While there is the need to make treatment more affordable, more emphasis should be made on prevention, screening and early detection. As in all cancers, the prognosis is better if treated in the early stages. But the best strategy is prevention. Screening and early diagnosis, while allowing earlier treatment and better outcomes, still means a lot of anxiety, stress, suffering ( from the cancer as well as from surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy ), and much financial and emotional strain on the patient and her family. The best thing to do is to avoid the cancer at all costs.
THE ANTI-CANCER DIET
While it is unfortunate that some women are born with breast cancer genes that put them at higher risk of developing the disease, most of the victims do not carry these genes. The main anti-cancer strategy ( for all cancers ) lies in a healthy diet and lifestyle. Even those with the breast cancer genes may benefit.
The anti-cancer diet is nutrient dense (low calorie but high nutrient content), with plenty of fruits & veggies ( preferably fresh, raw, and organic ) providing an abundance of protective nutrients and fiber. It also includes plenty of other raw, unprocessed foods ( greens, grains, legumes, nuts, etc – but beware of aflatoxin in nuts ) with lots of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, fiber and probiotics ( healthy bacteria ). Eat more foods with known anti-cancer nutrients, eg. carrots for beta-carotene, tomatoes and watermelons for lycopene, mushrooms for beta-glucans, and others.
Intake of red meat should be reduced, and burnt meat ( BBQ or overfried ), excess sugars and excess salt should be avoided. This diet is not only anti-cancer, it will also protect you against most of the chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
ANTI-CANCER HEALTH SUPPLEMENTS
For insurance, I recommend taking supplements because it is difficult to get such a healthy, raw-food based diet in our present diet and lifestyle. Most of our foods are over-cooked with most of the nutrients destroyed, and we usually do not eat enough fresh fruits & veggies. It is therefore difficult to sustain a high-level of protection from nutrients, if we were to depend on our modern-day diet alone.
Antioxidants protect our cells from the damage caused by free-radicals that are the main reason for aging, chronic diseases, and cancers, at the molecular level. There are a whole range of antioxidants, and fruits and veggies are the best sources for these. Certain antioxidants are only found in certain foods, so we must eat a rich variety to get the benefit of a wide range of these protective nutrients.
Although all antioxidants are protective against cancers, beta-carotene ( pro-vitamin A, from carrots and other yellow/orange foods ), lycopene ( another type of carotenoid, found in abundance in tomatoes and watermelons ), and tocotrienols ( variety of vitamin E, mostly extracted from palm oil ) are among the most promising against breast cancer. Although these antioxidants can be obtained by eating the various fruits and veggies which are readily and cheaply available here, it may be more practical to take daily supplements to ensure persistent high protective levels. This is more so since our diets are inconsistent, and often deficient in fruits & veggies.
Carotenoids ( eg. carotene, lutein, lycopene ) are a big group of antioxidants found in fruits and veggies of many colors. You can now easily check your skin carotenoids level using an instrument ( bio-photonic scanner ) that will also be indicative of your total carotenoids and overall antioxidant status. If your level is low, you should improve your diet ( or take supplements ) and repeat the test sometime later to confirm that you have improved your protection level. Interestingly, it was found that skin carotenoids, as measured by the scanner, are an accurate indicator of average fruit & veggies consumption.
Carotenoids are easily obtained from all the coloured foods. Take note that cooked tomatoes somehow release more lycopene than raw ones. Carotenoid supplements are easily available and are relatively cheap.
Most of the vitamin E supplements contain d-alpha-tocopherol, which is only one of eight different variants ( 4 tocopherols and 4 tocotrienols ). Studies show that only tocotrienols kill breast cancer cells, but not tocopherols. Since Malaysia is the world’s largest producer of palm-derived tocotrienols, it is a pity if we don’t benefit from this anti-cancer nutrient. I take a supplement that contains all the 8 vitamin E variants to get their combined health benefits.
There are many other supplements that show promise but more studies are required to confirm.
Our immune cells must be empowered to fight cancer cells when they first appear ( for example, when insufficient antioxidants fail to prevent the attacks by free radicals ). Thus supplements which improve our immunity may help prevent cancer. Immunoglobulins extracted from colostrum could help increase our defence. Beta-glucans (extracts from mushrooms like lingzhi and agaricus blazei murill) may also be beneficial. In several countries, beta-glucans are even used intravenously as cancer treatment in hospitals. Supplements which increase the population of our Natural-Killer(NK) cells, which are our main defence against cancer cells and invaders, should also give protection against cancer. Certain polysaccharides ( from rice husks ) and transfer factor (from milk/colostrum) are among the best NK cell boosters. Newer supplements like lipoic acid-palladium (LAPd) and nucleic acids (DNA/RNA) have also joined the unending war against cancer.
THE ANTI-CANCER LIFESTYLE
For an anti-cancer healthy lifestyle, you must maintain a healthy weight, not smoke, not drink alcohol excessively and you must exercise regularly. Obesity is a risk factor for cancer and most chronic diseases. Smoking is not only the main cause of lung cancer, but contributes to other cancers, heart attacks and strokes too. Excessive alcohol intake predisposes to liver disease, making it more susceptible to cancer. Regular exercise is proven to significantly reduce heart disease, stroke, diabetes and many other chronic diseases. However, the benefit in reducing cancer is not as impressive.
THE ANTI-CANCER EXERCISE
This is where Qigong plays an important role. This mind-body exercise has already been adopted by many cancer survivors all over the world as a key component of their fight against cancer. As I have reiterated many times before, if Qigong can reverse even advanced cancers ( reported by many, even here in Malaysia ), then it can certainly prevent it too. I must stress that it is not enough for cancer patients to be treated by Qigong healers. They must learn and practise it themselves, because it takes a lot of practice for the effect to be sustained.
Many Qigong exercises have benefits against cancer. The simplest for breast cancer prevention is the Qigong breast massage, where you massage your breasts with your palms ( left hand over the right hand ) while sending Qi to the breasts. This can be done as often as you remember, and after every BSE.
The most important anti-cancer exercise is the Amazing Qigong Walk, which should be done for at least 20 minutes each session, every day if possible. Please refer to previous articles ( see www.superqigong.com ) for the instructions.
SCREENING FOR BREAST CANCER
After prevention, the next strategy is to detect the cancer early so that treatment can be promptly done, giving better results. Breast self-examination (BSE) must be more widely taught to get our women to be always aware of their high cancer risk, and of the benefits of early detection. All adult women should be doing monthly BSE, and also have yearly breast examinations by their doctors.
Breast mammography is still the gold-standard screening test, though this may be substituted or augmented with ultrasound ( see Breast Imaging, Fit For Life, 13/11/2005 ).
There are also other tests which may complement the above two. Thermography detects the increased temperature surrounding cancer growths ( due to higher metabolism and more blood supply ). Electrical impedance tomography ( EIT ) detects the different electrical conductivity between normal and cancer cells. Although these methods are new, they are being more often used in order to get more women screened since they do not use X-ray and cause much less discomfort than mammography. Many women have avoided mammography despite assurances of its safety and only temporary discomfort.
EIT is becoming popular as a screening method because there is no discomfort at all, and this encourages women to come for screening. It is also suitable for younger women as no X-ray is used. Although mammography is generally recommended for women 40 years and above ( earlier if there is family history of breast cancer ), Malaysians get breast cancer at a younger age compared to westerners, so earlier screening is advisable if a reliable, inexpensive, comfortable and convenient method is available. EIT is one such method that can be used to screen younger women.
Some studies have shown that EIT is as reliable as ultrasound, and may complement mammography and ultrasound in giving better accuracy. Presently, even mammography can be 10-20% inaccurate. Combining several methods have been shown to increase the accuracy up to 95%.
If our women take the above preventive measures and get themselves screened, then we should be able to reduce the sufferings and deaths from breast cancer.