I can’t believe that it is already November!  As most of you know, October was Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and this year was the 25 year celebration of the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month Organization.  As I read different literature and talk with different people about what breast cancer awareness really means to them, the common thread is focused on early detection rather than prevention.  There is a lot of focus on making sure that screening mammograms are done routinely and that patients do breast self-exams, but there is little discussion in the popular literature on prevention strategies  Also, many people feel that if they purchase pink cell phones, pink curling irons, pink flatirons and pink clothing that monies will be donated to organizations that will find a cure for breast cancer. 

In my practice, I focus on proactive strategies in general to help patients “prevent” cancers and other degenerative diseases in addition to the early identification strategies.  Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that mammography has its place and has offered many benefits especially in people who have early stage breast cancer; however, I recently read multiple articles including an article that was written by a prominent radiologist by the name of Leonard Berlin, MD that I am sure you will find very interesting.  This article was quite an eye opener for me and I am sure that it will open your eyes, as well.  Dr. Berlin stated that people need to understand that screening mammograms have their limitations, and he went on to say that 30 – 70% of breast cancers are missed by screening mammogramsYes, 30 – 70%!  He then stated that because of this awareness by the medical profession that many breast cancers are missed, this often times leads to over diagnosis and over treatment.

This reminds me of a patient that I recently saw who was diagnosed with DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ), and had undergone a radical mastectomy with a TRAM flap reconstruction.  Essentially, the surgeon used part of her abdominal muscle to create a breast after the mastectomy was done.  The good thing is that this patient wanted a tummy tuck anyway, so she was happy about not having to pay out of pocket for a cosmetic procedure.  Now, here is the tragic part of the story.  DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) is a non-aggressive form of cancer that has a 98% survival rate in 5 years even with no treatment.  Over 50% of cancers detected by mammograms are DCIS, and once the diagnosis is made it is typically treated as if it were an aggressive cancer.  As I mentioned, there have been many articles written on the over diagnosis of breast cancer, and this is not only limited to the radiologists, but also with the pathology interpretations.  To make a long story short, the pathology report of this patient’s breast tissue following the mastectomy did not reveal any cancer at all.  To make matters worse, I recently read an article that stated that one third of the time pathologists will disagree on a diagnosis of DCIS when looking at the same specimen.

It was certainly not my intent to frustrate or confuse you, but I simply wanted to give you the facts.  As I stated in the beginning of this blog, it is my opinion that there is not enough attention given to breast cancer prevention strategies. When I read the literature, I find that there are so many simple things that we can do to decrease the incidence of not only breast cancers but many other cancers and degenerative disease in general..  Remember, 20% of whether you will develop a disease such as cancer is due to your genetics, and 80% is due to the environment that you expose your cells to.  This means that you may genetically be predisposed to developing cancer; however, it may never manifest itself because of strategies that you can implement to keep the disease at bay.  When it comes to breast cancer in particular, you don’t have to stand around with your head in the sand hoping and praying that it won’t happen to you.

Instead, I recommend that you act proactively and consider incorporating the following into your health strategies:

  1.  Make sure that you have sufficient iodine levels.  Japanese women have a lower incidence of breast cancer than American women, and they also consume higher amounts of iodine in their diets.  90% of Americans are iodine deficient.
  2. Optimize Vitamin D levels.  I have seen many patients who have had a breast cancer diagnosis, and many of them have extremely low Vitamin D levels.  My goal is to get the levels between 60 – 80 ng/dL. 
  3. Do aerobic exercise at least 3 hours per week.  Obesity is associated with both breast and prostate cancer. Also, sweating is one of the ways that we detoxify our bodies.
  4. If you are overweight, implement healthy strategies to reach and maintain an ideal weight and body composition.  
  5. Eat organic as much as possible.  We were never meant to be able to handle all of the toxins that we are exposed to on a daily basis, and toxins can cause damage to DNA.  DNA damage can result in the formation of cancer.
  6. Make sure that you are metabolizing estrogen to a healthy metabolite.  The Estronex 2/16 Test is a measurement of two important forms of estrogen.  The 2-OHE1 is the “good” estrogen and the 16-OHE1 is the “bad” estrogen.  Diindolylmethane (DIM) has been shown to raise the 2/16 ratio.
  7. Avoid synthetic hormones and use only natural bioidentical hormones.  Natural Progesterone has been found to be breast cancer protective.   

The above are just a few examples of strategies that you can do to decrease your chances of developing breast cancer, and in one of my next blogs I will be adding other strategies.  

Here are the relevant statistics:

In 2009, approximately 192,370 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer, accounting for more than one in four cancers diagnosed.
In 2009, an estimated 40,170 women will die from breast cancer

 I hope that it makes perfect sense to you that you must be proactive and not solely rely upon screening mammograms to protect you.  Remember the old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  The best strategy is prevention, and I pray that I have shed a new light on what a breast cancer awareness initiative should include.