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Whats New in Breast Health? - by Susun Weed

Breast Health Summary

Screening mammograms, especially for women under 50, continue to draw heavy criticism. Former head of mammography services in the UK says: "To promote mammography to women under the age of 50 is absolutely unethical." Screening mammograms, along with the biopsies and treatments they engender, may actually be triggering aggressive breast cancers in asymptomatic women, not "finding it early," as we have been told. Wise women say "no" to mammograms and focus on breast health.

Lifestyle choices are more important than ever in keeping breasts healthy. Exercise plus a diet (not pills) rich in antioxidants and low in refined carbohydrates, continues to top the list. Mounting evidence of the adverse effects of wearing bras, not breastfeeding, and being exposed to light at night gives us new incentives to increase our consumption of green tea, iodine-rich kelp seaweeds, and the Wise Woman's favorite: nourishing herbal infusions.

New studies connect frequent antibiotic use with a doubling of breast cancer risk, but frequent use of aspirin with a lowering of breast cancer risk. Researchers found high concentrations of deodorant and cosmetic preservatives in breast tumors, plus evidence that deodorant use combined with underarm shaving can increase the risk of breast cancer. I believe that inflammation may, like radiation, heat up dormant cancers and get them going.

New ways of treating tumors and of testing continue to appear, while the best of the best of complementary medicine for those dancing with cancer continues to gather widespread praise.


Breast Health: Story by Story

Screening Mammograms continue to draw criticism, especially for women under 50. Despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, public health policy makers continue to insist that getting a mammogram is the same as taking care of yourself, and that exposing breast tissues to ionizing radiation is cancer prevention. Worse yet, evidence is mounting that routine screening - and subsequent biopsies and treatments - is turning non-aggressive or "latent" cancers (especially ductal carcinoma in situ) into aggressive, life-threatening cancers.

If your doctor insists you have a mammogram, remember: Radiation damage is cumulative. The more mammograms you have, the more likely you are to initiate cancer, just as the more you're in the sun, the more likely you are to get skin cancer. Even if you've already had a mammogram, even if you've had a biopsy, you can choose to say "no" to mammograms and care for your breasts the Wise Woman Way.

"Mammography is especially likely to miss the [aggressive] tumors that do the most harm."

Of 429 breast cancers diagnosed over five years in Puget Sound, 279 were picked up by mammography, and most were in the earliest stage. Of the 150 that were missed, most were so fast growing that, although they didn't exist at the time of one yearly mammogram, they had progressed to lymph-node-involvement before the next yearly mammogram.

"The Picture Problem" Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker, December 13, 2004.

"The risks associated with over-diagnosis and over-treatment are significant enough to make avoiding mammography a reasonable choice for women without breast symptoms."

After screening mammography was begun in Norway, breast cancer diagnosis increased by 54%. In Sweden the increase was 45%. There has been no corresponding long-term reduction in the rate of women diagnosed. "The significance of these findings is this: Mammography causes many women to be diagnosed and treated for a type of breast cancer that would never produce symptoms or become life threatening if left undetected."

"Breast Screening Finds Many Cancers That Would Never be Lethal." HealthFacts from the Center for Medical Consumers, April 2004.

"There are certain calcifications ... that are always benign ... [and some that] are always associated with cancer. But ... the vast amount are in the middle and making that differentiation ... is not clear cut." David Dershaw, head of breast-imaging, Memorial Sloan Kettering.

Computer-aided mammograms may improve the doctors' bottom line, but they do nothing for women. A medical practice that does 60,000 mammograms would generate more than $650,000 in extra income by adding computer-aided detection, but this would cause "no discernible improvement in accuracy nor improved outcomes for the women screened."

"Computer-Aided Mammography No Improvement Over Standard Mammography," Health Facts from the Center for Medical Consumers, March 2004. A review of a report in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Feb. 4, 2004.

"During screening, 5 to 10 percent of mammograms show potential abnormalities, requiring doctors to order additional mammograms, ultrasound imaging, biopsies, and other tests. However, about 97 percent of women in their 40s and about 86 percent of women age 50 and over who have a suspicious initial mammogram turn out not to have breast cancer."

A prestigious group that independently evaluates the quality of evidence on medical-screening topics (PDQ) says its most recent review raises uncertainty about whether there's a benefit to mammogram screening. The PDQ report is at www.nci.nih.gov/cancertopics/pdq/screening/breast/healthprofessional

"Mammograms on Trial", Damaris Christensen, Science News, April 27, 2002

Cornelia Baines, MD, with the Canadian National Breast Screening Study, says mammography screening does not reduce the breast cancer death rates for women in their 40s (Annals of Internal Medicine, 9/03/02).

She says: "Breast cancer mortality rates show two peaks: one occurs three years after diagnosis, the other at nine years ... Increasingly, some researchers speculate that something associated with biopsy or surgery in some women stimulates growth factors, which for women with micrometastases ends up stimulating them and then they die." And this was seen in women of all ages, not just those in their 40s.

"Read This Before You Have a Mammogram," HealthFacts, October 2002

"To promote mammography to women under the age of 50 is absolutely unethical."

Michael Baum, MD, emeritus professor of surgery, believes that screening mammograms increase breast cancer deaths. He supports Judah Folkman's suggestion that we rename in situ cancer as "latent cancer." He warns: "If you identify these latent cancers [with mammograms] and biopsy them, you have traumatized the area. You immediately trigger the natural healing mechanisms ... [which] involve angiogenesis ... [A latent cancer] ceases to be latent. A latent disease becomes an aggressive disease." This is not limited to breast cancer. "If you find a symptomless renal tumor by chance and operate, in no time the patient is riddled with metastasis."

(See report on green tea countering this, below.)

"Surgeon Who Headed a U. K. Mammography Program Becomes One of Its Strongest Critics," HealthFacts, October 2002.

Veronica James, a bio-physicist at the Australian National University has found a way to screen women for breast cancer - by looking at one pubic hair. A special molecular structure is present in the hair of those who have breast cancer, and absent in those who don't have it.

"Good-bye to Mammograms," Discover, June, 1999.

Dietary Links & Lifestyle

Exercise lowers everyone's risk of breast cancer, and even a little helps a lot. In a recent study, ten hours of exercise a week lowered the risk of breast cancer by 37%. But walking for an hour and a quarter a week - that's just a bit more than ten minutes a day - lowered risk by 30%.

"A Brisk Walk for Breasts," Nutrition Action Healthletter, December 2003.

"... inhibiting angiogenesis can arrest the growth of advanced tumors, even when they have become resistant to all other available therapy."

Green tea not only helps prevent cancer but actively represses it and stops its metastatic spread. Anti-angiogenetic factors in green tea, such as epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) reduce new blood vessel growth to tumors by up to 70% with as little as 3 cups of green tea a day.

Nature, 398:381, 1999; British Medical Journal, 318:1086, 1999; Medical Tribune, 39, #9:13, 1998 and 40, #9:2, 1999.

"According to the survey, Mexican women with breast cancer self-reported a significantly higher intake of total calories, proteins, carbohydrates, sucrose and fructose ... The women with the highest carbohydrate intake [57 percent or more of calories] had more than twice the risk of breast cancer than women with the lowest carbohydrate intake ... But women who ate a great deal of insoluble fiber, found in whole grains, fruits and vegetables had less risk of developing breast cancer."

"Carbohydrates and the Risk of Breast Cancer Among Mexican Women." Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, August 2004, vol. 13, pp 1283-1289.

Iodine protects breasts, according to David Derry, MD. After reading a report in a 1993 issue of Canadian Journal of Surgery, he suggested to over 200 female patients with cystic breasts that they take extra iodine. Within two months to two years, their cysts completely disappeared.

Instead of taking supplements, I keep my breasts healthy by using lots of high-iodine kelp (seaweed) in my diet. I cook beans with kombu, add wakame to soups, and eat Nereocystis fronds like potato chips. Look for seaweed recipes in my book Healing Wise.

"Iodine Combats Breast Cysts," Victoria Times Colonist, Sept. 9, 1997

Find a history of bras and their influence on breast disease via Dr. Ralph Reed's research (http://www.susunweed.com/herbal_ezine/december03/feature.htm#preventfibrocysticbreast ).

Some highlights from his collection of scientific articles: In 2000, researchers in Japan found that wearing a girdle and a bra lowered melatonin levels by 60 percent. (Melatonin plays an important part in preventing breast cancer.) Also in 2000, researchers looking at the connection between hot breasts and breast cancer found that wearing a bra causes localized heating of breast tissues. In 1995, women who stopped wearing bras reported their fibrocystic breast disease and pain was relieved or eliminated. In 1991 researchers at Harvard noticed that women who did not wear bras had a 60% lower rate of breast cancer than women who wore them.

"Breast cancer risk was increased 40-60% among those who frequently did not sleep during the period of the night when melatonin levels are typically at their highest: between 1:00 am and 2:00 am. This includes insomniacs as well as night shift workers." There even appeared to be an indication of increasing risk for increasing amounts of ambient light in the bedroom.

"Exposure to Light at Night Increases the Risk of Breast Cancer," HealthFacts, Nov, 2001, reporting on an October 2001 study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Valerie Beal of Oxford University led a study that found a "4.3 percent risk reduction across-the-board [for each year of breastfeeding]." In fact, Beal and her collaborators found that "almost half the difference" between the high breast cancer rates found in industrialized nations and the low rates found in developing nations was due to breastfeeding differences.

We can support each other to breastfeed, and to do it longer. But it's hard to breastfeed more than three months if that's all the paid leave you get from your job (and it's thanks to Bill and Hillary Clinton that Americans get even that). And don't bother to try to change policies at your workplace if you're just one person; you won't find it easy.

Working together, wherever we need to, we can challenge employers to come up to the general world standard of support for nursing moms. In the USA, we can support a bill brought by Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) that would mandate businesses to give breastfeeding mothers longer maternity leaves and routine breaks once she's back at work so she can continue nursing her baby.

Breastfeeding benefits the baby and society as well as protecting mom's breasts from cancer. Some researchers find that formula feeding encourages both diabetes and obesity later in life.

"News on Lower Breast Cancer Risks," Liz Galst, Ms. Magazine, Spring 2003.

Emerging evidence suggests that even moderate use of aspirin can reduce breast cancer risk for post-menopausal women. Those who took seven or more aspirin a week were 28% less likely to develop breast cancer than those who didn't. Once-a-week users were 20% less likely to develop breast cancer. Daily use of aspirin can lead to life-threatening, invisible gastro-intestinal bleeding, so it is risky to prescribe it for yourself; please don't.

Treatment News

Complementary medicines for those dancing with cancer and chemo/radiation/surgery are becoming more popular, less threatening to many oncologists. For safety sake, when wise women ingest herbs, we avoid pills and capsules, choosing instead nourishing herbal infusions, tinctures, or vinegars.

A less invasive way to deal with many breast tumors using hot radio waves may be available soon, along with better tests to pinpoint which women will benefit from chemotherapy, and a better way to schedule surgery. Thinking of taking tamoxifen to prevent breast cancer? Think again.

The most successful remedies in Breast Cancer? Breast Health! the Wise Woman Way are:

  • One dropperful of milk thistle seed tincture taken within the hour before chemotherapy.
  • Application of Hypericum oil on skin the hour before radiation treatments.
  • Consumption of 4 quarts of red clover infusion a week - before, during, and after treatment.
  • Combining surgery with energy healing techniques such as prayer, visualization, ritual, homeopathy, candle burning, affirmation, distant Reiki.

Heat created by radio waves - ultrasound-guided RF ablation - has been found to destroy breast tumors safely and effectively. Earlier studies found success in treating large breast tumors; this study focused on tumors 2 centimeters and under. Surgical removal of the ablated tissues from twenty women found active cancer cells in only one of the margins.

"Radiofrequency (RF) ablation may safely destroy small breast tumors," Cornell University Women's Health Advisor, 2004. (see April, 2004 Radiology)

Ruth Helmann, an oncologist at the University of Chicago Medical Center wants to stop administering chemotherapy to "the many patients who would do just as well without it." She's found that 90% of women whose tumors have few blood vessels, but high amounts of two cellular proteins, are alive 14 years after their mastectomy; while only 44% of those lacking the markers survived. Those without the markers benefit more from chemotherapy.

"Cutting Back on Chemotherapy," Josie Glausiusz, Discover, April 2000

There is some evidence that removing breast cancer masses at certain times of the menstrual cycle can increase survival rates. Of pre-menopausal women who had surgery between days 0-2 or after day 12 of their cycle, 75% were alive ten years later, while only 45% of those who had surgery between days 3 and 12 reached the ten year anniversary. This held true irrespective of whether the cancers were hormone positive or not.

"Timing Breast Cancer Surgery," HealthNews, January 2000, reporting on a study in Cancer, November 15, 1999.

Women taking tamoxifen are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with endometrial/uterine cancer and have nearly three times the rates of blood clots in their lungs (embolisms). In rats, long-term use has triggered liver cancer.

"Tamoxifen as a Breast Cancer Preventive - Many Questions Remain," HealthFacts, 5/1998.

Ductal lavage, a new technique that "washes" cells from the duct, was heralded as a "noninvasive" test for very early breast cancer, but has failed to prove viable in clinical settings.

"Wishing for Change in 2005," Lauren John, Breast Cancer Action News, Jan. 2005

"Epidemiologists and other scientists increasingly believe many cases [of breast cancer] are linked to environmental factors." State of the Evidence, What is the Connection Between the Environment and Breast Cancer may be downloaded at www.bcaction.org/PDF/Stateof Evidence.pdf or by calling (in the USA) 877-278-6722.

Related News

"The prospect that vitamin pills may not only do no good but also kill their consumers is a scary speculation, given the vast quantities that are used in certain communities."

"While diets rich in antioxidant nutrients have consistently shown tremendous protection against cancer and heart disease, clinical trials utilizing antioxidant vitamins and minerals have produced inconsistent results." Lancet, Oct. 2, 2004.

Researchers in Japan, after interviewing more than one hundred men and women older than 100, found that of four dietary preference patterns - for cereals, beverages, dairy products, or vegetables - "those preferring dairy products had the highest survival rate." Organic Products Retailer, 2004

"A protein present in cow's milk, as well as in human breast milk, stimulates bone-forming cells in lab dishes and induces bone growth when injected into mice."

The iron-binding protein, named lactoferrin, found by Jillian Cornish at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, is one of a number of "unknown substances in milk [which] appear to directly stimulate the activity of osteoblasts, the cells that form new bone." These substances also protect bone cells from death and inhibit the generation of osteoclasts, cells that resorb bone. "We were absolutely stunned. It's a very potent molecule."

"Got Milk? Dairy protein provides bone-forming boost," J Travis, Science News, 6/5/2004.

A report in the International Journal of Cancer identifies milk drinking as an excellent way to halve your risk of breast cancer. But don't let that stop you from enjoying cheese and yogurt. They count too! A cup of yogurt a day, plus two cups of nourishing herbal infusion can keep your bones strong for a long, long time.

"Milk: It does your breasts good," Health, January/February 2002.

"More than just protecting bones, vitamin D is proving to preserve muscle strength and to give people some protection against deadly diseases including multiple sclerosis (MS), diabetes, and even cancer."

Many of the studies cited in this two-part series supported a trend: that high levels of vitamin D protect bone indirectly, by improving muscle strength, as well as directly. Women taking 800IU of vitamin D daily during a three month trial were half as likely to fall according to the February 2003 Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. Falls are a leading cause of hip fracture.

Laboratory evidence points to a strong role played by vitamin D in helping to prevent breast, prostrate, and colon cancer, too. Fifteen minutes of sunlight on bare skin in the summer will harvest plenty of vitamin D for then and for the winter months, too. To reap the benefits of sunlight, wise women limit their use of sunscreen.

"Vitamin Boost: New Vitamin D Benefits," Janet Raloff, Science News, October 9, 2004.

A study published in the January 2, 2002 Journal of the American Medical Association found that older women who consume high levels of vitamin A from supplements, or supplements and food combined, are 48 percent more likely to fracture a hip than those who consumed less.

"Too Much Vitamin A Raises Hip-Fracture Risk." HealthNews, March 2002.

For lots of vitamins and minerals, protein and plant hormones, nothing beats a glass of nourishing herbal infusion, the Wise Woman Way. I use one ounce, dry weight, of any one herb - nettle, oatstraw, red clover, linden, chickweed, mullein, comfrey leaf - brewed for 4-8 hours in a quart of boiling water. For further instructions, visit my website or read any of my books.

"A British researcher studying breast tumors found high concentrations of preservatives used in underarm deodorants and other cosmetics, and another study found evidence that frequent underarm shaving together with deodorant use could increase the risk of breast cancer."

"Findings," Harper's, May 2004.

Learn how to prevent breast cancer now! visit breasthealthbook.com



Susun Weed, green witch and wise woman, is an extraordinary teacher with a joyous spirit, a powerful presence, and an encyclopaedic knowledge of herbs and health. She is the voice of the Wise Woman Way, where common weeds, simple ceremony, and compassionate listening support and nourish health/wholeness/holiness. She has opened hearts to the magic and medicine of the green nations for three decades. Ms. Weed's four herbal medicine books focus on women's health topics including: menopause, childbearing, and breast health.

 

Visit her site  for information on her workshops, apprenticeships, correspondence courses and more or contact her at:


Susun Weed

PO Box 64

Woodstock, NY 12498

Fax:  1-845-246-8081


For permission to reprint this article, contact us at:
susunweed@herbshealing.com

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Legal Disclaimer: This content is not intended to replace conventional medical treatment. Any suggestions made and all herbs listed are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, condition or symptom. Personal directions and use should be provided by a clinical herbalist or other qualified healthcare practitioner with a specific formula for you. All material contained herein is provided for general information purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or consultation. Contact a reputable healthcare practitioner if you are in need of medical care. Exercise self-empowerment by seeking a second opinion.

 

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Browse the publishing site - Ash Tree Publishing - to learn more about her alternative health books.

 

Venture into the NEW Menopause site to learn all about the Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way.

Or Join the Forum! Susun Weed’s Wise Woman Forum - an open space for discussion. Make yourself at home, post a message or start a discussion. This place is for you to share your questions, concerns, and comments with other wise women like you. Take a moment to register and become part of the community. Enjoy!
 

 

Susun Weed’s books include:

 

Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year

Author: Susun S. Weed. Simple, safe remedies for pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, and newborns. Includes herbs for fertility and birth control. Foreword by Jeannine Parvati Baker. 196 pages, index, illustrations.

Retails for $11.95 Order at: Ash Tree Publishing

 
Healing Wise 

Author: Susun S. Weed. Superb herbal in the feminine-intuitive mode. Complete instructions for using common plants for food, beauty, medicine, and longevity. Introduction by Jean Houston. 312 pages, index, illustrations.

Retails for $17.95 Order at: Ash Tree Publishing

 

New Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way

Author: Susun S. Weed. The best book on menopause is now better. Completely revised with 100 new pages. All the remedies women know and trust plus hundreds of new ones. New sections on thyroid health, fibromyalgia, hairy problems, male menopause, and herbs for women taking hormones. Recommended by Susan Love MD and Christiane Northrup MD. Foreword by Juliette de Bairacli Levy. 304 pages, index, illustrations.

Retails for $16.95 Order at: Ash Tree Publishing

For more great info on menopause, visit the site.

 
Breast Cancer? Breast Health!

Author: Susun S. Weed. Foods, exercises, and attitudes to keep your breasts healthy. Supportive complimentary medicines to ease side-effects of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or tamoxifen. Foreword by Christiane Northrup, M.D. 380 pages, index, illustrations.

Retails for $14.95 Order at: Ash Tree Publishing

For more great info on Breast Health, visit Susun's Breast Health site.



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