Two weeks ago I wrote about the unique challenges facing young women with breast cancer and I focused mostly on prevention. While prevention is important, it is only a fraction of the conversation about breast cancer. If you are one of the thousands of women diagnosed with breast cancer every year, prevention articles are almost useless. You do not want to know how to reduce your risk or do a self-exam; you are already on the front lines, you want a plan for a tactical strike to beat cancer. The problem is, that tactical strike strikes back. Surgery is painful and has inherent risks. Chemo causes nausea and vomiting, weight loss, hair loss, fatigue and depression. Radiation causes fatigue, nausea, skin-burns, and can even change how your breast looks . Although it may sound like it, I am not trying to talk you out of you treatment plan. What your treatment plan needs is a support plan. A support plan is a plan for getting you through your treatment. It addresses your nausea, fatigue, weight-loss, etc. Then, when you are on the other side of treatment, you will need a plan for preventing a recurrence of cancer.
Three plans: Treatment, support, and recurrence-prevention. A treatment plan is stressful enough before considering its aftermath. That is why this month, on October 1, my practice launched the Cancer Support and Evaluation Program. The program provides nutritional support, acupuncture for nausea, vomiting and pain, chemo/radiation support and IV vitamin therapy. We are also coordinating with international cancer researchers and cancer treatment centers. Support of this kind is essential for cancer patients because it keeps the body as healthy as possible in the face of harsh treatments. Integrative treatment of this type has been shown to increase quality of life and survival rates in breast cancer . Researchers have yet to find the exact cause of these positive effects but the theory is that if we can minimize the negative effects of treatment on the body, the body will be more resilient to future sickness than if it had endured more damage from treatment. There is also something to be said for how a patient feels during treatment because decreases in depression are associated with higher survivability . Patients who feel good are also more inclined to do things that are good for them. For example, exercise has proven effective in reducing fatigue and increasing quality of life in women undergoing cancer treatment .
The positive effects of treatment support carry over into recovery and prevention of recurrence. The healthier a patient is and the better she feels after completing treatment, the sooner she can start being proactive about her health. Recurrence can be prevented naturally and effectively by making lifestyle changes that decrease inflammation and acidity in the body. The American Cancer Society recommends a diet of five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day, eating whole grains instead of refined ones, limiting processed and red meats, and limiting alcohol to no more than one drink per day. Soy foods should be moderated since they contain estrogen which can encourage breast cancer . Regular exercise is also a strong cancer preventative ; not only does it help the body eliminate toxins but it also decreases inflammation in the body. Antioxidants are compounds found in plant foods that prevent damage to the DNA in cells. Such damage to DNA can result in the formation of cancerous tumors. Consuming a diet high in antioxidants can help prevent future recurrence . IV vitamin therapy can also provide antioxidants for this purpose.
This National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I want to raise awareness about what it is like for cancer patients going through treatment. I want to raise awareness because there is something we can do about it. Integrative therapies for cancer patients can significantly increase quality of life during treatment and increase survival rates after. These are two great reasons every patient should be offered these therapies.
- Chen, Yi-Bin, MD. “Breast Cancer.” Http://health.nytimes.com/. A.D.A.M, 17 Nov. 2012. Web. 17 Oct. 2013. <http://health.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/breast-cancer>.
- Jacob Shoham, et al. “Survival Impact Of Integrative Cancer Care In Advanced Metastatic Breast Cancer.” Breast Journal 15.4 (2009): 357. Publisher Provided Full Text Searching File. Web. 17 Oct. 2013.
- D Spiegel, et al. “Decrease In Depression Symptoms Is Associated With Longer Survival In Patients With Metastatic Breast Cancer: A Secondary Analysis.” Journal Of Clinical Oncology : Official Journal Of The American Society Of Clinical Oncology 29.4 (2011): 413-420. Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials. Web. 17 Oct. 2013.
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