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Breast cancer awareness and prevention…part one

1 Oct 2014 3:15 PM - Know your risk factors, signs and symptoms and get familiar with your breasts

I thought I would address the rather daunting subject of breast cancer from a naturopathic perspective. As difficult as it might be to face the subject of breast cancer, I believe knowledge can help you and there is nothing to be gained by burying your head in the sand.

As a naturopath, I look at diseases like breast cancer from a holistic perspective. I want my clients to be as healthy as they can be (within the context of their day-to-day lives), both physically and mentally. This gives you the best chance of avoiding illness or recovering from illness.

It’s important to know what the risk factors are and it is even more important to know what you can do about them!


What are the risk factors for developing breast cancer?

  • alcohol consumption

  • diet…especially lots of refined carbohydrates, insufficient fibre, lack of vegetables

  • being overweight

  • smoking

  • a sedentary lifestyle

  • stress and its impact on your hormones and other biochemistry

  • exposure to pesticides and certain chemicals such as PCBs, dioxins and benzenes

  • use of the oral contraceptive pill or HRT (particularly combination treatments)

  • early menarche (the age at which you first commence menstruation)

  • higher bone mineral density after menopause

  • genetic mutations (particularly the BRCA gene)

What you might notice about this list is that, with the exception of the last three points, the rest are largely within your control. They are preventable (or at least things you can influence).

From a naturopathic perspective there is a lot we can do to minimise them and I focus on prevention in part two.

You can’t do anything to change a genetic mutation (although you might decide to find out if you have one if there is a history of breast cancer in your family) but doing what you can to reduce the other risk factors will help to minimise the impact of your genes.


What are the Signs and Symptoms of breast cancer?

  • a breast lump (may or may not be painful)

  • any discharge from the nipple

  • any dimpling or redness of the breast skin

  • unexplained fatigue

  • breast or chest pain

 

First step in breast cancer prevention

So, get familiar with your breasts. Work out a way to make breast self examination a part of your monthly routine….1st Saturday of the month, day five of your period, put a reminder in your phone, make a note in your diary…whatever helps you to get into a regular pattern. As well as feeling your breasts, look in the mirror and look for changes in shape, colour, size, contour or dimpling.


Also, get your GP to check your breasts (mine does it whenever I have a pap smear…all part of the service!) and make a note of how they do it.



What else can you do to reduce your risk of breast cancer?

A further emerging area of research is looking at a possible relationship between breast cancer and a type of “mole” called a melanocytic nevi. It is coming up in the literature that premenopausal women who have in excess of 15 of these (greater than 3 mm) on one arm have an increased risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer.  At this stage it is not suggested that there is a causal relationship but they are possibly coming from the same source.  So if you think that might be you, it could be worth getting your skin checked out and being even more vigilant with your breast cancer prevention strategies.


A quick point on Vitamin D and breast cancer

My clients will already know I am vigilant about their vitamin D status for a whole range of reasons. But specifically in relation to breast cancer, studies have shown that healthy vitamin D levels (>75 nmol/L) at time of diagnosis improve your prognosis. So make sure you get your vitamin D levels checked (a simple blood test) as part of your annual or bi-annual health check up.

 

For naturopathic tips on diet and lifestyle for breast cancer prevention see part two.

 

I hope you liked this blog and found it helpful. My goal as your naturopath is to give you advice you can actually use! If you did like it, please share it with your friends and family.

 

In good health,

 

Kaye Wright
Naturopath

Melbourne CBD

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