October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and as a breast cancer survivor, I want to share a few more ways to potentially improve breast health and detect breast cancer earlier. Yes, monthly exams are important and no there is no guarantee that you’ll never get breast cancer if you do the following. I was in great health and had no family history. However, taking a holistic view of breast health would have been even more helpful. Here are some tips that I’ve discovered along the way from oncologists, breast surgeons, gynecologists and naturopaths.
Massaging your breasts may help malignant cells return back to their normal growth pattern (1). It can also improve the lymphatic system so that cancer cells do not proliferate in one place but are flushed from the area. To specifically target the lymph system of the breast use pumping motions towards the armpit where the lymph fluid drains. Do the breast massage at least twice a week with natural oil like coconut oil. You can do it on your own or even better, work it into foreplay with your partner.
Inflammation has long been associated with the development of certain cancers. Foods high in sugar and saturated fat can cause inflammation. Supplements that contain pau d’arco are beginning to show promise with anti-inflammatory and anti-metastasis properties (2).
Avoid Second Hand Smoke
Some research has linked second hand smoke exposure in younger women to later breast cancer (3). Try to avoid situations where second hand smoke is a hazard.
Exercise that increases your heart rate for at least 30 minutes 4-5 times per week can lower levels of estrogen in your body. Increased estradiol (a type of estrogen) levels are thought to be related to breast cancer incidence—specifically, in post-menopausal women. Yoga can also help improve your immune system and your lymphatic system (4).
Maintain a Healthy Weight
The more weight you carry, the more estrogen you tend to have in your body. And as noted above, higher levels of estradiol can increase breast cancer risk.
Curtail Alcohol Consumption
Research has shown that drinking alcoholic beverages increases a woman's risk of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer. Alcohol has also been shown to damage DNA, which has been related to certain breast cancers. Women who drink three or more alcoholic drinks per week typically have a 15% increase in breast cancer risk.
Eat Your Veggies
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and kale contain sulforaphane, which is believed to help prevent cancer cells from multiplying. Raw vegetables have higher levels of sulforaphane.
Enjoy your green tea, berries, tomatoes and leafy green vegetables. Getting nine servings of these per day can help to starve blood vessels to early cancers. Organic green tea is perfect any time of the day. The antioxidant lycopene, found in abundance in tomatoes, can be extremely helpful too. It may help break down free-radicals, which can wreak havoc on healthy cells. Furthermore, some research suggests that higher blood levels of lycopene is associated with reduced breast cancer risk.
Limit Processed Soy
Soy in certain forms has been shown to increase estradiol through its phytoestrogenic properties. Consuming natural soy products like miso, tofu and tempeh do not seem to have the same negative effect and indeed, has many other health benefits. But avoiding products with ingredients like soy protein isolate may be a good thing for breast health.
Managing stress and living an overall healthy lifestyle can help your immune system stay in check. Doing things like planning “strategic laziness” and getting mental downtime through meditation or even pleasure reading can improve your psychological health as well.
Dr. Kat Van Kirk* is a clinical sexologist/marriage and family therapist, yoga therapist, author and media host. She is currently serving as an expert consultant to Twinlab, and recommends looking for trusted products and brands such as Twinlab nutritional supplements and Alvita single-herb teas where you can find many of these recommendations. You can find out more about Dr. Kat by visiting www.drkat.com.
*Dr. Kat is not a medical physician. Please consult your doctor before you begin any new health regimen.
1. S. Yang, “To Revert Breast Cancer Cells, Give Them the Squeeze,” UC Berkeley, Dec. 17, 2012, http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2012/12/17/malignant-breast-cells-grow-normally-when-compressed/, accessed Oct. 17, 2014.
2. “Pau D'arco,” Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, last updated July 30, 2013, http://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/herb/pau-d-arco, accessed Oct. 17, 2014.
3. “Secondhand Smoke,” American Cancer Society, last updated Feb. 11, 2014, http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/tobaccocancer/secondhand-smoke, accessed Oct. 17, 2014.
4. T. Field, “Yoga Clinical Research Review,” Compl. Ther. Clin. Prac. 17(2011) 1-8.
Posted October 17, 2014