Tag Archives: Breast

Arming Ourselves in the Fight for a Cure

Hypnotically Pink for the Cure (1488505615)
Hypnotically Pink for the Cure (1488505615) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

October marks one of several moments we stop to reflect on the health and mortality of not only our individual selves but of all the women in our lives. This is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the race towards a cure is still far from being won. Too many of us have sat dissecting and combing through our family’s medical histories, tensely awaited the biopsy results, contemplated treatment options, and said farewell to loved ones lost too soon. Though progress has occurred, when one we love is taken it hardly seems enough. But as painful and frightening as it is, we cannot get stuck and must bravely continue on, arming ourselves with new information in detection, treatment and prevention.Over the next few posts we’ll look over the horizon at the latest developments and determinations recent research provides. Our first focus will be the newer guidelines for and methods to breast cancer screening. The below outlines the American Cancer Society’s current guidelines for early detection in low to average risked women*. Women younger than age 40, with no personal or family history of the disease are considered at low to average risk, depending on their individual lifestyle habits.

Age 20-39

Clinical breast examination at least every 3 years

Breast self-examination (optional)

Age 40 and over:

• Annual mammogram

• Annual clinical breast examination (preferably prior to mammogram)

• Breast self-examination (optional)

Recently, the need for women to begin annual mammograms at age 40 has come under question. Many doctors and researchers still consider age the greatest risk factor in healthy asymptomatic women and continue to encourage women to start mammogram screening at 40 years.

Those who challenge this approach cite the unnecessary exposure to chest x-rays-thought to increase breast cancer risk- that more often result in the discovery of benign lumps or fail to detect existing lumps all together. As a compromise between these two positions, some doctors recommend digital mammograms for low to average risked women between 40 and 50 years of age. This form of mammogram is thought to better detect cancer in the denser breast tissue of younger women.**

For women of higher risk,***

  • 50 years of age and older
  • Having a personal and or family history of the disease
  • Having inherited the BRCA1 and/or BRCA2 gene
  • Having received chest radiation treatments as a child or younger adult
  • Having begun menstruating before the age of 12
  • Having had their first child after the age of 35

a chest MRI that uses magnetic fields to produce a highly defined and detailed image of the breast may be recommended along with the annual clinical breast exam and mammogram. For all risk groups, the clinical breast exams performed by our physicians have superseded self examinations. The reason being is that more cases of breast cancer have been discovered outside of the structured self examinations, like while bathing or changing clothes, than within. All agree that early detection is key, but more medical professionals are encouraging the development of awareness and familiarity with one’s own body beyond just its size, shape and feel but deeper in to more subtle changes in appearance and sensation. Most agree that yearly mammograms from the age of 50 and on are essential to maintaining breast health.

For those interested in a possible future alternative to the mammogram. Breast Thermography, or Digital Infrared Imaging, measures the metabolic activity/generated heat of the examined area based on the theory that this level is always higher in precancerous and cancerous areas than in non-cancerous parts. The resulting image, a thermogram, is used to assess a person’s risk and some believe it offers more accurate information earlier and can therefore offer those determined to be at greater risk more opportunity to make lifestyle changes, take preventive measures and begin treatment options. Currently it is not recommended as a replacement for clinical exams or mammograms, but it can be useful as a complementary assessment approach for those that believe themselves to be at higher risk for the disease. For more information on Breast Thermography, visit http://www.breastthermography.com.

Until next time,

Be Aware, Be Brave and always…

Bewell

*http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/content/@epidemiologysurveilance/documents/document/acspc-030975.pdf

**http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/15/health/breast-cancer-prevention/index.html

***http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/breast-cancer/DS00328/DSECTION=risk-factors

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Checking in on Breast Health

pink ribbon
Image via Wikipedia

During Breast Cancer Awareness Month I took a look at the updated research for any new developments to share, and the information I discovered was quite interesting. Some previously praised supplements are actually no longer definitively considered strong preventives while other practices have been reviewed to make the reasoning behind their classification as a risk  more clear to the public. First up, some common practices that should be modified for better breast health.

Avoid Risk Safe Alternative
Antiperspirants,
especially immediately after shaving when razor cuts allow quick, easy access  into the body
Previously believed hazardous to breast health because of the
chemical and aluminum content, recent research has narrowed the danger of antiperspirants
to their prevention of toxins from exiting the body through the sweat glands in the armpits. Those un-removed toxins get deposited in the lymph nodes below the
arms. This, the upper outside quadrant of the breast, is the most common location of breast cancer tumors.
Deodorant, antiperspirant free
Sleeping in Bras or wearing them for 14 hours plus/day “…tends to increase the hormone prolactin, which decreases circulation in the breast tissue”. * Ample circulation is needed to insure your body’s natural expelling of toxic carcinogenic fluid
that accumulates in the breasts’ lymph nodes.
Limit bra wearing to 8-10 hrs /day
Drinking more than 7 Alcoholic
beverages a week and 3 alcoholic beverages per day
Heavy alcohol consumption has been linked to an increase in the risk of most cancers, including breast. A glass or two of red wine like Pinot Noir that is high in antioxidants
Synthetic Estrogens added to many dairy, meat and poultry food products Synthetic estrogens increase the estrogen levels within our
bodies and create an overall hormonal imbalance. High levels of estrogen
have been linked to increased cancer rates.
Foods that clearly state “no added hormones”

Supplements and the Extent of their Potential

Vitamin D3

Where research in the preventive power of this prohormone has been inconclusive, what has been  consistently observed is a lower incidence of breast cancer in parts of the country and cities with more sunlit days. The more overcast and cloudy areas have more occurrences of the disease. Our bodies produce D3 when exposed to UV rays, and the lower risks have been observed in those with blood levels of D3 averaging approximately 4000 IUs / day. Until more conclusive research is obtained, supplementing 2000 IUs of D3 /day along with getting 20 minutes of daily protection free sun exposure is recommended.

The Omega 3:6 Relationship

Omega 3 Fatty Acids (found in salmon, tuna, algae, krill, flax and other foods) are necessary for many reasons. The healthy fat they provide carries the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K from our food into our bodies and benefits the heart, brain and joints among other body systems and functions. However, latest research indicates that the anti-inflammatory benefits of Omega 3’s  are reduced when there is too much Omega 6 (found in poultry, eggs, avocados and most vegetable oils) present. Additionally, excess Omega 6  has been linked to increased breast cancer risks in post menopausal women. The healthiest ratio to maintain between these two essential fatty acids is 1:1. Most Americans unfortunately maintain a 1:14 ratio increasing our risk for disease development.

Melatonin

Many studies have been done recently on the impacts of melatonin on breast cancer development and treatment. And what has thus far been determined is that through its inhibitory effect of estrogen and progesterone production, melatonin can be helpful in both preventing the disease’s development and extending the survival rates of those diagnosed with it. Because our bodies’ natural melatonin production declines at age 40, supplementation in the mid to late 30’s may be beneficial. Stick with dosages between 1 and 5 milligrams as it has not yet been confirmed that more is necessarily better.

More importantly, excess melatonin can cause some side effects like drowsiness, nervousness, sweating and/or heart palpitations upon waking. For a natural boost in your melatonin production make sure you are sleeping in a completely dark room and that if you have to get up in the middle of the night, you don’t turn on the lights. “…production of melatonin rises from bedtime until the middle of the night, and then slowly declines throughout the rest of the night. If you get up during the night and turn on the light or open the refrigerator door, your melatonin production will abruptly stop.” **

Considerations for Complimentary Treatment

One of the greatest gifts from Mother Nature is the vast selection of healing plants, trees and vegetation from which we create our medicines. The following herbs have long and strong reputations for effectively aiding the fight against cancers. They can be further researched by you and your physician to determine their compatibility with your current treatment plan. They can compliment, but they should not be viewed as replacements for conventional treatment. More information can be found in Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Healing for Women, 1993.

  • Chaparral Leaves- blood purifier, antibiotic, useful against both bacteria and viruses
  • Pau d’ Arco Bark- slows and inhibits the growth of tumors and cancers
  • Reishi Mushroom- enhances immunity, reduces nausea associated with chemotherapy, increases radiotherapy’s effectiveness

Closing Thoughts

As the body of research in breast cancer grows, so do our means of protection and options for treatment. Regardless of our genetic make-up, family history and other perceived predispositions, we always have the power of the present moment on our side. The love we have for ourselves can be demonstrated everyday in the way we respond to our stressors, choose our health over work and task management and tune into our bodies’ most subtle yet perceptible signals and signs. We should never deny ourselves the leverage and upper hand that information provides. Nor should we accept an “expert’s” opinion over our own instincts. For the more closely and frequently we listen, the louder and clearer the messages lying within will become. Until next time…

Be Strong and BeWell

* Williams, David MD.  Natural Health for Women, Breast Cancer Prevention, Natural Healing. www.shirleys-wellness-cafe.com

** Minton, Barbara L.  “Melatonin: A Hormone That Protects Against Breast Cancer and Aging”. 10 April 2008 http:www.naturalnews.com/022981_melatonin_cancer_breast.html