Asking Better Questions About Breast Cancer

The image is of my notes with a pink ribbon sticker from the event next to a note I have stuck to my lap board. I think this is appropriate because to really make a difference in reducing cancer, not just cancer deaths, we have to be as bold and outside of the box as Ayn Rand.

I attended an event at one of my local hospitals. During this event, the hospital staff shared some of the latest things they are doing to improve the outcomes for their breast cancer patients and their families. I have to say, as a Wholistic practitioner, I was happy to see that there was some openness toward incorporating additional support therapies. Yet, I couldn’t help writhing in my seat listening to the MD experts (their statements are in bold, some paraphrased). I know that complaining or objecting is not the best way to seek a better solution so I started taking notes and working on creating some better questions. Hey, I even asked a couple, which is not my norm in situations like that because they tend to be controversial. Hey. I’m working on me too. Let me also say, I believe western medicine has a place in our society, but it’s failed miserably when it comes to chronic conditions.

So here are my notes, thoughts, and questions from that event. I hope it spurs thinking and questions in you too.

Getting a mammogram is part of prevention. Prevention of what? Testing to find an issue is not prevention of the issue because once you find it, it’s already there. What I know of the number range used in blood tests is that they are an indicator of disease, but being within the range does not mean you are healthy. In my early 20s, I had very low cholesterol, HDL and LDL, but it was often within range, sometimes by just a few points, so my doctor did not echo my concern. I eventually learned, on my own, that low cholesterol was connected to anxiety and depression, which I also experiencing. I get it…mammograms are credited with early detection and they increase the survival rate in the general population.

But words matter. Calling screening prevention means that there is nothing else one must do but get tested. Screenings are not preventive of a disease, though they might be preventive of death. Early detection is a better word choice. Understand though that early detection is still not prevention.

Breastfeeding reduces breast cancer risk. Black women are statistically less likely to breastfeed. My guess is this is a socio-economic issue involving income and education. Black women also statistically have a diagnosis in later stages of breast cancer and have higher death rates from breast cancer. I believe this is also socio-economic.

With what is now proven by epigenetics, why are BRCA genes still considered a risk factor and mastectomy is still recommended as the treatment? Genes don’t just malfunction; they express based on the information they receive via their internal and external environment. Our inner environment is influenced by everything from food to emotions. So taking out the breast tissue does not positively change the environment, it only creates another obstacle to normal body function because now the person has lost part of their endocrine system. I don’t see how the traditional western medicine approach fits this because with something like epigenetics because we all have different emotional interpretations for similar life experiences, which affect our internal environments differently. For this, it seems one would benefit from an emotional Coach as well as an MD.

The Radiation Oncologist talked about reducing the previously recommended treatment of 6-7 weeks of radiation to 3-4 weeks. The 3-4 week treatment was started in places like Canada because of their public health system and the number of patients. Other benefits include less tissue damage and patients getting back to some normalcy in their life sooner, all with the same level of health outcome. Which led me to ask, since they both work the same, where did the 6-7 week practice come from? To paraphrase his answer, it became standard treatment because that was the maximum amount of radiation that human tissue can take before it loses its ability to heal from the radiation. This came out of work done by a radiologist in the 1940s and 50s.

Are you freaking kidding me!!!!! For almost 80 years, we’ve been using a recommendation without review or question?!?!? So I don’t go off on a ranting tangent, I’ll just say, “This is why I question EVERYTHING.”

Cancer is defined as an uncontrolled proliferation of cells from the breast. According to mayoclinic.org, “nearly all cancers are capable of producing cysts. Cysts that appear uniform after examination by ultrasound or a computerized tomography (CT) scan are almost always benign and should simply be observed. If the cyst has solid components, it may be benign or malignant and should have further evaluation.”

A cyst is a sac that can contain air, fluid or matter/cells. To me, that shows the body’s ability to deal with its inner environment. by containing these abnormal cells. This also shows the potential danger a mammogram can cause by breaking that cyst. I understand that mammograms can be helpful and please know that the FDA still recommends mammography as the standard for early detection.

I want you to know that there are other options that can find changes in physiology before it becomes something like cancer, when lifestyle changes can more easily reverse inflammatory responses and increase health and vitality. Plus, only a biopsy can determine if it’s really cancer or not. If you choose to have a mammogram, make it an informed choice and not one just by default.

The Nordic Cochrane Center in Denmark, an independent body of researchers says this, “Screening produces patients with breast cancer from among healthy women who would never have developed symptoms of breast cancer. Treatment of these healthy women increases their risk of dying, e.g. from heart disease and cancer. It therefore no longer seems beneficial to attend for breast cancer screening. In fact, by avoiding going to screening, a woman will lower her risk of getting a breast cancer diagnosis. However, despite this, some women might still wish to go to screening.”

Again, make your decision an informed one. You can find the Nordic Cochrane Center’s published research here.

These are some my thoughts on breast cancer. What are yours?

 

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