Your Immune System and Cancer

Your Immune System and Cancer

More and more research is exploring the relationship between immunity and cancer, looking at how supporting the immune system can help at every stage of cancer, from prevention to treatment to recovery.

The next pillar of cancer treatment

The science behind the immune system’s role in the development of effective cancer treatments has become so solid that “immunotherapy” (an umbrella term for several therapies that harness and strengthen the power of the immune system to attack tumors) has become known as the next pillar of cancer treatment, alongside surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and “targeted therapy.”

“Everybody recognizes that [the] immune system plays an essential role in cancer, particularly the innate immune system,” says Dr. Hal Gunn, founder and CEO of Qu Biologics and co-founder of InspireHealth, a leading supported cancer-care center.

“When most people think of a tumor, they think of it as just being filled with cancer cells. Of course, there are lots of cancer cells in a tumor, but there are also a lot of immune cells in a tumor.

Recent advancements in immunotherapy research

Several recent advancements have occurred in efforts to help immune cells eradicate malignant cells. One of the most prominent has been the development of “immune checkpoint inhibitors.”

Other types of immunotherapies range from targeted antibodies and cancer vaccines to adoptive cell transfer and tumor-infecting viruses. Immunotherapy also shows promise because it can train the immune system to remember cancer cells, possibly resulting in long-lasting remissions.

Your immune system’s role in prevention

“Exercise plays a role in supporting innate immune function; healthy diet is very important in supporting optimal immune function; sleep is very important in supporting immune function,” Gunn says.

An active lifestyle with plenty of greens isn’t a guarantee against cancer, of course. “If you practise these healthy approaches to living, it does reduce the risk of developing cancer; it can’t invariably protect you,” Gunn says. “It substantially reduces the risk because there are many factors involved in the development of cancer—some of which you have some control over and some of which you don’t.”

Your immune system’s role in treatment

“It makes sense to optimally support your immune function during treatment,” Gunn says. “There’s a whole range of approaches, and some of the most important ones are nutrition, exercise, and things we all understand in a common-sense way that are good for our health. The reason they’re good for our health is because they support our immune function.”

Your immune system’s role in recovery

A strong immune system also benefits recovery from cancer treatment. Regular exercise, for instance, not only increases a person’s energy level and sense of well-being, but also can make recovery faster and decrease the risk of cancer coming back. Getting enough restful sleep is crucial. Sleeping can boost brain function, improve hormone function, and lower blood pressure.

Always check with your doctor before beginning an exercise plan and any other immune-supporting strategies, especially if you have any medical conditions, to ensure you are not interfering with any current treatment plans.

BetsyHealth Note: This article is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease. Consult your healthcare provider before trying a supplement, especially if you have a medical condition, including being pregnant or nursing, take prescription or over-the-counter medications, or are planning on having surgery.

By Joanne Peters

Article copyright 2024 by Alive Publishing Group, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Photo by Yan Krukau:

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