New Approaches to Cancer is a charity that was set up some 30 years ago to offer support to cancer patients, carers and healthcare workers.

Since then, several charities have been established in the UK to work together on this task.

One of the important differences between conventional treatment and the holistic approach adopted by various cancer help groups is that of humanising healthcare.

Combining complementary therapies and holistic philosophies tends to generate more positive feelings in both patients and carers a feeling of compassion and care, empowerment of the patient and a sense of control of one's own healing.

Conventional medical treatment offers an authoritative line of action to beat the cancer while not doing much to address patients' fear, faith and dignity in life and death.

Combining the two disciplines into an integrated management plan for patients and their often-forgotten carers seems to offer a forward-thinking development in the experience of patients and holistic healthcare workers.

Much work still needs to be done on prevention of cancer. Changes in social behaviour are required to root out the stressful and unwholesome factors which predispose to cancer.

In 400 BC, Ayurvedic surgeon Sushrut described various cancers (called arbud) and their surgical and holistic therapy in his textbook of surgery. In addition to surgical treatment, Ayurvedic physicians observed and documented the effects of various natural therapies, spiritual practices, yoga, meditation and herbal and mineral preparations on cancer.

Professor Rohit Barot of the University of Bristol teaches the essential step in treating or preventing cancer according to Ayurveda is to cleanse the body of toxins, called ama, from the gross and subtle channels of the body.

Today, we have confirmed the role of free radicals in the development of cancer.

Ayurveda talks about cleansing the tissues at a cellular level in order to generate healthy tissue replacement.

After that, efforts should be made to rejuvenate the body's tissues, strengthen immunity and build mental and spiritual strength with diet and nutrition, yoga, meditation, chanting and prayer.

Thirdly, we should adopt practices in our daily routine so powerful healing can be sustained from within.

Herbs and minerals help to enhance the process. Changing individual lifestyles within the framework of modern living may sound a daunting task but, with a bit of courage and resolve, it can be done.

More about specific herbs for cancer next week.

Useful phone numbers: New Approaches to Cancer 0800 3892662; The Bristol Cancer Help Centre 0117 9809505; Lynda Jackson Centre 01923 844014; The Fountain Centre 01483 406619.