Recent headlines have brought breast cancer conversations to the forefront. We are hearing of more women taking, what I believe is, extreme measures to avoid breast cancer. The question I am asking myself, “Is having a double mastectomy the best choice if you are at high risk of developing breast cancer?”
Before I go too far with this article, I do want to make a disclaimer. I am not a medical professional. I am a woman who has an opinion. All statements made in this article are based on my knowledge, some facts, and my womanly emotions.
When I was a very young woman, age 22, and 6 months pregnant with our 2nd child I discovered a large marble type lump in one of my breasts. That was a very frightening experience for me. My doctor said we should watch it as surgery was too risky at that point of my pregnancy.
Our son was born one evening and the following morning I was taken into surgery. To make the experience even more dramatic, I was required to sign authorization to have my breast removed if the preliminary biopsy showed cancer. That was standard procedure at that time, in 1966. Scary!
That was also the days of general anesthesia for a breast biopsy so when I was put to sleep, I did not know if I would have my right breast when I woke up. I have always been very grateful for the surgeon because as soon as I opened my eyes after the biopsy, he was the first person I saw and he told me right away that it was not cancer and they were able to remove the lump completely. It was some type of benign cyst. What a relief!
I was even allowed to breast feed my baby after all that.
Low and behold, several months later when I stopped breast feeding my baby, I discovered a different size and shaped lump in the same location. The doctor suggested we watch it for 2 or 3 months to see if it might go away. I anxiously waited but it did not change so back to surgery I had to go, signing those same scary papers again.
The doctor once again was there when I woke up from the surgery and assured me there was no cancer. Basically because I was producing milk for my baby when I had the first surgery, milk had become trapped in the cavity where they had removed the cyst. It had hardened, forming a lump so all they had to do was remove the hardened milk residue.
Thankfully that has been my closest experience with the possibility of breast cancer except for being a woman.
Do I think about getting breast cancer? Yes, especially every time I hear of someone being diagnosed or dying from it. I would image most woman experience those same emotions and fears.
What have I done about those emotions and fears? I have tried to be informed and continue to stay informed as well as take steps to reduce my risks.
Some known risk factors are:
- Nearly 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer at some time in her lifetime.
- There are genetic risk factors and particular mutations that increase the risk of having breast cancer.
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has been linked to a higher breast cancer risk.
- Use of birth control pills can possibly play a role in breast cancer risk.
- Alcohol consumption has been linked to an increased breast cancer risk. Some breast cancers are connected to hormone imbalances so it is good to know that regular use of alcohol increases the production of estrogen.
- Obesity also increases the risk of any type of cancer.
Common ways of reducing the risk of developing breast cancer:
- Regular exercise, in other words, staying fit may reduce the risk of breast cancer.
- Eating a diet of healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats can be beneficial.
- Regular mammogram screening is suggested as a preventative measure. My opinion is that mammograms do not prevent cancer but is rather a tool for early detection – there is a difference. Personally I have chosen not to have regular mammograms as I do not like to be exposed to the radiation rays of the mammogram machine.
- If you are at a high risk of developing breast cancer, there are drugs that block the effects of too much estrogen. These drugs do come with other risks and side effects along with the benefits of reducing the risk of breast cancer.
- As we have seen recently, some women who are at a very high risk of developing breast cancer are choosing to undergo the surgical removal of both breasts. This is a very radical and very personal decision for these women. I did see some unofficial statistics that about 10% of women who have a double mastectomy for prevention will still develop breast cancer or for that matter some other type of cancer.
What are some other more natural ways of reducing your risk of developing cancer in general and particularly breast cancer?
Here are the top 15 ways I suggest you use to protect yourself against breast cancer:
- Maintain a healthy weight – cancer thrives in fat cells.
- Moderate exercise – keep in mind that extreme exercise actually increases oxidation thus can increase the risk of cancer.
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables with colorful flesh which are high in carotenoids and flavonoids – they are full of antioxidants to fight cancer.
- Cruciferous vegetable like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, and kale are especially beneficial in preventing hormonal based cancers like breast cancer.
- Eat plenty of berries & fruits high in polyphenols.
- Allium vegetables (garlic, onions, chives, & leeks) work to reduce the risk of cancer.
- Eat healthy omega-3 rich fats from fish, nuts, seeds, etc.
- Drink pure clean water.
- Stay away from refined, processed sugars and grains. Cancer feeds on sugar!
- Avoid high temperature cooking – high temperatures create cancer causing carcinogens.
- A diet high in fiber helps the body rid itself of cancer causing toxins.
- Drink green tea – there is evidence that it can lower the risk of cancer.
- Avoid deli type meats – the smoking process and preservatives used are carcinogenic (cancer causing) – no hot dogs.
- Take high quality whole food supplements to fill the above gaps in your diet.
- Avoid stress or maybe I should say, learn to react and handle stress in a positive manner. Look for the joy in every situation.
There was a powerful article in a 2007 publication from Tufts University entitled “Eating to Beat Cancer”. Notice it did not say eating to prevent cancer or live with cancer, it said BEAT Cancer. The jest of the article not only talks about whole foods but also about specific nutrients and how they work to beat cancer. Included in those nutrients are carotenoids, omega-3 fatty acids, polyphenols, and cruciferous compounds. It is the interaction of these nutrients that gives the most protection.
In 2012, the results of a study by Harvard Researchers & National Cancer Institute were released in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute with the conclusion showing that carotenoids protect against breast cancer. Previous studies have shown a huge reduction in breast cancer among those who also consume flavonoids and cruciferous nutrients.
Be informed and stay proactive in taking care of your health.
I would also love to hear your thoughts on today's post! Please take a quick moment and leave your comments and/or questions below in the comment section.
Pat has been married to the same man for over 51 years, is the mother of 3 adult children, and grandma to 8 grandchildren. Growing up in the country gave her a head start to living a healthy lifestyle. This grandma became interested in nutrition as a mother and for the past 27 plus years she has specialized in teaching others the importance of good nutrition. Challenges along the road have been many; her father overcoming congestive heart failure with nutrition, her husband's battle with GERD and avoiding a major heart attack, her daughter's battle with a brain tumor, her grandson beating Hodgkin's Lymphoma, her mother's stage 4 lung cancer, her mom-n-law's dementia, and others. Her goal is to share with others the things she has learned and is still learning about having the BEST REAL HEALTH possible.
Join Pat in having the Best Real Health possible.
Galatians 5:22-23 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
All information on this blog site is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Information on this site has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
Copyright© 2013 Pat Moon – All Rights Reserved!