Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer seen in American women and is second only to lung cancer as a cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. In the year 2000, there were about 200,000 new cases of breast cancer and about 50,000 deaths from the disease. At the present rate of incidence, the American Cancer Society predicts that one in eight women will develop breast cancer during her life.
A woman who has had cancer in one breast is at an increased risk of developing cancer in the other breast. Women with cancer of the uterus corpus have a significantly higher risk of breast cancer, and vice versa. In the United States, breast cancer is more common in white women than in nonwhites. In general, rates from women who live in developing countries are low, whereas rates are higher in developed nations, with the exception of Japan.
Early detection is a key to early treatment. The Breast self-examination is something the American Cancer Society suggests women do each month after 25 years of age. The best time is 2 or 3 days after her menstrual cycle ends, when the breasts are least like to be swollen or tender. Feel for lumps or mass under the skin, especially the area between the breast and armpit. Mammography is an X-ray procedure that can identify breast cancer at its earliest stage, up to two tears before it can be felt. Woman over forty were recommended to get one each year, but recent controversy over radiation exposure has many doctors recommending them every 2 years. A more current alternative is Thermography. Thermography is a physiological study. The infrared camera detects the heat (infrared radiation), which is emitted by the breast without physical contact with it (no compression) and without sending any signal (no radiation). This is a receiving mode only. It shows small, unilateral temperature increases, which are caused by an increased blood supply to cancer cells. Lastly, there is a blood test known as AMAS (anti-maligin antibody in serum). This method can screen for active breast cancer or monitor for recurrence by testing the blood for a specific antigen. A woman must choose of course, but combining natural and conventional therapies may deliver optimal results.
If breast cancer is suspected when a woman feels a hard, small, painless lump in her breast and it has an abnormal mammogram or thermogram, the next step is a needle biopsy. Needle biopsy is a key to diagnosis since it is over 90 percent accurate and much less invasive than a regular biopsy. If it is a non-cancerous cyst, then the needle will withdraw the fluid and the lump will collapse. If the lump is solid after insertion of the needle, fluid will be withdrawn and sent to a lab for analysis.
A multi-factorial lifestyle program to reduce and treat breast cancer should include dietary modifications, exercise, drugs, supplements, and stress management. While the risks of breast cancer are still being outlined and debated, the obvious ones include a history of previous breast cancer, family history, a history of hyperplasia, early and late menopause, high exposure to exogenous estrogen, diabetes, high fat and animal fat/low fiber diet, a history of smoking, and stress.
In a study of 90 women with unilateral non-metastatic breast cancer diagnosed between 1989-1998, the subjects consumed mega doses of beta-carotene, vitamin C, niacin, selenium, CoQ10 and zinc in addition to standard drug therapies. The patients followed this protocol whether or not they had radiation or chemotherapy or both. The working hypothesis was that the vitamin/minerals prescribed would result in a 25-30% increase in breast cancer-specific survival and disease-free survival times over the controls.
Food is medicine! A healthy diet will fuel your immune system and protect against the “wasting” that affects many people with cancer. Super cancer-fighting foods include, rosemary, turmeric, green tea, and cruciferous vegetables. Cancer patients–or anyone concerned about staying healthy–should try and follow these recommendations:
- Remove Acidity and Go Alkaline. There is not ONE more important thing anyone can do than to alkalize the body (See ACID/ALKALINE BALANCE).
- Eat a Whole-Food Diet. Increasing consumption of dense green vegetables such as broccoli, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, carrots, spinach, sea vegetables, and ‘raw’ foods is always a healthy choice, and they are very alkaline. Consumption of more fibrous fruits (apples, peaches, pears) is preferable to fleshy tropical fruits. Keep in mind that organic is best, but eating locally is also a good choice. Fish is high in essential fats and can stimulate the endocannabinoid system. Pork is high in cysteine, the precursor to glutathione.
- Avoid or Minimize Consumption of ‘White’ foods. Cancer patients should try and avoid refined sugar and all foods and beverages containing it. There is still truth to the statement “sugar feeds cancer,” because sugar is acidic and cancer thrives in an acidic environment. Substitutes for sugar include raw honey, stevia, and monkfruit may be used in moderation. Also avoid alcohol, caffeine, white flour, white dairy products, hydrogenated fats, food additives, artificial sweeteners and GMO foods.
- Eat quality Proteins. Consume a moderate, easily-digestible amount of protein (fish, organic eggs, free-range poultry and lean meat).
CAUSES AND RISKS
- Diet High in Saturated Fat. A high-saturated-fat diet has an enormous link to breast cancer. High trans-fatty acids damage healthy cells and stimulate the body’s production of estrogen. Limit fats from starch, sugar and animal fats.
- Alcohol Intake. Women who consume 2-5 alcoholic drinks a day have a 41% greater risk of developing cancer.
- Environmental Factors. Many scientists believe there is little difference between the external and the internal environment. Over fifty years since Rachel Carson first identified, in Silent Spring, the dangers of neurotoxic and endocrine-disrupting chemicals were killing birds, changing animal behaviors and threatening the extinction of species, environmental chemicals have been a main area of causation in all cancers including breast cancer. Although the medical industry has led us to believe that health is dictated by our genes and that little can be done to change this, holistic practitioners know differently and recognize the negative impact environmental toxins have on gene expression.
- Xenoestrogens. Xenoestrogens are synthetically and chemically derived toxins that mimic the chemical structure of the hormone estrogen. They are strong disrupters and can cause a myriad of health problems including cancer. Xenoestrogens are found in pesticides, fuels, plastics, detergents, prescription drugs, solvents, diesel exhaust, and tobacco smoke. Over-exposure to growth hormones (xenoestrogens), or residues of estrogenic hormones are found in meat (especially grilled), poultry, dairy, eggs, pesticides (DDT, Lindane), plastics (Bisphenol A), and pollutants, all of which can be carcinogenic. Conventionally raised cattle in the USA are injected with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH). In response to rBGH, the cow’s body releases large amounts of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), an extraordinarily potent stimulator of breast and prostate cancer cells. Women with a higher level of IGF-1 have a 700-fold greater risk of breast cancer, and men have a 400-fold greater risk of developing prostate cancer. Woman whose breast cancer came back a second time were found to have almost twice as much estrogen in their blood as women who remained cancer free. Decreasing any exposure to excess estrogen is the most important thing a woman can do to minimize cancer risk.
- Limit Exposure to Radiation. Every day the human body is bombarded with excessive radiation from cell phones, microwaves, computers, high-tension wires, X-rays, televisions and WiFi. It is advisable to limit exposure to electromagnetic fields as much as possible. One of the best things we can do is to keep radiation equipment out of the bedroom, where we are most susceptible to its untoward effects
- Avoid Obesity and Go Organic. Try and focus on the importance of diet in maintaining and restoring good health. Avoid obesity, radiation, tobacco and chemicals that all put a woman at risk of developing cancer. Physical exercise four days a week lowers the risk factors of developing breast cancer by 37 percent.
- Stay Away from Fluoride and Aluminum. No matter what your dentist may say fluoride is highly toxic. Buy a fluoride-free toothpaste and invest in a water filter that removes fluoride from your tap water. Aluminum is hidden in cookware, Teflon products, synthetic hair dyes, antiperspirant deodorants, cans and most cosmetics.
Education is the key to being able to make intelligent choices. Ideally, a patient can safely combine alternative treatments with conventional medicine, using alternative treatments to decrease the side effects of conventional therapy. Or, a patient might choose to introduce alternative treatments after minimal treatment with conventional therapy (i.e., a lumpectomy with no lymph-node dissection, radiation or chemotherapy). Some women will opt to have no immediate treatment at all, but in some cases waiting too long can make a lumpectomy no longer possible because the tumor has grown too large.
TAKING TAMOXIFEN and/or ARIMIDEX
According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, a five-year course of adjuvant tamoxifen remains the standard therapy for women with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer. Tamoxifen acts in some ways like an anti-estrogen. A warning came out in June 2002 about possible serious events with tamoxifen. This new information was relevant to women with breast cancer confined to milk ducts and women receiving or considering tamoxifen therapy to reduce the risk of developing invasive breast cancer. Serious and life-threatening adverse events associated with tamoxifen use include a small increase risk of developing endometrial cancer, vaginal dryness, blood clotting, uterine sarcoma, stroke and pulmonary embolism. Tamoxifen has been found to increase bone loss in women taking it before menopause and stabilizes bone loss in women after menopause. Taking ‘anti-estrogen’ drugs may not completely wipe out the hormone’s affect on women who have high levels. Patients should discuss the potential benefits versus the risks of taking this drug.
Although tamoxifen has been the ‘gold standard’ of post breast cancer drug therapy for decades, with the introduction of a new class of anti-estrogen drugs called aromatase inhibitors, the picture has changed dramatically. Studies have shown that aromatase inhibitors are safer than tamoxifen and outdo it in prevention of recurrence of disease in the other breast. The newest drug in this class is called Arimidex (anastrozole) and many physicians are taunting it as safer with improvements in disease free survival. Arimidex is not without its side effects and woman must be careful of severe osteoporosis. Also, there is no evidence that women taking Arimidex live any longer than those taking taxomifen. Another aromatase inhibitors called Femora (letrozole) has now been prescribed for women to take after their five years with tamoxifen to keep the estrogen-blocking benefits going. This is still a controversial choice.
Other alternative-minded studies have found that supplementing gamma linolenic acid (GLA) with tamoxifen may be useful in increasing anti-tumor properties. Another study noted that tamoxifen treatment is most effective during co-administration with vitamin C and vitamin E to help reduce tamoxifen-induced high triglyceride levels.
Another study showed that supplementing with Co-enzyme Q10 (100 mg daily), Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin at only 10 mg daily) and Niacin (50 mg daily) along with tamoxifen reduces the serum tumor marker level and thereby reduces the risk of cancer recurrence and metastasis.
- ANTIOXIDANTS including VITAMIN D3 (CHOLECALCIFEROL)
A wide range of antioxidants is recommended, including therapeutic doses of Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, as well as vitamin A and beta-carotene (carotenoids). Studies show that co-administering Vitamins C and E with tamoxifen may reduce side effects of the drug (particularly high triglyceride levels). Taking larger doses of vitamin E (400-800 IU) two weeks before starting chemotherapy can prevent hair loss. Selenium supplementation may reduce the hereditary risk of breast cancer. Vitamin D3 levels should never be compromised, especially in women with breast cancer. Researchers have concluded that high levels of Vitamin D during the course of cancer treatment may improve the prognosis of women suffering with breast and/or colon cancer. Dosage: Vitamin C 500-10,000 mg; Selenium 200-300 mcg; Beta carotene 5,000-10,000 IU; Vitamin D3 3,000-10,000 IU daily.
- ESSIAC TEA
World-renowned Essiac tea is available in the original herbal formula made famous in 1922 by nurse Rene Caisse. This anticancer treatment is used widely by complementary and traditional practitioners, with many “miracle recoveries” still tied to this ageless product. Look for more information on the internet. Dosage: 2 ounces twice daily for 12 consecutive weeks. Best used under the direction of a qualified practitioner.
- MEDICINAL MUSHROOMS
Reishi, Shitake, and Maitake mushrooms are adaptogens (stimulate the immune system) that have a long history of cancer-fighting effects. Maitake mushrooms arrest tumor growth, promote tumor shrinkage, and prevent tumor-cell metastasis. The most promising benefits in breast cancer probably come from Cordyceps, sometimes called the ‘miracle mushroom.’ Dosage: As directed by an experienced practitioner.
- BETA 1,3-D-GLUCAN
Beta Glucan is a polysaccharide extracted from the cell wall of baker’s yeast and has been shown to be a powerful trigger in immune response. It also is an effective free-radical scavenger and is especially beneficial after radiation treatments. When combined with conventional treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation, Beta Glucan appears to promote their effectiveness and protects against side effects. Dosage: As directed by an experienced practitioner.
Recently scientists have discovered that melatonin is a powerful breast cancer fighter having shown notable anticancer effects in both the test tube and animal studies. The antioxidant potency of melatonin is five times that of vitamin C and twice as much as vitamin E. Since melatonin controls the release and timing of estrogen, a hormone involved in the development of most breast cancers, it can trigger an anticancer signal to breast cells. Dosage: A dose of 10 mg twice a day may improve treatment with chemotherapy.
- ASTRALAGUS and TURMERIC
Two powerful herbs from China, astragalus is an adaptogen that stimulates the immune system and improves the anticancer activity of T-killer cells. Sometimes astragalus is used in combination with ginseng as an adjunct to chemotherapy. Turmeric (Curcumin) has astonishing anti-neoplastic effects, prevents carcinogens from forming, and has a strong anti-inflammatory effect. Turmeric works synergistically with radiation to enhance tumor-cell death and boosts the immune system. Dosage: Astragalus ranges from 10-30 grams a day, as directed by a qualified practitioner. Turmeric as directed.
- CALCIUM D-GLUCARATE (CDG)
CDG may help control different stages of the carcinogenic process by blocking circulating estrogen and lowering endogenous estradiol levels. This substance can kill breast cancer cells. CDG may help control different stages of the carcinogenic process by blocking circulating estrogen and lowering endogenous estradiol levels. CDG is found in apples, grapefruits and cruciferous vegetables. A CDG-supplemented diet can inhibit mammary carcinogenesis and tumorigenesis. Dosage: 1,000-2,000 mg daily.
- INDOLE 3 CARBINOL and PLANT STEROLS
Indole 3-Carbonal is a phytochemical present in large amounts in vegetables such as kale, cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage. I3C inhibits cyclin-dependent kinase-2, a key enzyme needed for breast cancer cell growth. I3C decreases tumor-suppression genes, and decreases tumor-cell adhesion and prevents tumors from spreading and invading the body. It also acts as a stone estrogen receptor antagonist (in a manner like the prescription drug tamoxifen and Arimidex but unlike the drugs I3C creates more “good” type of estrogen. Plant sterols are healthy “fats” that display anti-inflammatory activity and may aids in T-cell activation. Dosage: As directed by a qualified practitioner.
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