I've never given much thought to my breasts or my breast health. I mean, at least not regularly. I probably thought a lot more about them when I was twelve or thirteen and all my girlfriends were blossoming into tall, busty women. And me? It never happened. I'm only 5 feet tall and if I still had them, could probably fit into the first bras I got when I was thirteen.
Perhaps because my bosom has never been too big, too small, too lumpy, lopsided or painful, or because I've never been into showing them off (maybe because there was never much to show at the time in my life I would have been inclined to do so), I've never given them that much thought. I don't fear my breasts getting sick any more than I might worry about my kidneys, my liver or my brain turning on me. My breasts are a part of my body and so just as I care for my total health, my boobs are part of that equation.
But then I was asked to think about my breast health
When my husband started offering a monthly thermography clinic at his office, and the technician was one of my Culinary Nutrition Expert Program coaches, I was in.
And then almost immediately I fell into that fear trap of "Oh god! What if they find something?"
And there was something found – but I'll get there.
Why mammograms are not my FIRST choice
Here's the thing about mammograms: they don't fall on the cancer prevention side of the scale. Not only do they not have utility for preventing cancer, but getting a mammogram is not neutral to your health.
Your hope with regular mammograms is that if there is cancer to be found, it will be found early. But they're still finding cancer, and only when something is found will a patient be sent for an ultrasound to get more information on what showed up on the x-ray. After a mammogram and an ultrasound, it may be recommended that the patient get a biopsy to determine if the lump is benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer). Here's the thing though: if it is cancer and you get a biopsy, there are some studies that say the insertion of the needle and extraction of blood/tissue sample could in and of itself cause cancer to spread. Alternately, if there is malignant cancer and it gets pancaked by a mammogram, the same thing can result.
I appreciate that this is a very personal decision. Here are two articles for further reading:
- This article in the New York Times dives deeper into the factors to consider
- Vast Study Casts Doubts on Value of Mammograms
The CHALLENGE with "Standard Of Care" cancer screening
They're screening for the presence of cancer.
I appreciate that you may not be ready to completely forgo the screening recommended by your primary health care provider. This choice – as with all health choices – is very personal, often emotionally charged and sadly, usually includes fear.
What I want to share, however, is one very real challenge with standard of care screening recommendations (as endorsed by both the Canadian government and several Canadian and US cancer organizations) – all they can do is screen for early detection. There are no tools in place to screen for early prevention. See, in most cases, cancer doesn't just appear overnight. It can take ten or even twenty years to become detectable. We all have cancer cells in our body, but there are various factors that will influence whether those cancer cells are given fuel. Wouldn't it be better to never get cancer at all?
I have been getting somewhat attacked for this post across social media. I'm okay with that. It happens when you challenge a paradigm. And of course there are the women whose cancer was detected with a mammogram, or who had a mammogram that detected something not caught in a thermography screening.
There are many combinations of options and we will always have a tendency to side with that which serves us. That being said, the evidence exists is that mammograms are not neutral for our health, and that the hight rate of false positives from mammograms is extremely high. You may find this study form the New England Journal of Medicine of interest that states "substantial over diagnosis, accounting for nearly a third of all newly diagnosed breast cancers, and that screening is having, at best, only a small effect on the rate of death from breast cancer."
If only as much attention was paid to prevention, as it is to early detection.
What if there was a way to know, well before cancer is detected, whether there is anything to be concerned about? What if you could take a look inside your body and see where the warning lights are flashing?
The Role of Thermography as a Tool For Prevention
One ongoing challenge, and one my mom experienced first-hand after an abnormal thermography exam is that if something is detected you will have to find a doctor who will refer you for an ultrasound, allowing you to bypass the now redundant radiation of the mammogram.
And This Was What Shocked Me...
I felt, intuitively, that my breast health was good. As I said before, they've never caused me any problems, never been the squeaky wheel in my health, so in spite of my initial "What if they find something?" fear, I knew my boobs were good.
What surprised me was my teeth. I've had problems with my jaw for years since I was in a really bad car accident. My jaw is misaligned and I have heavy clenching issues (yes, I have a night guard, go to cranial sacral, listen to theta waves before bed... do it all). And despite knowing that there is a connection between root canals and breast cancer, it never crossed my mind that my jaw issues were my greatest risk factor to my breast health. It didn't occur to me that my nighttime clenching and grinding – despite all of my organic food, regular saunas, breast oil massages and dry brushing – is increasing my risk of breast cancer.
Getting Back to the BREASTS
We are often led to believe that our boobs are standalone parts of our body – that if we have a gene, cut out everything effected; if we have a lump, cut it out; if we have cancer in one breast, cut off the other. And those might very well be the solutions that make the most sense to you.
But let's also not forget about the whole system. Why is the cancer there in the first place? Where is the root of the problem and are we addressing that? We can remove our breasts as a prevention method to breast cancer, just as we can remove our colon to prevent colon cancer, our kidneys to avoid kidney cancer, brain to avoid brain cancer, and peel off all of our skin to prevent skin cancer. (Though have you ever heard of men being told to have their testicles or prostate removed as a preventative measure?) If we removed all of the parts of us that could get cancer, there'd be nothing left of us but a beating heart.
Is this the best we can do for our breast health?
What actions can we take to ensure the health of the cells that make up the tissues, fluids and organs? How can we get a step ahead of early detection, maintain our breast health, and focus on early prevention?
Taking action towards prevention doesn't guarantee us a cancer-free life, but does that mean it's not worth trying?
The journal Science published a study suggesting that "bad luck" was the root of most cancers. As Bill Couzens, Founder of Lesscancer.org, stated in this article for the Huffington Post: "The estimated number of annual new cancer diagnoses is expected to jump to 22 million over the next decade, with developing countries most at risk. We need answers about the causes of those diagnoses. We have our eye on the wrong questions, and in turn, pursue the wrong solutions. Correlation has been confused with causation."
Preventative Measures We Can All Take for our Breast Health
- Meditate daily to help bring down those inflammatory levels.
- Exercise regularly to help prevent stagnation in the body.
- Sweat out the toxins, whether it be through exercise or sauna.
- Drink clean water.
- Reduce the chemical exposure in your home and workplace (this includes food, cleaning products, clothes, makeup, etc.).
- Dry skin brush daily to help the lymph (your body's waste removal system) keep your blood flowing.
- Regular breast massage (I use this oil*), not just monthly self-exams, to keep your breast tissue healthy.
- Get a Computer Regulation Thermography test done to get yourself a baseline and work with a natural health care practitioner or functional medicine expert to get a program in place that addresses any concerns that may come up.
- Get regular bodywork (yoga, massage, osteopathy, chiropractic, cranial-sacral, acupuncture – whatever your preference).
- Consider getting a few functional tests done (including iodine, vitamin D levels and hormone levels).
- Take off your bra as often as possible (and whenever comfortable to do so). By wearing bras, we constrict our breast tissue and prevent our lymph from circulating and detoxifying all the toxins we accumulate.
A Few More Books and Articles
- A World Without Cancer by Dr. Margaret Cuomo
- Cancer and Random Genes: Fortune Favors the Prepared by Dr. David Katz
- Cancer: New Science on How to Prevent and Treat It by Dr. Mark Hyman