Tag Archives: breast cancer awareness

From Awareness to Action: The Anti-Cancer Way of Life

As the pinking of America during national breast cancer awareness month gives way to the reds and blues of the national election, it occurs to me that we cannot let our awareness of a disease that still kills one out of every 8 women in this country be packed away with the ribbons, teeshirts, and pink running shoes until next October. Awareness is meant to be a catalyst for action. And taking action against breast cancer boils down to prevention. I keep a clipping on my bulletin board, a letter to the editor of the NY Times that speaks to rising health care costs: “the 800-pound gorilla in the room – that large percentage of health care dollars consumed by a small percentage of the population who have illnesses that are preventable.” It goes on to say that the cost savings of people taking responsibility for their own health.. to stop smoking, overeating, and start exercising, would far outweigh the trillions of dollars spent on treating disease that is preventable. The writer is a breast cancer surgeon who in making the argument would presumably rather go out of business than perform  another mastectomy that could have been prevented.

And yet the National Cancer Institute’s expenditure of dollars for prevention is less than ten percent of its’ entire budget, despite the fact that most breast cancers are not a result of genetic risk, but of the risks we take with our god-given health.  When Kyle issued her cleansing challenge last month, simple sugars and carbs were at the very top of her NO GO list because not only do they cause blood sugar irregularities, hormone imbalances, and the dreaded belly fat, they cause insulin levels to rise. That in turn triggers the secretion of another molecule called  “insulinlike growth factor” (IGF-1) whose job it is to stimulate cell growth, an effect that not only creates inflammation in the body (a now recognized risk for cancer) but ultimately provides fuel for cancer cells! To make matters worse, this lethal spinoff of elevated blood sugar and insulin levels also promotes the ability of tumors to invade neighboring tissues. So when we take action to reduce our intake of simple carbs and sugars and find (as most of us did during the cleanse) that we are reducing inches around our waistlines, we are at the same time significantly reducing our greater risks for breast cancer… and obesity, diabetes, and heart disease too.

A study that tracked breast cancer patients for 6 years showed that those who ate the most foods rich in carotenoids, the brightly colored, red, orange and yellow fruit and veg lived longer than those who ate less. Lesson: eat all you want!

As we move forward into ever more optimal food choices that not only help us lose weight, but also boost our immunities against disease, I’d like to share with you some of the latest scientific information from a recent book that is all the rage on the subject.  ANTI-Cancer: A New Way of Life, has been credited with causing a sea change in the way providers and patients now confront cancer. It is written by David-Servan-Schreiber, a scientist, M.D, PhD. who when diagnosed with brain cancer refused to accept it as a death sentence. Over a 15-year period he learned what he needed to do to fight the disease and cure himself of the “incurable.”  Please check out the following Top 10 of Dr. Servan-Schrieber’s recommended Anti-cancer foods:

1) Green Tea 2 to 3 cups a day– steeped for at least 5-8 minutes to release the magic “catechins” that  block the growth of blood vessels tumors need to grow.

2)  Olives and Olive Oil – Black olives (vs. green) in salads, risottos, etc., and cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil – one half to one tablespoon used daily in cooking – are particularly rich in cancer fighting antioxidants.

3) Turmeric spice the most powerful natural anti-inflammatory known also helps stimulate the death of cancer cells. Mix 1/4 tsp. with 1/2 TB of olive oil and a generous pinch of black pepper. A few drops of agave nectar can remove any slight bitter taste. Add to vegetables, soups, salad dressings.

4) Ginger root is also a powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant. Add grated ginger to a wok vegetable mixture; marinate fruits in lime juice and grated ginger and a few drops of agave nectar. Make an infusion or tea by cutting into one inch slices and steeping in boiling water for 10-15 minutes.

5) Cruciferous vegetables (Brussells sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, chinese cabbage) contain powerful anticancer molecules called indole-3 carbinoles (I3Cs). They prevent pre-cancerous cells from turning into malignant tumors and promote the suicide of cancer cells. Cover and steam briefly or stir-fry rapidly in a wok with a little olive oil, sea salt, etc. Note: boiling destroys the anticancer properties.

6) Vegetables/Fruits rich in Carotenoids – carrots, yams, sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkins, tomatoes, persimmons, apricots, beets and all the bright-colored (orange, red, yellow, and green) fruits and vegetables contain Vitamin A and lycopene, which inhibit the growth of cells of several cancer lines.

There are significantly fewer breast cancers among Asian women who have eaten soy since adolescence; those that do occur are less aggressive with higher survival rates.

7) Soy compounds (edamame beans, miso, tofu, tamari, tahini, soy milk, etc.) block the stimulation of cancer cells by estrogens and the development of blood vessels that feed tumor growth. Use tofu, tempeh, miso, with onions, garlic, curry in vegetable dishes and wok meals.

8) Mushrooms – shitake, maitake (has the most pronounced effect on the immune system), portobello, oyster and thistle oyster all have properties that stimulate the reproduction and activity of immune cells. Use in soups, vegetables, oven-grilled or stir-fried in a wok with other vegetables.

Red wine, Pinot noir in particular, is rich in resveratrol, an antioxidant protector of healthy cells against aging. When taken in moderation it  is known to have hormone balancing benefits.

9) Red wine – contains resveratrol a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to slow the progressive stages of cancer development.  One glass of wine provides the observed effect – but caution, more is not better. Avoid in pregnancy.

last but not least! Drum roll please……

10) Dark chocolate – contains a number of antioxidants that limit the growth of cancer cells and the blood vessels that feed tumors. Eat a few squares of dark chocolate instead of dessert at the end of a meal (with your green tea!) Or melt dark chocolate in a double boiler, then pour over pears or any fruit combination. Also delicious with grated ginger or tangerine peel.

Let’s keep up the momentum …if adding any of these AntiCancer foods to your daily diet helps you feel better, stronger, calmer, safer and more balanced as you go about your everyday life…We’d LOVE to hear from you…and as always any great recipes you come up with please pass them on by commenting on the blog!


Filed under Women's Health & Happiness

A unique reminder re: breast exams

Hi all:
So we all have received “youtube” videos from time to time but this one had me howling out loud! This one is currently on the Rethink Breast Cancer website and offers a unique approach to an extremely important activity for all women. Click on the link and prepare to be entertained as well as reminded. Have fun and let me know what you think! Please feel free to share any tips you may have that help you remember to examine your breasts. We would love to pass this on to our followers.

So grab a bowl of popcorn and enjoy. After you watch the video, be sure to check out their website as well.

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Filed under Kyle Bell McAvoy, Women's Health & Happiness

Breast Cancer: Focus on Prevention

Breast Cancer: Focus on Prevention

As Candace pointed out, October has become “Breast Cancer Awareness Month”. I also believe this is a bittersweet and confusing time for women who are trying to sort through the maze of information and misinformation out there: should I take hormones? how do I know whom to trust?

Raising money towards a cure for breast cancer not only provides funding directed at a disease that primarily affects women(which in and of itself, is a step in the right direction) but the many activities and fundraisers occurring during this time also serve to bring people together, both for solace and a sense of community and empowerment . So this is the wonderful side of devoting a month to breast cancer awareness.

Sail for the Cure Portland October 2011

Sail for the Cure Portland October 2011

This year I heard about an event that was new to me: Sail for the Cure, which actually started here in Portland 11 years ago. Over 75 boats gathered together for a regatta of sorts on the scenic Columbia River , each boat holding 7-10 participants who had raised money for the Komen foundation. My group included 2 of my friends, one husband and my 26 year old son, Conor. The rest of the crew was rounded out by 2 terrific women (sailing enthusiasts) plus the captain and her first mate. It was a beautiful fall day on the river, watching the graceful boats darting back and forth in a loose formation, sometimes dipping so low to one side but always managing to right oneself with ease. We bonded easily as a group, sharing snacks and beverages and random conversations, while sitting on the upper deck under the billowing sails. We managed to avoid a rather large and menacing storm off to the south and headed back to the yacht club in time for a buffet, some wine, a very fun raffle(I even won a sailing basket: what a great event) and goodbyes. All in all, a terrific day. New friends, new activity and a chance to raise money for an important cause.

Kyle and Conor Sail for the Cure 2011

Kyle and Conor Sail for the Cure 2011

So I get it. There are many valuable aspects to the current focus on breast cancer and I appreciate what everyone is doing but I agree with Candace: by directing all of our funds towards screening and treatment , we are shifting our attention away from the actual prevention of breast cancer for millions(billions!!) of women. Let’s shift the paradigm a bit and include education about the ways women can feel empowered to reduce their individual risk for this disease that affects so many.

We know that estrogen dominance is associated with many risks, including breast cancer. What exactly is estrogen dominance? In a nutshell, the normal physiologic balance of hormones changes to the point where the ratio of progesterone to estradiol(a pivotal estrogen)drops too low for a multitude of reasons: poor diet, age, exposure to chemicals in foods and the environment, lack of exercise, stress: there are many more. Here is a great link for more information: The Seventh Woman Foundation (scroll down to the section on estrogen dominance/progesterone deficiency and breast cancer).

In addition, a low progesterone to estradiol ratio leads to many symptoms(you probably recognize a few!): belly fat, anxiety, carbohydrate cravings, tender lumpy breasts, PMS, insomnia, low libido, mood swings, heavy periods: sound familiar? If this does, what should you do?

We recommend that you learn more about your body(we will provide you many ideas and resources to help you ), find a provider that knows about Bio-Identical Hormone Therapy(BHRT), and get your hormones tested. In my practice, and I see between 40 and 50 women a week, I hear many stories from all ages of women who are struggling with these and many other symptoms. Sometimes it just breaks my heart to know they have been suffering in silence for years and have been told “you’re fine, you must be depressed, you need to: lose weight, go on a vacation, fill in the blank!”

Not so: don’t stop there. Keep going until you find a provider who knows about physiologic hormone balance and who insists on testing your levels. My mantra is “Test and treat, don’t guess and treat”.
You deserve nothing less. Find out if you have estrogen dominance and take your first step in getting your hormones back in balance….and a great step towards helping to reduce your own risk of breast cancer.

Back soon with more about hormone balance and how to find and maintain it.
Ciao for today

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Filed under Hormone Imbalance, Kyle Bell McAvoy, Women's Health & Happiness

Moving on: from “pinkwashing” to prevention

Everywhere you look this month someone, somewhere, is selling breast cancer awareness – on the football field, at the gas station, the bank, the cosmetics counter, and Kentucky Fried Chicken, of all places!! (Despite the fact that we know that overeating of fast foods leads to obesity, a major risk factor for breast cancer.) That last one is an alliance that smacks of breast cancer UNawareness if you ask me and I’m not the only one saying so….  indeed there’s a big difference between awareness and action. Isn’t it time to go beyond “pinkwashing” to cleaning up our act, i.e., making the lifestyle improvements scientists tell us can make a dent in this disease: like losing/or maintaining a healthy weight, eating foods that are not sprayed with pesticides or shot up with synthetic growth hormones, getting enough sleep, exercise, and  balance in our lives to stay ahead of the curve and steer clear of  breast cancer.

Seeing red about pink

Early detection and treatment while still the cornerstone of cancer control have not yet yielded the results we want:  a dramatic reduction of risk or eradication of this disease in our lifetime. For all the billions of dollars raised each October for breast cancer research, some experts say that the risk of  surviving malignant breast cancer is not significantly different today – about 1 in 3 – than it was 50 years ago when the only treatment was mastectomy. We know that a huge number of breast cancers are linked to poor lifestyle, poor diet, obesity, high stress, use of  HRT, and hormone imbalances (estrogen excess in particular)  – risk factors that scientists call  “modifiable.” In other words – preventable – yet out of the entire National Cancer Institute’s research budget, less than 10% is allocated for research into PREVENTION.

I raised this issue with the grocery checkout gal the other day when she urged me to ’round off’ for breast cancer research. “I will contribute my spare change and ’round off’ for breast cancer when they start to prioritize prevention,” I said, ” the more breast cancer we prevent, the less we will need to treat.” She  stared at me like I was a terrorist of some sort…. “Oh, I’ve never heard anyone say that before.”  Really? she had never heard anyone talk about preventing breast cancer in the first place? Maybe not.  Dr. John Lee, the pioneering physician who defined “estrogen dominance,” states on the very first page of his penultimate breast cancer prevention book that  “talk of prevention is virtually non-existent.”  Since the book was written in 2003, paying lip service to the P word has picked up along with the rising cost of  health care, the Women’s Health Initiative, and a growing number of ‘actively aware’ researchers, educators, medical professionals,  patients and health care consumers. Breast cancer rates are dropping in tandem with the decreased use of synthetic HRT, more people are balancing their  hormones naturally, eating organic food,  and exercising in some way, shape or form. There’s even a movement to stop calling October breast cancer awareness month and name it breast cancer prevention month instead.   Touche,  what are we waiting for?  Since Dr. Lee died eight years ago yesterday, that unfortunate figure of one in eight women who will develop breast cancer in her lifetime hasn’t budged. Enough pink already, stats like that make me see red!

What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Breast Cancer: How Hormone Balance Can Help Save Your Life, by John R. Lee, M.D. and David Zava, PHD. Anticancer: A New Way of Life,  by David Servan Schreiber, M.D.,  another excellent book on the subject.  Visit the best website on the subject:  www.theseventhwoman.org –  a must read for the wise woman.


Filed under Bioidentical Hormones, Candace Burch, Women's Work/Life Balance