Almost everyone can tell a story about a woman they know that has been affected by breast cancer. An amazing teacher at my son’s school nicknamed “Mama T” recently died from breast cancer creating a deep sadness in the hearts of all us that knew her. Around 1 in 8 U.S. women (about 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. Besides skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women.
In 2017, it’s estimated that about 30% of newly diagnosed cancers in women will be breast cancers. A woman’s risk of breast cancer nearly doubles if she has a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Less than 15% of women who get breast cancer have a family member diagnosed with it. About 5-10% of breast cancers can be linked to gene mutations (abnormal changes) inherited from one’s mother or father. Mutations of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are the most common. On average, women with a BRCA1 mutation have a 55-65% lifetime risk of developing breast cancer. For women with a BRCA2 mutation, the risk is 45%. Breast cancer that is positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations tends to develop more often in younger women. An increased ovarian cancer risk is also associated with these genetic mutations.
About 85% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer. These occur due to genetic mutations that happen as a result of the aging process and life in general, rather than inherited mutations. The most significant risk factors for breast cancer are gender (being a woman) and age (growing older).
In this blog however, as I tell my patients in the office, I would like to focus on what you can control when it comes to your health. Focusing on your diet, stress and the management of your emotions, exposure to toxicity and physical activity are just a few ways to decrease your risks of all cancers.
What is cancer anyway? It is uncontrolled cell division that leads to a tumor or abnormal cell growth. Inflammation, as well as oxidative stress and free radical damage are the root causes contributing to cancer and the other chronic diseases we treat at CentreSpring MD. It affects cancerous tumor initiation, progression and growth. When you think of cancer that way, as a chronic disease, you can start addressing the root causes that contributed to the development of cancer in the patient.
Foods that increase inflammation include sugar, refined oils, refined carbohydrates, conventional dairy products and conventional meats. If you consume animal protein, always choose the healthiest options including grass fed beef, pasture-raised eggs, hormone and antibiotic-free poultry and wild fish.
A European Journal showed that consuming processed meats, alcohol and having an unhealthy BMI, especially an increased waist circumference, increased the risk of cancer. Data from the Nurses’ Health Study suggested that women consuming 3-6 alcoholic drinks weekly increased their breast cancer risk by 15% compared to non-drinkers. In breast cancer survivors, drinking 3-4 alcoholic beverages per week increased the risk of recurrence by 34%.
Consumption of greens like spinach, kale, collard green, arugula and watercress, as well as cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, brussel sprouts and cauliflower help with hormone metabolism and decrease certain estrogen metabolites associated increased risk of cancer.
As I have stated in previous blogs on the benefits of a ketogenic diet, it can be very helpful when it comes to both the treatment and prevention of cancer as well. Cancer cells have ten times more insulin receptors on their cellular surface. If you continue to consume glucose as your main energy source, cancer cells will thrive. The lowest survival rate in cancer patients is among those with the highest blood sugar levels. Increasing your intake of healthy fats as suggested on a ketogenic diet can help with inflammation and the effects of chemotherapy. Include coconut oil, avocados, extra virgin olive oil, cod liver oil, and flax and chia seeds in your diet to increase this intake.
Creating an alkaline environment helps to weaken cancer cells by neutralizing acidity and increasing cellular oxygenation. As part of each visit at CentreSpring MD we evaluate your pH level and one of my favorite recommendations to improve pH levels is to use Apple Cider Vinegar diluted in filtered water.
Herbs such as turmeric decrease tumor size by decreasing inflammation as well as having an anti-oxidant effect. Other herbs such as ginger, thyme, cayenne pepper, oregano, basil, cilantro and its seed coriander as well as parsley can help with detoxification while being treated with chemotherapy as well as having anti-cancer effects.
Fermented foods can stop tumor growth, so add in kimchi, coconut kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha to your diet.
Green tea inhibits tumor invasion and angiogenesis (blood supply to the cancer cells) essential for tumor growth and metastasis. Yerbe mate tea is an aromatase inhibitor, which will decrease estrogen levels. Mushrooms such as Reishi, Cordyceps and Maitake can block tumor growth and have anti-estrogenic activity.
Including Dim, I3C, omega 3, probiotics, digestive enzymes, B vitamins, turmeric, vitamin C, vitamin D, NAC, glutathione, resveratrol, iodine and many others can be very helpful.
Here at the Center we also offer IV nutrient protocols including high dose Vitamin C, Glutathione and Meyer’s cocktails.
We are inundated with exposure to toxins in our food supply, personal hygiene products, the air we breathe, etc., and having a robust detox system is crucial to our health.
Your body’s ability to handle toxins is extremely important when we discuss ways to prevent cancer and is also a focus when attempting to support a patient undergoing conventional treatments for cancer including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
As cancer cells die off, toxins are released that can cause fatigue, GI symptoms like nausea or bloating, a compromised immune system, joint and muscle pain and many other unwanted symptoms. Exercise, infrared sauna, proper hydration and IV and oral supplements can all be helpful.
We offer multiple tests at CentreSpring MD that can evaluate your overall toxic load as well as the factors that may be affecting detoxification.
Stress/ Emotional Health
A personal interest of mine is the exploration of the science behind the mind/body connection. Many years ago I was introduced to the concepts taught by The Institute of HeartMath. The heart is at the center of all human decision-making abilities and mental/emotional perceptions. It emits powerful electromagnetic frequencies stronger than the brain wave frequencies.
Interesting facts about the heart…
The heart can sense and process apart from the brain, can learn and remember, is a hormone gland that secretes oxytocin and is a key component of the emotional system regulating stress. Stress and emotional pain makes you more vulnerable to toxic overload, DNA damage and replication of unhealthy cells.
Dr. Douglass Brody created the Cancer Personality Profile:
- Highly conscientious, dutiful, responsible, caring, hard working, usually of above average intelligence.
- Strong tendency toward carrying other people’s burdens and taking on extra obligations.
- Deep-seated need to make others happy, tending to be “people-pleasers”. Great need for approval.
- History of lack of closeness with spouse or others who would normally be close.
- Long-standing suppression of toxic emotions, such as anger, resentment and/or hostility. Typically, cancer patients internalize such emotions.
- React adversely to stress, often being unable to cope adequately with such stress, usually an especially traumatic event around two years before the onset of cancer.
- Inability to verbalize or resolve deep-seated problems, conflicts, and burdens.
This is why I find it so important to ask about a patient’s life story. Identifying traumatic or emotional events that have occurred and creating a plan with the patient for healing these deep emotional wounds is a vital component to their healing. Talk therapy, heart-centered meditation, energy healing such as acupuncture, reiki or marma therapy as well as other nurturing activities like yoga, prayer, massage, gratitude journaling, being in nature, creating art or music, etc. can be an important part of a cancer patient’s treatment plan.
Lack of sleep can contribute to breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers. In postmenopausal women that slept fewer hours, there was an increased likelihood of breast cancer recurrence. Also, more aggressive breast cancers were associated with inadequate sleep. Aim for 7-9 hrs of deep restful sleep per night. Taking magnesium before bed or soaking in an Epsom salt bath with a few drops of lavender can help.
JAMA Internal Medicine found that leisure-time physical activity was associated with a significantly decreased risk of colon, breast and endometrial cancers, but also esophageal cancer, liver cancer, stomach cancer, kidney cancer, and myeloid leukemia. In addition, physical activity was strongly associated with a decreased risk of multiple myeloma, a blood cancer, as well as cancers of the head and neck, rectum, bladder, and lung (in current and former smokers).
The American Cancer Society recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week (or a combination of these). You can get in the recommended activity levels by just walking on your lunch break for 30 minutes, 5 days a week. Also try, swimming, biking, jogging, dancing, yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi or any other activity that you enjoy.
Being diagnosed with breast cancer, or any form of cancer, can be emotionally unbearable and physically draining. Here at CentreSpring MD we offer integrative ways to manage your symptoms and pain, and prevent cancer’s return for good. As always, we are here to support you in your journey to healing.
|Dr. Tanya Lehine is a board certified physician specializing in family medicine and functional medicine with expertise in women’s health and the mind-body connection to health and wellness.|
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a visit with Dr. Tanya Lehine D.O..
Categories: Breast Cancer