By Dr. Michael Wald
Breast cancer is an all-inclusive term that actually represents several type of ways in which breast cancer can occur and behave. Woman represent the majority of who gets breast cancer, but men can also get breast cancer in all of its forms as well. The term cancer involves the abnormal growth or proliferation of cells. As the abnormal growth of cells continues the cancer can change its location or spread and this is terms metastasis. Depending upon the behavior of the cells, and where it has spread (how aggressive), various descriptive terms are applied to a persons particular breast cancer. Most breast cancer begins in the ducts of the breast; the ducts carry milk) The main forms of breast cancer include the following:
- Carncinomas – This is breast cancer that begins in the lining layer of the breast known as epithelial cells. Most breast cancer is either ductal or lobular beginning in the epithelial layer of these tissues.
- Adenocarcinooma – this term refers to breast cancer that begins in the glandular tissue of the breast. Glandular tissues are those that secrete various secretions such as the ducts and lobules.
- Carcinoma in situ – Is the term describing a form of breast cancer confined to the later of the breast cells where it originally started. In this his type of breast cancer the cancerous cells have not invaded other tissues (thus, has not spread or metastasized).
- Invasive or infiltrating beast carcinomas – This term describes cancer of the breast that has gone beyond or infiltrated, beyond the original layer to which it started. Most cases of breast cancer are invasive carcinomas either terms invasive ductal or invasive lobar carcinomas.
- Sarcomas – This form of breast cancer starts in the connective tissues of the breast such as the muscle, fat or in the blood vessels. This is the rarest form of breast cancer
2. What are the Top 10 reasons why women (and men) are diagnosed with breast cancer?
There are many reasons that woman and men are predisposed to breast cancer. Not every risk factors I have described below will increase each individuals risk of developing breast cancer, but they do statistically reduce the populations risk of breast cancer development in the United States. Below I have outlined my top ten pics of factors that may increase your risk of developing breast cancer.
- Genetic predisposition – Accounting for less than 1 percent of breast cancer development nonetheless the BRAA genes strongly influence breast cancer development. Most individuals test negative for breast cancer genes that prove that the environment along with non-specific genetic influences determine one’s risk.
- Poor diet – Refined and process sugars, an overall meat-based diet, smoked and charbroiled meats and fish increase risk significantly.
- Lack of exercise – Impacts detoxification in the liver of estrogens (that increase risk). Exercise improves a number of health processes in the body that reduce risk of disease overall including breast cancer development.
- Potentially tight bra – Although not scientifically proven, the lymphatic system in the breast can be negatively impacted by tight fitting bras. The lymphatic system exists within the breasts and also throughout the body and is necessary to carry waste products out of the breast tissue for elimination from the body.
- Environmental chemical exposure – Environmental plastics from industry, heavy metals in the air, food (i.e., fish) and water and other chemicals in the environment may mimic estrogens or affect the immune system in such a way as to impact breast cancer development.
- Birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy
- Certain pesticides – Known to be hormonal disruptors potentially causing or contributing to breast cancer development.
- Various infectious agents (i.e, Epstein bar) – Various infections including parasitic, bacterial and viral infections can disrupt immune function predisposing one to many diseases including breast cancers.
- Endocrine problems including hyperparathyroidism – Can cause calcium deposits in the breast that are a known predisposing factor to the development of some breast cancer.
- Stress factors – Anything in life that causes a sustained stress response can lower one’s immunity and therefore one’s defense against the development of breast cancer.
I am often asked what treatments I feel are most effect for the treatment of breast cancer. The best treatments in my opinion to treat breast cancer are chemotherapy, radiation and surgery as provided by traditionally trained oncologists. As inadequate as these treatments are for breast cancer, and other cancers are, they still do help many people overcome their cancer, extend their length of life and gain a second chance to live life fully. The drawbacks are well known and include:
- Often, serious side effects including infections secondary to immune depression.
- Increased risk of future cancers
- Serious neurologic, intestinal, hormonal and immune issues
My twenty-three years of clinical experience using various natural and nutritional therapies including foods and various vitamins, minerals and herbs has proven that such treatments are often powerful adjunctive reducing side effects improving quality of life and potentially extending life span. Unfortunately, traditionally trained oncologists have virtually no training in general nutrition or nutrition specific for cancer care. This article does not allow the space to explore the reasons why the medical education, and thus oncologists, do not use nutrition, but suffice it to say for now that the medical and nutritional literally is literally over overflowing with positive data showing an evidence-base for the intelligent, and individualized, use of nutrition for all people with cancer. Each individual should be carefully tested for nutrition, specialized non-blood tests performed, important health appraisal questionnaires completed and a comprehensive personalized nutrition plan developed. Together, traditional cancer care used along with natural health care offers a superior potential for a positive outcome.
Below are my top ten prevention tips for avoiding breast cancer in the first place. Keep in mind that every one is different genetically and have varying susceptibility in regards to how the environment predisposes to breast cancer development. Individualized risk assessment is possible and should be considered in addition to my top ten pics below.
- Avoid becoming overweight or obese – fat tissue is a major source of the pro-cancerous hormone estrogen. If you think your weight is fine, have a body composition test performed anyway as you may be a “thin-fat person”; meaning you have too much fat to muscle in your body. This imbalance also increases cancer risk and degenerative disease predisposition across the board.
- Exercise no less than 2 hours per week at a moderate pace (based upon your average heart rate that can be measured with a heart rate monitor
- Eat 5-6 pieces of organic fresh fruits and vegetables every day
- Drink lots of water – an amount that causes your urine to be the slightest bit yellow
- Avoid fried foods
- If you are at high risk especially, eliminate all alcohol. Recent study has shown that there is no amount of alcohol that does not increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer.
- Eliminate simple sugars such as fructose, glucose and sucrose found in desserts, etc.
- Avoid hormone replacement therapies or hormone supplements that contain estrogen and progestins (synthetic progesterone). Since 2002 it has been known that postmenopausal women who took these hormones were are at higher risk for developing breast cancer. Once a postmenopausal woman stops taking these hormone her risk drops back to average risk but only after five years of discontinuing hormone replacement. In my opinion all women should avoid synthetic hormone replacement therapies and birth control pills whenever possible.
- Avoid parabens. This class of chemicals are hormone disruptors that can promote estrogen-driven breast cancer. This class of chemicals include: methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, isopropylparaben, and isobutylparaben.
- Avoid charbroiled meats as their consumption dramatically increases risk of breast and several other cancers.
- Avoids artificial colors and sweeteners
- Take a multivitamin every day without iron (unless you are actually iron anemic)
- Have your nutrition-oriented health care provider identify specific nutritional issues that you may have, and are not revealed often on the basic labs most doctors order, that includes: vitamin D3 (blood value you want to be no lower than 75 mg/dL), serum ferritin, homocysteine, CRP-cardio, selenium, vitamin C, body composition testing, amino acid and fatty acids tests.
The Future of Cancer Treatment
So what does the future of cancer treatment hold? I am supposed to say to you not to take nutritional supplements without the prior approval of your oncologist. The problem with this statement is that you might actually know more about nutrition than your oncologist does. Sadly, a survey of medical schools in the United States determined that a medical student has less than 35 hours of nutrition education. At best, this education is very basic and by the time a medical student becomes an oncologist/hematologist is hopelessly out of date. What I will say with earnest is that you should seek the advice of a well trained nutritional practitioner with knowledge of nutrition-chemotherapy-radiation interactions. Some nutrients, and foods for that matter, can actually help chemotherapy, radiation and surgery outcomes while others nutrients and foods can have antagonistic effects. The majority of study on the use of nutrition in those with breast and other cancers who are or will be receiving chemotherapy and/or radiation is that it improves one’s chances of beating the cancer and offsets serious side effects of chemo and radiation (i.e, brain fog, neuropathies, renal damage, etc.) for years to decades to come. So what nutritional supplement products should you consider taking, once you have found a qualified health care provider to work with?
How to Choose Nutritional Products
The nutritional products for your needs should be based on these and other factors as determined by your nutritionally trained health care provider:
- Your specific cancer type and stage
- Should be chosen based upon evidence-based medical literature
- Nutritional products and foods can be more accurately determined based upon special blood and other tests. Many of my patients say to me, “Dr. Wald, I’ve had every test imaginable.” I then gently say to the patient (and I have never been wrong yet), that the testing that they have had is far too limited for a health determination (because it was based solely on the diagnosis of cancer and future monitoring). A CBC, chemistry, cancer markers and imaging tests tell little, but are partly useful, from a nutritional perspective. Nutritional interpretation of blood work based upon Blood Detective computer technology (see: www.blooddetective.com) can take much of the guess work out of nutrition for adjunctive cancer care. As a person progresses through their cancer care repeat testing will help more accurately change nutritional protocols to keep pace with one’s changing nutritional needs.
- Specific needs: Although it is best to based nutritional needs upon the cancer type, specialized laboratory and functional tests (i.e, body composition analysis, etc.), some fundamentals should be considered and the dosages of each adjusted based upon individual needs. If you are taking blood thinners such as aspirin, or warfarin you must consult a qualified health care provider for nutritional advice. Supplements for general consideration include, but are not limited to:
- Omega 3 fatty acids
- Active folic acid (L-5-tetrahydrofolic acid)
- Active vitamin B12 (methcobalamine)
- Boswellia Serrata extract
- Buffered vitamin C
- Green Tea extract
- Milk thistle
- Comprehensive dehydrated fruits and vegetable supplement
- Trans resveratrol, vitamin D3
Breast cancers are a complex health problem that has no easy solutions in terms of prevention and treatment. However, scientific evidence is mounting that diet and environment, and perhaps stress and other lifestyle habits are the major determinants of who will get breast cancer. Genetics accounts for less than one percent of genetically predisposed breast cancer predisposition. Even though most women, and men for that matter, do not carry genes that directly predispose to breast cancer, a multitude of genes along with certain environmental influences are the cause of most breast cancers. In the future, I am hopeful that prevention and nutritional treatments will be at the forefront of breast cancer prevention and treatment strategies. Finally, early detection and a healthy lifestyle as outlined in this article should produce a measurable reduction in one’s risk of breast cancer.
This article was written by Dr. Michael Wald, DC, MD, CDN Director of Nutritional Services at Integrated Medicine of Mount Kisco, P.C. He can be reached by calling: 914-242-8844 (Ext. 1). Websites: www.intmedny.com and www.blooddetective.com.