News & Perspectives

A Sound Approach to Cancer Care
Strang-Cornell Cancer Prevention Center, New York, NY

In his office at the Strang Cancer Prevention Center in New York City, director of medical oncology Dr. Mitchell Gaynor has an unusual collection of "singing bowls." Some were crafted from metals many years ago in Tibet; others are made of quartz crystal. Dr. Gaynor moves a wooden wand around their rims, creating a rich cadence of tones and overtones. He plays the bowls to patients, one-on-one or in a group, usually in tandem with music, chanting, vocalizations, deep breathing, guided imagery or meditation. Along with chemotherapy, radiation, and other standards of cancer care, he regards the bowls as one of his most potent tools for healing.

Harmony and health
The tidal wave of fear that accompanies a diagnosis of cancer--or any serious illness--can throw the mind into chaos, as questions such as, "What will chemotherapy do to me?" or "Who will take care of the children?" threaten to overwhelm us. The bowls are intended to circumvent this process. As Dr. Gaynor explains, the sounds instill a profound state of inner peace that can speed recovery, taking people to what he calls their "inner harmony."

"You can look at disease as a form of disharmony," says Dr. Gaynor, echoing German educator Rudolph Steiner's comparison of illness to an untuned piano. "And there's no organ system in the body that's not affected by sound and music and vibration." What may take years of work with a psychotherapist, counselor, or spiritual leader, he has found, can be achieved in a short time with the bowls and chanting. "I've had people who've been meditating for 25 or 30 years tell me that they have never been in the state they get into when we do our work with the chanting and the music," he says. "As a physician, I can honestly say I have never seen anything more powerful than music and sound for transforming every aspect of your life."

Numerous scientific studies support the potent role of sound in healing. People leave cardiac care units earlier when they listen to music. Premature infants who are sung to every day leave the neonatal ward sooner and gain weight faster. Stress hormones that raise blood pressure go down when people chant. And immune function increases within 20 minutes of listening to music. The list goes on.

Designer greens
Music and sound are only part of the complementary therapies offered at Strang. In addition to the kind of care offered at any academic medical center, patients receive an extensive nutritional evaluation. Cancer is a decades-long process, Dr. Gaynor reminds people, and thousands of studies document how proper nutrients can decrease cancer risk. Among the supplements he recommends are immune system enhancers, such as maitake and reishi mushrooms; alkylglycerols, which come from shark liver oil; and a promising rice bran compound called MGN-3.

Several years ago, it was not uncommon for Dr. Gaynor to put people on 60 supplements a day. Not surprisingly, compliance was dreadful. In response, he and pharmacist Jerry Hickey, R.Ph., patented a product called Theragreens (800-530-5404; $44.95 for a 60-day supply of powder), which contains algae, kelp, wheat grass, bee propolis, rosemary, and some 50 additional ingredients. "It wasn't easy putting it together," says Dr. Gaynor. "The original taste was so bad that nobody could get it down." With the help of food scientists, it's now sufficiently tasty that even his two-year-old takes it.

"It doesn't give you the kind of stimulation you get from a cup of coffee--that jittery feeling," says Dr. Gaynor. "Rather, it's a sense of true well-being and energy that comes from a really deep nourishment. I feel that these kinds of designer foods are going to play a major, major role in a variety of types of disease prevention in the year 2000," he says.

Never too late
People ask Dr. Gaynor all the time, "Isn't it too late for me? I've already had cancer. I'm in my sixties. I've been smoking for five decades." He tells them, "You still have an immune system that cannot function without proper nutrients. And you still have a detoxification system that breaks down all the carcinogens in the environment, and that system needs proper nutrition. So it's never too late."

For more information:
Strang Cancer Prevention Center, 428 East 72nd Street, New York, NY 10021-4601; 212-794-4900

Further reading & listening:
Mitchell L. Gaynor, M.D., The Sounds of Healing (Broadway Books, 1999), with accompanying music CD (800-777-2002); Dr. Gaynor's Cancer Prevention Program (Kensington Books, 1999);

Date Posted: 02/22/2002

Date Published: 02/21/2002
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