Covering Her Bases
- Hip Hop dancer Criscilla Anderson, a stage 4 colon cancer survivor, is in Cancun, Mexico for integrative treatments as a complement to the standard western medicine she’s been receiving.
- The mom of three and wife to country star Coffey Anderson stopped chemotherapy her first time around in favor for holistic treatment, but is now using natural methods as a complement to her chemotherapy. She just recently received good news that the chemo worked and shrunk all tumors.
- An expert explains the difference between alternative treatment and integrative methods for cancer care.
The wife and mother has been battling stage 4 colon cancer, and has been flying from her home base in Dallas to Los Angeles for traditional chemotherapy treatments. She announced on Instagram Tuesday that she was adding alternative therapy to her conventional treatment.Read More
“Hello Mexico! Today I started my 3 week journey @hope4cancermexico An all natural treatment facility for cancer patients. An alternative to chemo and conventional medicine,” she wrote on Instagram. “As you all know I’m combining western medicine with natural cures. And this battle isn’t a one trip or one place cure type of fight. It’s life long and continuous.”
Alternative medicine has not been shown to improve cancer outcomes. According to a study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, patients who chose to treat common cancers using only alternative medicine had a 2.5 times higher mortality rate than patients receiving standard cancer treatments.
Criscilla, however, explains that she “wholeheartedly” believes in this treatment facility, and will be doing everything “from diet to IV’s, hyperthermia to massages. All of it.”
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Criscilla stopped her first round of chemotherapy treatment last year to try an alternative approach, which was ultimately not successful. She and her husband, Coffey, 43, went to Spain for alternative treatments, and in April 2020, Criscilla reported her tumors were shrinking. Although she was convinced that she would be healed by her next scan, that is not what happened. Criscilla started chemo again early this year.
At her last scan, she received good news.
“Great scan results!” she wrote on her Instagram stories a couple weeks ago. “All tumors shrunk to normal lymph node size.”
She also shared that her blood work was within the normal range. “I’m taking it in,” she said. “My Dr. reminded me this chemo doesn’t eradicate cancer, but this is the best I could have asked for. My God is bigger than chemo.”
A Stage 4 Colon Cancer Diagnosis
Criscilla first started noticing symptoms in May 2018. She was doubled over with stomach pain.
An emergency colonoscopy revealed a blockage, and then she wound up in the hospital for immediate surgery. Doctors removed two feet of her colon and at the time, Criscilla was diagnosed stage 3 colon cancer.
Then after a brief remission, she received the devastating news that she had stage 4, or metastatic, colon cancer. “The cancer has spread throughout my para-aortic region and has begun growing up my back,” she announced via Instagram.
Experts say that there are multiple treatment options available for patients with advanced disease, and there have been improvements made in survival.
Dr. Heather Yeo from Weill Cornell Medicine explains advanced colon cancer with SurvivorNet.
“Stage 4 colorectal cancer means that the cancer has spread away from the colon to a distant part in the body or to another organ nearby,” she says. “Sometimes with different chemotherapy and surgical treatment, you can get patients to have complete cure. Their chance of survival is lower than stage 3. But we still get cures even in stage 4 patients, which I think is really exciting.”
Explaining ‘Alternative’ Therapies
Many people, patients included, are often confused by the term “alternative” when it comes to medicine.
Dr. Jason Westin, an oncologist at MD Anderson Cancer Center, explains alternative vs. complementary medicine to SurvivorNet.
“Integrative medicine is an approach to care that puts the patient in the center of care and everything flows from that,” Dr. Westin explains to us. “It emphasizes lifestyle behavior, like diet, stress management, nutrition, and it also blends the best of conventional medicine and complementary therapies. So it’s not about throwing the baby out with the bathwater. It very much believes in the power of conventional medicine, but it’s trying to bring in other evidence-based approaches, and to optimize people’s health and well-being.”
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“Alternative medicine is thought about therapies that are in place of conventional care,” Dr. Westin says. “Complementary medicine, which came out of Europe, is really a wide variety of therapies and approaches, from mind-body approaches, to Chinese medicine, Ayurvedic medicine, diet and nutrition. And then integrative medicine is a combination of the best of conventional medicine and complementary medicine, but places the patient in the center.”
Interestingly enough, roughly four in 10 Americans (39%) believe cancer can be cured solely through alternative therapies such as enzyme and oxygen therapy, diet, vitamins and minerals, according to a national survey conducted by the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
However, a study from the Yale School of Medicine in 2018 found that people who use complementary methods—which is usually a term for vitamins, herbs, special diets, Reiki, acupuncture, and meditation—are more likely to refuse standard cancer treatments, and sadly, more likely to die because of it. Other experts say this study is “flawed” because “integrative” medicine is really just added to standard treatment to cope with side effects.