CANCER. There is hardly another word that evokes such powerful emotions. Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in women in the United States and the second leading cause of death. Cancer is complicated. Many factors contribute to a person developing cancer. Just by being a woman, our risk increases. Even though we know some of the factors that can lead to developing cancer, there is no definitive answer as to why breast cancer develops in some women and not others. Some risk factors we have no control over, such as getting older and family history. That being said, there are risk factors that we can control, such as maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, reducing stress, limiting alcohol intake, and eating a balanced nutritional diet.
Know your body: Feel your boobies: Save your life.
The most important step that a woman can take to reduce the risk of breast cancer is to familiarize yourself with your body. It is vital to do monthly self breast exams. If you know how your normal breast tissue look and feel, you can more easily detect any changes in that tissue and notify your doctor. This can save your life! Early detection can increase the rate of survival up to 50%! Receiving bi-annual clinical breast exams is another very important step in early detection of any breast changes.
The National Cancer Institute recommends that women with average risk of breast cancer receive a mammography every 2 years starting at age 40. For women with a strong family history of breast cancer, mammography screening should start earlier depending on how high the individual’s risk. Mammography is not as sensitive in younger women due to the denser breast tissue, but the mammogram can be followed up with a breast MRI for more accurate results. Many of my patients are also use breast thermography to reduce exposure to radiation from mammograms.
Genetic screening is another way of accessing your risk for breast cancer, especially if there is a strong family history. Women with the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations have a 35-80% increased risk of developing cancer compared to 12% in women without the gene mutation. Again, just because you have the gene mutation does not mean you will develop breast cancer. Up to 40% of women with the BRCA1 gene mutation do not have breast cancer. Even with all the research that has been done on cancer, we still do not know how or why some people develop cancer and others do not.
What if I have breast cancer already?
When my cancer patients come in for their visit, I know just by looking at the size of their grocery bags filled with supplements and binders filled with print-outs from health websites. They are always flooded with information from family, friends, neighbors, second cousins twice removed, etc. Differentiating correct and false information can be confusing and overwhelming. This is where I step in. Naturopathic doctors are experts in sorting through all the miss-information and bridge the gap between conventional and integrative approaches to cancer care. I will work with your oncology team to maintain your quality of life, minimize potential side effects, through a customized diet and lifestyle plan, appropriate herbal and nutritional supplementation, and IV nutrients such as Vitamin C, B vitamins, and amino acids. My goal is to keep your mind and body in fighting form so that you have the strength to get rid of the cancer.
Above all, believe in your body’s wisdom. Your body is as vital and as strong as your will. As Georg Groddeckwrites, “One must not forget that recovery is brought about not by the physician, but by the patient themself. She heals herself, by her own power, exactly as she walks by means of her own power, or eats, or thinks, breathes or sleeps.”
Dr. Sonja Fung is a naturopathic doctor at the Live Well Clinic with a focus on integrative oncology. She not only works towards the prevention of cancer, but offers cutting-edge, complementary approaches to support women and men who currently have cancer.
Author: Sonja Fung, ND
Live Happy, Live Well. www.livewellclinic.org.
78900 Avenue 47 Suite 102 La Quinta, CA. 760-771-5970