It is that time of year again when everywhere you turn there are pink ribbons, bumper stickers, sports events, and donation jars saying “Support The Cure.” While I certainly hope we find a cure for breast cancer—and the male equivalent, prostate cancer, as well as every other type of cancer — buying into fear tactics and supporting corporations who profit from them, also known as Pink Washing, is not something I have ever felt compelled to do.
You see, “Support The Cure” places emphasis on women contracting breast cancer and Western medicine curing them, rather than teaching women what we can all do to prevent it in the first place. Using words such as “detect” and “screen” and “special populations” implies that you will inevitably get cancer and you need to “plan” for it. I prefer to plan how I will continue to live my life fully and focus on how I can create breast health on a daily basis, and that means I would rather think of October as Breast Health Creation Month!
What’s interesting is that even though my approach has always been considered “alternative” or even controversial, statistics actually support it! For example, did you know that the risk of a woman dying from breast cancer if she doesn’t have regular mammograms is less than one percent. It’s true! A previous study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that 995.6 out of 1,000 women age 50 will NOT die of breast cancer within the next ten years. This number rises to 996 out of 1,000 with regular mammography screening. In fact, getting regular mammograms is actually more harmful because you are subjecting your healthy breasts to cancer-causing radiation.
Of course that doesn’t mean you should never get a mammogram. Sometimes they are useful, especially if you have a dream that you have breast cancer! Believe it or not, dreams can warn of many things that you can then do something about, including breast cancer, as my colleague radiologist Dr. Larry Burk has documented.
Why Women Buy Into The Fear Around Breast Cancer
As women, we have been conditioned to believe that our breasts are two malignant lesions sitting on our chests about to kill us at any moment. New screenings and treatments are continually added into protocol, such as 3D Tomosynthesis Mammography, what I call a better mousetrap. And, once screenings and treatment regimens become “standard” it is hard to remove them from practice, even when the evidence supports discontinuing them. In addition, even “enlightened” doctors simply don’t want to risk NOT prescribing regular breast cancer screenings out of fear of litigation.
The reality is, if you buy into the cultural fears around breast cancer, you may be subjecting your breasts to harmful therapies and end up being diagnosed with, and treated for, something that would never harm you in the first place, such as DCIS – Ductal Carcinoma in Situ, stage zero cancer—or cancer you may die with but not from. In fact, there is a movement afoot to change the name of this condition because the name itself scares so many people.
Another major factor that contributes to women’s fears about breast cancer is family history. We have been led to believe that if someone in your family has had breast or ovarian cancer, you will too. Genetic testing for everything under the sun has become commonplace and women are voluntarily removing their healthy breasts and ovaries in an attempt to “save themselves.” This is the reason why prophylactic removal of healthy breasts has increased by 200% over the past 5 years or so! While there are some gene mutations that, if triggered, could possibly result in those genes expressing toward cancer, the reality is that genetics cause less than 10 percent of all diseases. The science of Epigenetics shows that most health problems stem from misperceptions we have learned or acquired, and anyone can change their genetic “blueprint” with their consciousness.
Who Is Really At Risk For Breast Cancer?
What I have seen over many years is that women who are most at risk for breast cancer are those who have difficulty nurturing themselves and receiving pleasure. Women often feel that taking care of themselves and enjoying themselves means they are selfish. But, it’s the most important thing you can do for your health and for everyone else! It’s like when flight attendants on a plane instruct you to put your oxygen mask on first before assisting the person next to you. You can’t continually give from a place of depletion without paying the consequences. So, if you do nothing else to create healthy breasts, I recommend you do what is necessary to nurture and love yourself. This means you learning how to receive.
In order to learn how to receive, follow these 3 simple steps:
- Hold an intention to connect with your higher power and to be open to receiving whatever you are meant to receive. You don’t have to be religious. Don’t be afraid to ask your higher power for guidance.
- Release your expectations of what will happen when you do step 1.
- Wait for a response. Be open to noticing any changes in patterns in your life that relate to your original intention. Those changes may be something subtle, something physical in your body, or you may receive an overt sign.
How ALL Women Can Create Healthy Breasts
It’s important to remember that your body’s immune system is set up to recognize and destroy cancer cells in the right environment. Here are some health and lifestyle tips that I recommend for creating healthy breasts:
- Get Enough Sleep. Sleep restores the body and it’s during sleep that our bodies metabolize stress hormones. Aim for 8 hours per night. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Sleep in a dark room. Turn off your cell phone and household WiFi.
- Exercise regularly. The benefits of regular moderate exercise are innumerable and studies show that physically active women have a decreased risk of cancer. You don’t have to join an expensive gym. Keep it simple with activities that you will stick with such as walking with a friend or dancing to music in your home.
- Eat a healthy diet. Aim for a diet that keeps your insulin, estrogen and eicosanoids balanced. Include lean protein at every meal. Reduce or eliminate sugar in all forms, including alcohol and packaged foods. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. Include a good source of iodine from food or as a supplement, as well as Omega 3 fatty acids. Note: It is also well-documented that alcohol consumption increases the risk of breast cancer, even in small amounts. But, this fact doesn’t stop most women from enjoying a glass of wine regularly and for many this is not a problem. I believe the reason is that enjoying the pleasure and ritual of a nice glass of wine over dinner with friends is greater than the fear of breast cancer!
- Optimize Your Vitamin D Levels. The best way to get your vitamin D is from safe exposure to sunlight. But many people need to take a supplement. I suggest taking 5,000 to 10,000 international units of Vitamin D per day. The idea is to maintain a therapeutic level between 50-70 ng/ml.
- Get Social. Get off your cell phone, computer, tablet or whatever, and get out with friends. Volunteer in your community or at your church. Take up a new activity, such as dancing or yoga. Having a fulfilling social life improves your immune system. When your immune system is healthy it naturally kills off pathogens and rogue cells that can lead to disease.
- Cultivate a Practice of Self-Care and Self-Love. This is the most important factor in creating health because carving out time to care for and love yourself unconditionally feeds your cells the positive thoughts and emotions they need to reproduce in a healthy way. There are many things you can do to cultivate this type of practice, such as meditate, say positive affirmations in front of the mirror, use Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT, or Tapping), keep a gratitude journal, walk in nature, or simply take time to breathe in and out through your nose fully (this stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system). Do whatever supports you. And, remember, every emotion you have is associated with a biochemical process in your body. So, allow the emotions of pleasure, receiving, and generosity to flow through you regularly.
- Lovingly massage your breasts. This is an extension of self-love. Regular, pleasurable breast massage is a perfect way to promote breast health! I suggest 5 minutes per day where you loving touch your breast without looking for any perceived abnormalities. And, go bra less as much as possible. This helps stimulate lymph flow, which releases toxins from breast tissue. It can also feel wonderful!
A Word About Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer has become the male equivalent of breast cancer. According to the America Cancer Society, about 221,800 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year. Only about 27,500 men die each year from the disease. Like breast cancer, the standard protocol for diagnosing and treating prostate cancer involves annual tests, such as a PSA (prostate-specific antigen test) and DRE (digital rectal exam), and expensive and harmful biopsies, radical surgery, drugs, and radiation.
Yet, studies show that prostate cancer has about a 90 percent survival rate and that men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer and do absolutely nothing live just as long as they would have if they had undergone conventional treatment.
Here’s what men can do to avoid becoming herded through the maze:
- Skip the PSA test. PSA tests are not definitive. They are a measure of inflammation, which can be an indicator of any number of health issues, not just prostate health issues. Get a DRE test instead.
- Avoid having a biopsy. Biopsies are invasive and not risk free. Insist on a 3D Doppler imaging test or MRI.
- Make Lifestyle changes. Eating a healthy diet and making other lifestyle changes such as the ones I enumerate above, and addressing emotions can improve all aspects of your health and your life and can even reverse cancer.
- Wait and See. If you, or a man you love, is diagnosed with prostate cancer, encourage a wait-and-see approach. There is plenty of time to learn more about less invasive and non-toxic treatment options and to make the best choices.
- Do your Homework. Get the facts about prostate cancer and holistic options. There are plenty of resources out there such as Invasion of the Prostate Snatchers by Ralph Blum and March Schulz, M.D., and The Definitive Guide To Prostate Cancer by Aaron Katz, M.D.
 (Welch HG. Screening mammography–a long run for a short slide? N Engl J Med. Sep 23 2010;363(13):1276-1278.)