In Blog 3 I discussed the need for regular diagnostic testing, specifically mammograms or something similar, in order to allow early detection of breast cancer. Equally important however is the need for regular breast self-examinations.
I’ve always made sure to tell my wife to make sure she was doing regular self-examinations in order to detect any abnormal lumps. Unfortunately, she was not good at doing this. In talking with her group of female friends, she discovered that NONE of these ladies do breast self exams! Why not? No one was ever taught how to do them properly or what abnormal lumps feel like.
It’s one thing to tell someone how to feel abnormal tissue, but it is another thing for the person to actually be able to do that. Palpating (feeling) the breast for abnormal tissue is an art that can only be learned with practice. While some gynecologists have life-like breast models in their offices that contain abnormal lumps which are very useful as teaching tools for women, many doctors do not have these models to teach their female patients (my wife says she was never taught by her gynecologist how to properly examine her breasts, even though she was encouraged to do so.) Additionally, the normal breast feels lumpy, and many women have excessively lumpy breasts, making detection of small abnormal lumps difficult even for the most experienced doctor to palpate.
All this doesn’t mean that women should forgo breast self-examinations; it does mean that gynecologists must do a better job, using life-like models of the breast, of teaching women exactly what to feel for and what an abnormal lump deals like. Only then will women begin to understand the importance of doing regular breast self-examinations, which can mean the difference between life and death for some women with breast cancer.
Lesson #3: Most women don’t do breast self exams since they don’t know how to do them. Gynecologists must to teach women how to properly examine their breasts in order to allow early detection of breast cancer.
Coming soon-Blog #5-Understanding Your Surgical Decisions
Regular checkups are important to allow early detection of breast cancer. Regular checkups can include mammograms, ultrasounds, thermography, Halo testing, and daily or weekly breast self-examinations at home. Which diagnostic test is “best” has not yet been determined and is the subject of much debate. Most doctors prefer mammography and/or ultrasound; which test is best for you can only be determined after discussion with your gynecologist.
Also a subject of much discussion and debate concerns what constitutes “regular” testing. Most doctors recommend annual mammograms for women over 40 unless they are at high risk in which case mammograms will likely start at an earlier age. Recently the federal government announced that annual mammograms for women over 40 were not necessary, causing quite an uproar in the medical and especially breast cancer community. This new recommendation is likely due to the new healthcare law where costs must be controlled and recommendations for regular screening for many if not all cancers will decrease in order to save costs.
My wife was having mammograms done every two years and this seemed to be adequate for her, although we were lucky that her cancer happened to develop and was detected when she was due for her mammogram this year rather than occurring a year earlier or later in which case her cancer might not have been discovered at an early stage.
While frequent (annual) mammograms increase your chance of detecting cancer at an early stage, it is also true that annual mammograms increase your exposure to radiation which is cumulative and can cause damage including cancer in the future. It is also true that many women are subjected to additional testing based upon questionable mammogram findings discovered on annual mammograms; this testing would likely not be done as frequently if mammograms were done less frequently. And women with dense breasts can have a normal mammogram yet could have very serious cancer hiding in the breast that is not detected with annual mammograms (ultrasounds are needed to discover these cancers yet are not routinely done.)
We know statistically that approximately one in eight women will develop breast cancer at some point in her life. On the positive side this means 7 out of 8 women will never develop breast cancer, but if you are that one woman who does develop breast cancer then the statistic is relatively meaningless.
There is no doubt that the major reason women with breast cancer are living longer and being cured is early detection rather than improvement in treatment, making early detection critical in order to ensure a long life and a cure if you are ever diagnosed with breast cancer.
I believe the best recommendation is to talk with your gynecologist and make a decision based upon your own wants and needs. In order to minimize radiation damage whenever ionizing radiation (x-rays) are taken for any reason (mammography, dental x-rays, etc.) supplementing with specific antioxidants are important. I recommend taking the antioxidants quercetin and curcumin one week prior to diagnostic x-rays, the day of the x-ray, and for one week following the x-ray procedure in order to minimize damage to normal cells.
Lesson #1-Mammograms don’t always detect breast cancer-request and get an ultrasound-
Corollary-Mammograms expose you to radiation which will damage normal breast cells, which means mammograms may contribute to the development of cancer as well as diagnose cancer.
While “regular” mammograms are important for women (and as I’ve mentioned exactly what the term “regular” means is open for debate,) it is much more difficult for mammograms to detect breast cancer in women with dense breast tissue. Sandy’s cancer was actually detected by accident. She went for her mammograms and something looked “suspicious.” A follow-up mammogram confirmed that the “suspicious” area was still present so the doctor wisely performed an ultrasound which easily revealed a small tumor in her breast. Were it not for her doctor acting on her suspicions and knowing that mammograms fail to detect breast cancer in many women, it is likely that Sandy’s cancer would not have been caught at this early stage. While we were not thankful for the diagnosis of cancer, we were very thankful that it was caught early and will likely never cause for a problem.
Coming soon-Blog #4-Regular Checkups Allow Early Detection–Breast Self-Examinations
When Sandy was first diagnosed with breast cancer a short time ago, to say that we were shocked by the diagnosis would be an understatement. After all, my wife is extremely healthy. She is rarely ill and rarely goes to the doctor for anything other than a basic checkup. She eats what we consider to be a healthy diet, constantly exercises, maintains a weight that is normal for her body composition (most cancer patients are overweight or obese, complicating their disease,) has a very healthy and positive prayer and spiritual life, and takes a number of nutritional supplements each day designed to keep her healthy.
The first question she asked was “How can I have cancer since I’m so healthy?” Unfortunately there is no answer to that question, although we do believe that infertility treatment she had many years ago may have contributed to the growth of malignant cells in her breast. For whatever reason the DNA in a few of her breast cells was damaged (cancer starts as DNA damage,) did not repair itself correctly (normal cells either repair damaged DNA or die,) the damaged cells failed to die (all cells except cancer cells eventually die, are killed, or “commit suicide,”) continued to grow (cancer cells utilize many unique ways to escape the immune system and normal barriers in the body to uninhibited growth,) and voila-cancer.
Lesson #1-Cancer does not discriminate
Cancer doesn’t care if you are rich or poor, black or white, male or female, healthy or unhealthy. It is an equal opportunity disease and can strike anyone at any time. It is true that healthy people are less likely to develop cancer, and when they do develop cancer it is less likely to be a serious disease that is more easily treated. But the diagnosis of cancer reminded both Sandy and me that anyone can get cancer.
Coming soon-Blog #3-Regular Checkups Allow Early Diagnosis-Mammography
As many of you know, my wife Sandy was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2010. The good news is that her cancer was caught early and she is expected to make a full recovery. The bad news of course is that she still was diagnosed with cancer and has to deal with that.
Over the course of the next few months, I’m going to share some of the issues we have had to face in dealing with her cancer. My goal is to educate all of you in case you ever have to deal with this horrible disease, and to show you the benefits of integrating diet, mind-body medicine, and nutritional supplements.
As a naturopathic/holistic veterinarian, I deal with cancer every day in my animal patients. Thankfully that knowledge has allowed us to tackle Sandy’s cancer in a way that is unique and not commonly understood or undertaken by the general public. I’ll be sharing what we are doing and what we have learned with all of you to provide you guidance if you or your two legged or four-legged family members are ever faced with a diagnosis of cancer.
Lesson #1-Regarding cancer therapies, we really haven’t made much progress in the war on cancer.
About 40 years ago, President Nixon declared war on cancer. His goal was to find a cure for this horrible disease. Sadly, we are no closer to reaching that goal today than we were 40 years ago. In most cases (a notable exception being leukemia (specifically a cancer called A.L.L.) in children,) we really haven’t done a better job of treating or curing cancer. While it is true that survival rates have increased, this is mainly due to early diagnosis. People and pets with Stage 3 or Stage4 metastatic cancer rarely survive.
The situation is no better for our pets. While treatment protocols have changed over the last 40 years, most pets with cancer are expected to only live 6 to 12 months following diagnosis, and that’s ONLY if owners spend thousands of dollars treating the pet with surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
The good news is that using an integrative approach changes these sobering facts and statistics. Designing individualized treatment protocols for each person or pet with cancer, incorporating a proper diet, nutritional supplements, and other natural therapies offers a much better prognosis for the cancer patient. We now have large volumes of research to show exactly how these natural therapies work in killing cancer and extending the lives of cancer patients.
In my own practice, the average pet with cancer, given a prognosis of 6 to 12 months of life expectancy from conventional veterinarians, typically lives 12 to 24 months or even longer. Additionally, many pets with “incurable” cancers are cured from their cancers using an integrative approach to boost the pet’s immune system, kill cancer cells, reduce the spread of cancer, and detoxify the patient.
The world of integrative oncology offers much hope for the cancer patient. Integrative doctors are helping people and pets with cancer live longer lives and in many cases curing cancers that are still considered incurable by conventional medicine.
It is my hope that by reading my blogs over the next few months you will come to appreciate how important it is to diagnose cancer early and treat it properly using every tool available at your disposal.