Angelina Jolie’s announcement of a double mastectomy to prevent breast cancer is a hot topic and it leaves us with unanswered questions regarding our own health. I think it is important to pause in light of Angelina Jolie’s decision and take a look at the facts that surround breast cancer and prevention.
According to the U.S. Preventive Service Task Force, the mutated BRCA1/BRCA2 gene is found in only 1%-2% of all U.S. women. While it is true that those who carry the gene are 5x more likely to develop breast cancer, it doesn’t mean they will develop breast cancer. So, who may want to be tested for the mutated BRCA1/BRCA2 gene?
For women who are not of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, the National Cancer Institute recommends genetic testing if you have:
- Two first-degree relatives diagnosed with breast cancer, with one of them before age 51. First-degree relatives include your mother or sister;
- Three or more first- or second-degree relatives diagnosed with breast cancer. Second-degree relatives include your grandmother or aunt;
- A combination of first- and second-degree relatives diagnosed with breast cancer or ovarian cancer;
- A first-degree relative diagnosed with cancer in both breasts;
- A combination of first- or second-degree relatives diagnosed with ovarian cancer;
- A first- or second-degree relative diagnosed with breast and ovarian cancer;
- A male relative diagnosed with breast cancer.
For women of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, who are more likely to carry a specific BRCA2 defect passed from generation to generation, the National Cancer Institute recommends genetic testing if you have:
- A first-degree relative diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer;
- Two second-degree relatives on the same side of the family diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer.
About 2 percent of adult women have a family history pattern described above but, again, less than 1 percent of women will have a BRCA mutation.
Regardless of whether you or I carry the mutated gene which may cause breast cancer, the statistics are that 1 in 8 women, will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. Gene or no gene. Those statistics evoke a sense of helplessness and may make us regard our breasts as the enemy.
It is important to know that a radical double mastectomy is not the only way to work toward preventing breast cancer. In fact, there are many ways to help prevent breast cancer:
1. If you smoke, stop.
2. Increase your vegetable intake to 5-8 servings a day, including all of the colors of the rainbow. Eat more cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, kale and collard greens. These contain IC3 which make estrogen less toxic to breast tissue.
3. Choose organic foods as there are certain herbicides and pesticides on produce, as well as hormones in meats which have been implicated in breast cancer.
4. Eliminate hydrogenated fats and choose organic butter instead of margarine. Use olive oil, flax oil and coconut oil instead of vegetable oils.
5. Exercise. Four hours of exercise/week can reduce the incidence of all forms of cancer.
6. Decrease or avoid sugar as it suppressed the immune system.
7. Use a high quality multivitamin for increased immunity.
8. Take Vitamin D. It reduces the risk of many types of cancer by 77%.
9. Limit your use of alcohol. The consumption of alcohol is clearly linked to an increased risk of developing breast cancer.
10. Take off your bra. Let the girls free. Wearing a bra for more than 12 hours/day increases breast cancer risks. Underwire bras do not allow free movement of lymph and toxins from the lymphatic system so wear cotton, stretchy bras which allow movement.
11. Know your breasts, gentle massage and self breast exam are important.
12. Limit radiation exposure as repeated x-ray exposure may increase the risk of breast cancer.
13. Practice self-love. As women we are busy taking care of everyone else and forget to take care of our own needs.
There is also a method of early functional detection that is becoming more well known called Thermography. It uses a digital infrared camera and sophisticated computer programming to take pictures of breast tissue. Thermography is able to detect abnormal heat patterns within the breast which signal changes occurring in cellular function that can predate the formation of lumps by as long as 5 to 8 years. More info here: www.medthermonline.com and www.thermascan.com.
If you would like to know more I recommend reading The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Breast Cancer, A practical Manual for Understanding, Prevention & Care by Sat Dharam Kaur.