Navigating the Vascular maze in Cancer Medicine | A Vascular Surgeon’s Experience | Clotting Risks and What You Can Do

According to Jean Connors, MD and medical director of Anticoagulation Management Services at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; Cancer patients are at a higher risk than the general population of developing serious blood clots, including deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in the legs or pulmonary emboli in the lungs, which can be fatal.

Navigating the Vascular Maze in Cancer Medicine – Interview with vascular surgeon (now retired) Dr John Singe. To further this conversation I have added a number of resources and what I believe is very helpful information for anyone interested in health and wellbeing and disease prevention.

According to Jean Connors, MD and medical director of Anticoagulation Management Services at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; Cancer patients are at a higher risk than the general population of developing serious blood clots, including deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in the legs or pulmonary emboli in the lungs, which can be fatal.

 DVTheart_dvt1“Of all the blood clots detected, 20 percent of them are detected in people who have cancer,” She says. Individuals over the age of 60 are at the highest risk of developing blood clots.

“There is a balance in the body between pro-clotting and anti-clotting activity,” says Connors. ”Cancer skews the balance in terms of pro-clotting, increases inflammation, and compresses blood vessels, all risk factors for developing clots.”
As well as a tendency to coagulate or clot; treatments for cancer or blood disorders can also affect the balance of pro and anti-clotting factors.
Immobility and increased bed rest during treatment also enhances a patient’s risk of developing a hyper coagulant state this is why many hospital patients are treated with heparin or some form of anti-coagulant medicine. When seated in a car or aeroplane for long periods of time, it is important to change position, take short walks when possible to keep your blood flowing and practice the simple exercise talked about in today’s interview on Navigating the Cancer Maze Select the title to be redirected to my internet radio show on Voice America’s Health and Wellness Channel. (Free to listen live streaming or to download on itunes.)
Patient risk of DVT and embolisms increases enormously with air travel to overseas cancer clinics and in my experience; the issue is often not addressed with diagnostic measures or treatment at these clinics. Unfortunately I have seen this scenario many times including when cancer patients are informed of the risks but are dedicated to a “natural cancer therapies” approach. These patients left their Clexane injections in their luggage to be considered for use at a later date. Cancer did not take their lives. Too many died as a result of DVT and resultant embolisms.

Of course if you have had DVT, embolisms or blood coagulation issues in the past it is essential to inform your treating doctor or oncologist. This is also a trap for patients being treated overseas where their complete medical history is not made available or where there are language and translation issues.

Formation of vascular blood clots is also a leading cause of death in cancer patients because cancer cells create blood_clotting (4)conditions that favour clotting. We know that patients diagnosed with pancreatic, lung cancer, multiple myeloma, or hematologic malignancies are more likely to develop blood clots than other cancer patients due to cancer-specific factors, including their treatment regimens. These patients should receive particular attention in terms of preventative anti-coagulation therapy to decrease risk of events that could be fatal.

Dr Connors states that 10 percent of people diagnosed with DVT who do not have a known cancer will be diagnosed with cancer as part of the clot evaluation or in the next year to two years!
Having seen so many patients with blood coagulation, DVT and embolisms; it serves as a warning sign that blood should be checked for coagulation problems as a part of wellness and disease prevention program. Did you know that egardless of cancer, if you are over 50; the greatest threat to your continued existence is the formation of abnormal blood clots in your arteries and veins. Even athletes and those who are physically fit can be at high risk.

Dietary management and adjustments can help reduce risk – as well as some plant-based phyto-chemicals that have been proven to decrease blood viscosity. However – self diagnosing blood coagulation problems and taking supplements for “blood-thinning” or even taking excessive amounts of foods known to help “thin the blood” is not recommended.

Could you possibly eat all this in one sitting if it wasn't juiced? Imagine this amount 6 or more times daily!
Could you possibly eat all this in one sitting if it wasn’t juiced? Imagine this amount 6 or more times daily!

Recently I had a patient who experienced massive bleeding during a biopsy procedure. Her surgeon had told her to avoid aspirin and fish oil for 5 days before her procedure – which she dutifully did. However she was juicing large amounts of fresh ginger daily as well as turmeric root and she was making a juice from cabbage, mustard greens and turnip greens broccoli, asparagus an apple.
She almost bled out on the operating table and has had a long recovery due to excessive blood loss. It is not hard to see why specialists say to cancer patients when asked if they can have certain foods and supplements – “TAKE NOTHING – AVOID SUPPLEMENTS AND DON’T CHANGE YOUR DIET TOO MUCH”.

When the famous Hippocrates said “Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food” he did not mean juicing a wheelbarrow load of fruit and veges every day!!!

It is useful to know that several herbal preparations ( natural and supplemental) interfere with the anti-clotting activity of blood thinners and can increase bleeding time or your risk of bleeding. Garlic, ginger, celery seed, ginseng, curcumin and aniseed all carry coumarin effects (meaning that they can prevent your blood from clotting…. the opposite coagulation focussed on in this article.). (NOTE: Avoid combining tumeric (active ingredient curcumin) with anticoagulant and/or antiplatelet drugs. If you take blood thinning medication

  • Due to “blood thinning” side effects of turmeric; cease to take it at least two weeks before any surgical procedure.
    Two other helpful suggestions about taking Tumeric ( cucumin)
  • Caution with Diabetes. Turmeric may lower blood sugar. Avoid turmeric if you take diabetes medications, since turmeric could cause your blood sugar to fall even further. This could result in hypoglycemia.
  • Caution with Gallbladder. The NIH recommends avoiding turmeric if you currently have problems with your gallbladder. If you have gallstones or a bile duct obstruction, turmeric may cause your condition to worsen.
    Foods rich in vitamin E are also natural blood thinners.

Botanical Science and nutritional science knowledge tend to be little adhered to by the current fad that more is better whether in juice, smoothie or supplement. People are flocking to buy machines that will pulverise 10 carrots and 4 blocks of tofu along with bunches of kale and spinach etc in the pursuit of “health and wellbeing”!

In fact these approaches can really have a negative impact of health and wellbeing which I am already seeing in my Practice.
Case managing patients who wish to use complementary medicines and nutritional approaches alongside conventional medicine – presents a challenging management situation to health practitioners.

In our practice I do my best alongside my colleague Dr Whelan to gain patient’s trust in advising on what to take as supplements and foods. With 87 years experience between us – we try to educate and advise simplicity as a targeted approach – rather than trying to “hit a mosquito with a shotgun” – the one size fits all approach. We know they will be tempted and influenced by fellow patients and incorrect information in books and approaches generated by faddist cancer entrepreneurs as well as Dr Google. Experience tells us that our educated patients do very well indeed.

  • As another example of the importance of botanical science knowledge and how a simple food might heal or hinder. While research suggests that tangeretin in mandarin oranges may help prevent cancer, people who already have cancer may not reap any benefits. In fact, a diet rich in mandarin oranges may provide counteractive results in these people as tangeretin appears to interfere with metabolism of some drugs, including the anti-cancer drug tamoxifen. Mandarins and grapefruit are just two of many foods that should be avoided due to interactions with life-saving pharmaceutical treatments.


Realise that your situation will change as response and treatments change. This is why regular communication and case management is imperative for every cancer patient.

For those cancer patients who live in Queensland – you might like to visit our Gold Coast based consulting rooms where Blood tests and other checks can be organised to increase your wellbeing and lower risks of blood disorders and assist with your cancer management program. More information? Email me via the contact page on this blog or visit or

Recommendation – Ongoing Management:
If you are diagnosed with a blood clot, be sure to complete all age-appropriate cancer screenings, including mammograms, Pap smears, and colonoscopies, among others, to evaluate your cancer risk. If all tests are negative, implying no cancer is detected, then it has been recommended that the basic clinical evaluation is repeated every 6 months in the 2 years after the clot occurred. In this way, it is likely that most cancers, if they occur, will be promptly detected. If you know someone who has had DVT without a known cause – please direct them to the following video. We all know that early detection of cancer means better outcomes.



Until next time……

Navigating the Bowel Cancer Maze Prevention and Management with Grace Gawler Voice America

What does it mean to be diagnosed with familial polyposis? The condition involves the growth of numerous polyps that form mainly in the epithelium of the large intestine. While these polyps start out benign, malignant transformation into colon cancer occurs when left untreated. Listen to an interview with recovered patient Angela on Voice America’s Navigating the Cancer Maze hosted by Grace Gawler.

Part ONE:
Why I am Passionate about Prevention of Colon Cancer:

The subject of colon cancer is not ‘everyone’s cup of tea’ as they say! However I have a distinct and very personal interest in colon cancer and colon health. My early work with cancer patients activated my interest and concern for this group of patients who in those days seemed to left in a no-mans land to cope with a horrendous change to their bodily function as well as the psychological challenges that go with such a life-changing trauma. Assisting bowel cancer patients soon took over from my work with women with breast cancer. “Women of Silence – the Emotional Healing of Breast Cancer” was based on the unspoken issues that affected a woman’s self esteem, body image, psychology, lifestyle and relations to name but a few. However I was so awe-struck by the plight of patients with colon cancer; both men and women who had ileostomies or colostomies, that I was compelled to research more on how I could assist them with diet, lifestyle, adaptation, reclaiming their lives and dealing with the consequences of uninvited life change. Eventually this area became a speciality part of my Naturopathic Practice. Not only cancer patients, but those dealing with IBS and all varieties of colon issues began to consult with me. I studied the anatomy & physiology of the colon in depth and helped thousand of patients.

But….little did I know what the future had in store!

Ironically I had been well prepared for the next stage of my life when after a routine gynaecological surgery in 1997; I was unable to do what most of us do every day – that is go to the loo! My husband had just left the family, I was financially and physically compromised and I had 4 teenage children at home. So began my annus horribilis.

Me after 1st ileostomy and colectomy in 2000
Me after 1st ileostomy and colectomy in 2000

 It is a good thing we cannot see into the future as I did not know there would be 13 more similar years ahead. All tolled I had 21 surgical procedures and ileostomies and colostomies! Five feet of large Colon was removed and 5 feet of small bowel due to massive faecal impaction. The stomas leaked causing severe burns on my belly. Each time I had a surgical reversal (the bowel was re-joined); what remained of my colon would violently and unsuccessfully; try to push material through my paralysed rectum. Many times what was supposed to come out one end – came up via the other end. It was a debilitating, socially difficult and the most challenging thing I have ever experienced. The stoma area herniated due to strain. At times it was hard to see a way through but despite the down times, I was committed to finding solutions.

I travelled to Holland and underwent experimental surgery and basically became a world first for a bionic implant surgically placed in my buttock with wires and electrodes implanted through my spinal foramina. This device (like a heart pacemaker) worked successfully at 6volts to give me enough stimulus to empty my what remains of my colon. It works by mimicking the nerves that allowed rectal emptying. That was in 2012-2003. Suddenly my empathy ran deeper for my past patients; for as well as managing stomas – they were also dealing with cancer.

But regardless of the cause – like my patients, I was also now dealing with a life-threatening situation.

I learned a lot first hand from my experience to apply in my cancer work-more than I could possible have learned during my many training courses. My issue had been a ‘post surgical complication’ & maybe unavoidable. But I reasoned that if patients with known bowel conditions could do something to avoid what I had been through – then I could have a valuable contribution.  I knew that early diagnosis of bowel cancer and & subsequent intervention could save a life. In particular I knew there were approaches reported in medical literature about the value of High EPA Fish oils and anti-inflammatory complementary medicines in helping those afflicted with the precancerous condition known as FAP.
So when patient “Angela” came to me in 2011 diagnosed with Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and facing a permanent ileostomy I knew what we could try safely while her situation was monitored medically.

Her grandfather had FAP, her mother had it and died at 58……her uncle has it and it is known that one of her adult sons has it. Her other 2 children as yet have not been investigated.

So …. what does it mean to be diagnosed with familial polyposis?  The condition involves the growth of numerous polyps that  form mainly in the epithelium of the large intestine. While these polyps start out benign, malignant transformation into colon cancer occurs when left untreated.
(The medical solution is usually  a colectomy – a surgical resection of any extent of the large intestine (colon) and a colostomy bag or in some cases an ileostomy, when the polyps invade the colon tissue changing it’s structure and causing fragility).

Angela asked me what could be tried as she like myself had already had some colon section removed and had endured the failure of a temporary ileostomy. Listen to my interview with Angela and learn what she decided to do about regaining bowel health. Still clear of polyps (Dec 2013) and with a regenerated colon (confirmed with colonoscopy) she has successfully navigated the maze, using the best of conventional diagnostic medicine in combination with targeted complementary and lifestyle medicine. Her entire case (complete with medical data) will be published in a Journal in 2014. More info: email:

Select the image below to be redirected to Voice America and my interview with Angela on Navigating the Cancer Maze. Or… click here. More about colon cancer in my next blog.

Navigating the Cancer Maze Grace Gawler Voice America

The Man who Saved a Million Lives | Prof Ian Frazer – book review Grace Gawler

Author of ‘Ian Frazer … The man who saved a million lives’, Brisbane’s Madonna King, has certainly done justice to telling the life story and, scientific story of Prof Ian Frazer, one of Australia’s leading medical and scientific researchers.I also had the pleasure of interviewing Prof Ian Frazer on my educational US based internet radio series “Navigating the Cancer Maze”. If you missed this interview – it comes as highly recommended as the book about his life and work.

Author of ‘Ian Frazer … The man who saved a million lives’, Brisbane’s Madonna King, has certainly done justice to telling the life story and, scientific story of Prof Ian Frazer, one of Australia’s leading medical and scientific researchers.

A Review.

In 2012 I heard Prof Frazer give an excellent presentation to a Prostate Cancer Support group at Tweed heads. I was impressed, because here was a man clearly still as passionate about his work as when he began in the field of medicine, virology and immunology decades prior. Born in the same year as myself, we shared a hero.

Prof Ian Frazer
The Book that tells of story of one of the most important discoveries in recent medical science

 Ian Frazer grew up in the era of TV scientist Prof Julius Sumner-Miller whose program was called “Why is it so”? I have met so many scientists around the world who name Prof Sumner-Miller as their early inspiration to pursuit of a scientific career – What a legacy he left!

I also had the pleasure of interviewing Prof Ian Frazer on my educational US based internet radio series “Navigating the Cancer Maze”. If you missed this interview – it comes as highly recommended as the book about his life and work.

It is not easy to maintain that degree of dedication and passion that Ian Frazer exudes; he must work hideously long hours. Although very gracious and compassionate one gets the sense that here is a man whose reputation has been hard-earned and at a cost. The world of science, research and pharmaceutical companies is highly competitive and it is this part of the book that is so revealing about the dogged nature of Prof Frazer. Yet, this is softened by the care and compassion threaded throughout the pages especially when it came to sharing the accolades with colleagues such as  Jian Zhou.

The unexpected fight of his life and the lives of his fellow researchers began following a published paper in the Journal Virology by his colleague the late Jian Zhou, his wife Xiao Yi Sun, Deborah Stenzel and Prof Frazer. The paper was to be presented at a conference in Seattle in the USA , and at the last minute – a patent was issued in Queensland before  Jian Zhou and Ian Frazer left Australia to present one of the world’s biggest breakthroughs in the fight against cervical cancer. However – what ensued over the coming years was a court case to determine who was the real inventor/owner of the world’s first HPV vaccine…it was declared it was not Australia – but the US Georgetown based researchers that deserved first place and the right to say they developed the Vaccine. It was not until August 2007 that this judgement was reversed!

The story is complex but Madonna King weaves her literary skill…. the battle for rightful Australian and not US ownership of the vaccine discovery and patent reads like a spy novel crossed with a television drama – it would make a great Australian mini-series!

This book is not only significant in describing the story line of Prof Ian Frazer the man and his family and colleagues – but also it paints a picture of the behind the scenes pressures and skulduggery that happens in a medical research  world that most of us know little about.  It is complex and convoluted and of course as well as the discoveries – there is always the financial rewards that creates a competitive race to the finish-line approach. You will read about pharmaceutical companies, ethics and laws and the struggles that ensued to bring truth and a humane discovery to light.  Prof Ian Frazer and his team shine throughout.

I would highly recommend this book. It is a great read for anybody  who wants to know the science and reason and efforts behind the development of the cervical vaccine that Prof Frazer and the late Jian Zhou pioneered; and, as well, Madonna King shows us the human faces and lives of the people behind science and research that makes our live better. The book is aptly titled….”‘Ian Frazer … The man who saved a million lives’.

A great Christmas gift!

How to get your copy: available in Australia from Dymocks, Target and many other bookstores.

Not available in e-book yet, the book is published by University of Queensland Press BUY ONLINE HERE

Pesticides in and on foods- we are what we eat! Grace Gawler

The following is an except from a brilliantly prepared blog post. For your health’s sake, I highly recommend you check it out – you may be suprised!
“Most of us both want to know … and don’t want to know… what is on and in what we eat. The aim of the blog (link provided) is to give you an overview of typical pesticide residues in fruits and vegetables. See this guide more as a generalized overview than exact facts. The figures are taken from samples on the German market between 2005 and 2010 and is possibly not applicable on every market in the world. But it gives a hint.” Major source is Pestizidreport Nordrhein-Westfalen.
I hope you find this as useful as I did – Remember if you are juicing vegetables and fruits – it is so important to use organically grown produce. The following section on carrots taken from the blog, will give you an idea why organically grown produce is so important……

  Substance Found in (%) of the samples
1. Linuron 13%
2. Boscalid; Nicobifen 12%
3. Tebuconazol 10%
4. Chlorfenvinphos 6%
5. Pyraclostrobin 2%
6. Omethoat 1%
7. Dimethoat 1%
8. Azoxystrobin 1%
9. Difenoconazol 1%
10. Iprodion; Glycophen 1%

A total of 389 samples of which 128 were sold as organic. Of all samples, 27 % contained pesticide residues, 73 % did not. 2 % of the organic samples contained pesticides.
Grace Gawler