receives different homeopathic remedies or a different protocol because the process of matching the energy of the homeopathic remedy or “remedy picture” to the imbalanced energy of the patient or “patient picture” is what the homeopathic practitioner does. This match is what homeopathy is and how it works; similia, similibus, curentur - “like cures like”. A perfect match neutralizes the “patient’s disease picture” and the disease state subsequently vanishes and as such, is cure. With complicated disease pictures such as patients with cancer, we mainly get partial matches and therefore, partial cures. This is a type of remission.
The conventional oncologist treating lymphoma with chemotherapy will not hesitate to give percentages. These percentages can be impressive with some specific types of lymphoma, B-cell versus T-cell, or stage I or II rather than III or IV. Seventy-five percent or higher of these cancer patients can go into remission with chemotherapeutic treatment. The length of remission is, of course, an unknown and the numbers of treatments necessary for long term results are unknown at the onset of treatment. High costs ($5,000. to $15,000. over a year or two), side-effects, stressful vet visits, etc. must all be considered when choosing a treatment plan.
Homeopathic treatment of lymphoma can provide remission in perhaps one in every four or five cases, but with much less expense, no negative side-effects, no stress, and few vet visits, if any (telephone consultations are always possible). The length of remissions when treatment is successful can completely parallel those of Western medicine. Homeopathic treatment used in combination with chemotherapy has provided some of the most successful outcomes I have seen, and homeopathic remedies can also help with the side-effects of chemo, increasing the overall quality of life.
In my experience, Western medicine has the edge on providing the best chance of remission with lymphoma. The decisions concerning how to treat our companions with lymphosarcoma are mainly philosophical, while also considering the stress of the treatment and the financial realities. The dog’s age, condition, and the presence of other chronic diseases present must also factor into the decision. My personal choice would be not to use chemotherapy with my canine companions, but many of my clients have been very happy with the results of the combination of Western medicine used in conjunction with homeopathic treatment. As with all my cancer patients, finding the constitutional remedy goes to the heart of success in patient response. This remedy is often a polycrest remedy such as Sulphur, Calcarea carbonica, Silicea, Lycopodium, Arsenicum album, etc. More cancer specific remedies such as Scrophularia nodosa, Carbo animalis, Calcarea fluorica, etc., will help with remission and reduction of lymph node enlargement. I have also found that the addition of a Cell Salt Combination, the recipe adapted from an Indian homeopath’s formulation, helps with all of my cancer patients. These five specific cell salts, combined in the lowest possible potency to achieve dilution, seem to enhance each patient’s response to the other, higher potency remedies and promote a greater sense of well-being and energy.
Choosing the optimum potencies of remedies in treating cancer patients has been a 20-year project. With homeopathy, it is important to match the energy of the imbalance or disease state of the patient with the energy of the remedy, eg. high potency, higher energy. With the C potencies, (each dilution being made by a factor of 100 parts alcohol to 1 part remedy), I consider the high potencies those greater than 30C. I have found that 200C Carcinosin is an optimum potency for my cancer patients, but it can only be used intermittently as it can cause aggravations or a worsening of symptoms. My preference is to use LM potencies in my cancer patients. The LM or 50 millesimal potency is a dilution of 1:50,000 for the LM/1 and then the dilution is repeated using the LM/1 as the basis to dilute by another 50,000 times and this equals an LM/2 and so, to create the higher LM potencies. This method of dilution and succussion was advocated and described by Hahnemann in the sixth edition of the Organon. Another important difference with the LM’s is the number of succussions (strong hitting of the bottle on a hard surface) that they require. C potencies are succussed ten times between potency attenuation's but LM’s receive 100 succussions. Both dilution and numbers of succussions factor into the energy contained in a homeopathic remedy.
These LM potencies act energetically like “short-acting”, high C potencies. This has many advantages, especially when using more than one remedy in the treatment protocol. It allows each dose to have a maximum effect before repeating that dose or giving a different remedy dose. I find that cancer patients require frequent dosing and respond more rapidly to homeopathic treatment than with intermittent or less frequent dosing. My patients generally receive a dose of a remedy twice daily. This is often described as “jabbing” at the vital force or vital energy of the patient.
In the next cancer article, I will explain many of the other advantages of using LM potencies and the interpretations of patient responses to these remedies.
Published in DOGS NATURALLY MAGAZINE, Volume 3, Issue 2, March/April 2012