BREAST CANCER PREVENTION
Sunny Stephenson, RN, Natural Health Advisor, Massage Therapist
Risk factors that cannot be changed, but can be influenced by a healthier lifestyle:
- Increasing age (2/3 of all breast cancers occur in people over 50 years old)
- Onset of first menstrual period at age 11 or younger
- Onset of menopause after age 50
- Family history of breast cancer in mother and/or sisters
- Exposure to ionizing radiation ( fluoroscopy, or radiation to chest)
- Jewish ethnicity
Risk factors that can be changed:
- Never having children or having a first pregnancy after age 35
- Use of oral contraceptives (risk increases only while taking them)
- Use of hormone replacement therapy containing both estrogen & progestin. The benefits and risks of estrogen alone are less clear & currently being studied.
- Consuming one or more alcoholic drinks per day
- Postmenopausal weight gain at menopause and/or after age 60
Other possible risk factors being studied include:
- A sedentary lifestyle
Reducing your risk of Breast cancer
- Eat a low-fat diet. See nutritional suggestions for a more complete list
- Exercise, especially in younger women, may decrease hormones levels that contribute to a decreased breast cancer risk. Get 30 minutes a day.
- Know your BMI and lower it if necessary. If your body mass index is at the lower end of the scale for your height, your risk reduces. Even more important is getting rid of belly fat, which acts like a “hormone pump” releasing estrogen into the bloodstream as well as raising levels of other hormones.
- Limit alcohol consumption to less than 1 drink a day
- Breastfeeding for at least one year over all your pregnancies
- If you are high risk, talk to your MD about taking a selective Estrogen Receptor Modulator (SERM) such as tamoxifenor or ralonifene
- Consider gene testing, and/or prophylactic mastectomy if you have a strong family history of breast cancer
- Refrain from tobacco use
- Reduce your exposure to toxins, especially in your home. Use nitril gloves when using cleaning solutions rather than rubber or plastic that can dissolve on contact with chemicals. Dr. Oz suggests marking your gloves for use in each area that you clean with different products to avoid cross-contamination and mixing the chemicals. Bleach is very harmful, and mixing bleach with ammonia is deadly. Use white vinegar and baking soda for cleaning instead. When you use a spray cleaner, use a mask to protect yourself, or use liquid formulations instead of sprays. If you spray, do so sparingly. Pesticides and use of unnecessary antibiotics have also been researched as factors that increase risk.
10. Follow the recommended screening & early detection guidelines. Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in American women, and is increasingly common in men too.
Early Detection Guidelines:
- Get regular mammograms. If over 40, yearly, under 40 unless risk is high, every 3 years. Early detection reduces risk of dying of breast cancer to 4%, rather than those not screened, who had a rate of 56% mortality. Studies show that mammograms are only 16-40 percent accurate.
- Alternatives to mammogram: Digital mammography for those under 50 in particular. Ultrasound for targeted areas when there is a concern on mammogram. Who reads your mammogram is as vital to detection as having one, make sure where yours is done have lots of experience. Ask your doctor about other studies. Ultrasounds and MRIs are 70-100 percent accurate.DartmouthUniversitypublished a study this year showing that MRIs found tumors in 20% of patients who had already “passed” a mammogram or ultrasound.
- Women in their 20’s & 30’s should have a clinical breast exam performed by a health care professional every 3 years and women over 40 should have an annual clinical exam.
- Self-exam monthly: best 5 days after your period or the first of each month if post-menopausal: Start standing, without covering, in front of the mirror with your shoulders back & spine straight. Look for any changes in your breasts like dimples, divots, scaling, & pimples that don’t go away. Than lay down with your arm raised to rest your head in your hand for best position. Start just under your collarbone, above the actual breast tissue. Using the pads of your fingertips, make small circles and move in a spiral motion around your breast, spiraling inward towards the nipple. Be sure to check in the axilla, or the underarm area, for any irregularities. Each breast should be examined for 8 minutes. End at the nipple and try to express any fluids from the nipple by squeezing the nipple with fingers top to bottom, then side to side. Check for bloody, crusty or thick discharge. If you find any lumps that are not moveable, do not panic; just call your doctor for a more thorough examination.
- Check with family members for history of cancers and if any have dense breast tissue which means the breast cells grow and multiply more rapidly, raising your risk. Dense tissue can make it more difficult to detect with a mammogram. Fibrocystic breast disease is somewhat different, and does not often turn cancerous. If you are told you have this condition, try stopping caffeine to see if it softens.
Self Massage to encourage lymphatic drainage in the chest:
In Creative Healing, we work gently from the top midline on each side of the chest, curving around the breast and including the underarm area to end the stroke again at midline under the breasts. Then work gently with fingertip pads in soft circular motions to break up congestion between the ribs and over the breast bone or sternum, moving inward & downward to drain lymph into the solar plexus. Add this to your self exam to make it a self healing experience instead of just a fearful check for the worst.
Nutritional Supplementation Suggestions
Reduce your risk by increasing immune strength and cellular oxygenation:
Useful for health enhancement, not just for breast cancer.
Use as directed on label unless otherwise noted:
Coenzyme Q10, Colostrum, DMG, Essential Fatty acids like flax seeds, Garlic, Germanium 200mg daily, Melatonin 3-50mg at bedtime (blocks estrogen-receptor sites on breast cancer sites), Multimineral complex with Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, & Zinc, Multivitamin complex, Natural beta-carotene 10,000IU daily (destroys free radicals), Multienzyme complex (aids digestion), Selenium 200-400 mcg daily (protects against formation of free radical, and certain types of tumors, including breast cancer), Shark cartilage (inhibits tumor growth), Vitamin B Complex with choline & folic acid, Vitamin C with bioflavonoids, extra quercetin, Vitamin E 400mg-1000mg daily, Vitamin D3, Kelp or seaweed, Pycnogenols (powerful antioxidant), SAMe
1. Astragalus root & Echinacea enhance immune function, use one at a time, rotating on a 7 day cycle, Herbal teas such as bilberry, burdock root, ginger, green tea (3 cups daily), peppermint & red clover instead of black teas.
2. Black cohash, chasteberry, red clover, and turmeric are high in phytoestrogens, weaker forms of the body’s estrogens, but that are capable of blocking the stronger, more damaging estrogens. They also expand the length of the menstrual cycle, possibly lowering the lifetime exposure to estrogen.
3. Burdock root, dandelion root, milk thistle, & red clover all protect the liver & aid in cleansing the blood.
4. Chaste tree berry, or vitex, ginseng, & soy extracts may inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells.
5. Tumeric, soy & green tea have cancer fighting abilities.
6. Ginkgo biloba enhances circulation & brain function-great for memory aid also!
7. Licorice root aids in maintaining proper organ function. Caution: if overused, it can elevate blood pressure, so avoid if you have hypertension, and use for no more than 7 days in a row.
1. Eat a high fiber diet based on fresh fruits & vegetables, plus whole grains, legumes, raw nuts (except peanuts) & seeds, soured products such as low-fat yogurt. Very important are the cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, & cauliflower, & yellow/orange vegetables, as carrots, pumpkin, squash, sweet potatoes, & yams. Eat vegetables raw or lightly steamed.
2, for grains, use unpolished brown rice, millet, oats, & wheat.
3. Consume organic products if at all possible, as pesticides and other chemicals have been linked to breast cancer as they have Zeno-estrogens that can interfere with our natural hormones because they can fill the key for normal hormones in our bodies.
4. Include soy in your diet, rather than taking supplements with soy.
5. Include fresh apples, cherries, grapes, plums and all types of berries.
6. Eat onions, leeks & garlic.
7. For the Omega-3’s and Omega-9 fatty acids, include salmon weekly & tuna 3 times weekly. Processed fish oil supplements are also a good idea, but avoid cod liver oil because the levels of vitamins A & D are too high. Flaxseed oil or ground flax seeds can be used on top of your foods.
Tip: Check out a product called Super Seed byGardenofLifefor a great combination of sprouted organic seeds ground finely with cinnamon & probiotics to encourage healthy bowel function, it also supplies the daily requirements for fiber & 25% of the needed protein and naturally occurring omega-3 fatty acids. In Creative Healing, we believe that all ill health starts in poor digestive functions. I prefer not to use psyllium husks for fiber as they have little nutritional value and can harbor yeast organism over-growth in the bowel.
8. Use only spring or filtered water (I like at home filtration systems that have a solid block carbon filter. We have one for the whole house, as well at in the kitchen faucet), Do not carry or store water or other drinks in plastic containers, as the carcinogens are released into the water with temperature changes. Use stainless steel to carry your water when away from home.
9. Do not microwave with plastic containers or plastic wrap covers. Use glass to store your left-over food as much as possible.
10. Choose organic meats & dairy products whenever possible. Hormones used in feeding to increase animal growth act the same on our cells & interfere with our own hormonal systems.
11. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, junk foods, processed refined foods, saturated fats, salt, sugar and white flour.
12. Dr. Oz also suggests that since inflammation plays a role in causing malignancies in several different organs, including the breasts, taking 2 aspirin or ibuprofen a week can reduce your chance of breast cancer between 21-28% as these are wonderful anti-inflammatory drugs. Also helpful with heart health. Natural anti-inflammatory agents include Vitamin B complex, Vitamin C, grape seed extract, essential fatty acids, zinc, Bromelain, garlic, Vitamin A, mineral complex, silica or horsetail, kelp, alfalfa, selenium, aloe vera, bilberry, boswellia, turmeric, cat’s claw, Echinacea, ginger, goldenseal, pau d’arco, red clover, yucca, olive leaf extract, & white willow bark (which aspirin was developed from).
Stress Reduction keeps your immune system stronger. Some Suggestions for stress management:
- Regular exercise that you enjoy. Yoga, Tai Chi, Chi Kung are some of the best for quieting the mind and healing the body. Walking in nature is also a wonderful way to reduce stress. Use of the small exercise trampoline for 10 minutes a day is said to help the lymphatic system function better, an essential aspect of immune health.
- Meditation & relaxation practices like visualization, focused breathing, techniques, prayer, mindfulness, relaxation tapes, soothing music, & biofeedback training.
- Regular massage therapies. Recent studies atCedars-SinaiMedicalCenterinLos Angelestested 2 volunteer groups to receive either 45 minutes of deep-tissue/Swedish massage or 45 minutes of light soothing massage. After just one session, both groups had a measurable amount of physiological changes measured in their blood & saliva samples. The Swedish/deep tissue group showed lower levels of cortisol which is a hormone that is elevated by stress & holds fat cells in the body, as well as arginine vasopressin, a hormone precursor to cortisol. They also had an increased level of lymphocytes, white blood cells that aid in the immune response. The light soothing massage group showed an increase in oxytocin, the “feel-good” hormone that is high when we are in love, and an even greater drop in another hormone that releases cortisol, the stress hormone. Dr. Deepak Chopra says that human growth hormone, the production of which falls off rapidly after age 20, is greatly increased by skin stimulation of massage. Touch is a natural healer.
- Cultivate close relationships