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 Naturopathic Medicine: Healthy Breasts 

We all know by now that animal fat is highly correlated to free radical damage by lipid peroxidation, which leads to tissue destruction and breakdown of the immune system. Now for some even harder facts. In a new report, the American Cancer Society says 1 in 9 American women will develop breast cancer. This is a significant increase over the previous statistics of 1 in 10. The U.S. Government General Accounting Office recently released a report which stated that "there has been no progress in preventing breast cancer since 1971." Seventy percent of women who get breast cancer have NO family history of it. Up to 80% of women who get breast cancer have no risk factors at all. As many have type A blood, which needs more research in order to alert women and their physicians of this "risk" factor. (See the work of James and Peter D'Adamo on paleoserology.) Documented, external risk factors include radiation (especially at a young age), hormone replacement therapy (the "Pill" and estrogen for post-menopausal women), and diet, especially fat, alcohol and refined sugars.

Breast cancer is a feminist issue; there has been woefully little federal money assigned to further research. The recent tamoxifen study, which proclaims the toxic drug a tool for preventing breast cancer, seems to be yet another ploy by the pharmaceutical industry to get women "hooked" for life. (Please see National Women's Health Network newsletter, Vol. 5/breast health 16, #4, Fall 1991). One more note on breast cancer; a little known fact relevant to women who are good candidates for surgical tumor removal or lumpectomies. Several studies show that women who have surgeries performed between the first and the twelfth day of the menstrual cycle have GREATER recurrence rates than do women who have their surgeries after the twelfth day. Although many surgeons may not want their schedules dictated by this finding, women will want to have as many factors in their favor as possible. The level of estrogen in the body is an influential factor that is often ignored. (Badwe, RA, et al. Lancet; May 25, 1991, 337:1261-1264). Other hormonal risk factors in breast cancer include age at first period, first pregnancy, and menopause. Early menarche and late menopause confer a greater risk. The younger the woman at the time of her first birth, the lower her risk for breast cancer. However, women who deliver their first child after age 30 are at more risk than nulliparous women. (Danforth's Obstetrics and Gynecology, published by Lippincott, 1990). All women should receive a baseline mammogram between the ages of 35 and 40, or younger if indicated by risk factors (American Cancer Association guidelines, 1992). Also, please don't think that your own breast self exams, while important, are adequate as a preventive measure to a serious breast disease.

Breast cancer, for example, grows very slowly. It cannot be detected on a mammogram for seven to eight years, and 6/breast health a lump would not be detected in a breast exam by a physician for eight to ten years. Because breast cancer grows slowly, the diagnosis is rarely an emergency. Make sure to explore as many professional opinions as possible before deciding on a course of therapy. Women should not feel rushed into making decisions that will affect the rest of their lives. Another common breast "disease" is the so-called fibrocystic breast disease. According to Dr. Susan Love, director of the Faulkner Hospital Breast Center, staff member at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and author of "Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book," FBD is a "garbage term" that has no meaning. "It's not a disease, simply a term for any of a variety of non-cancerous conditions in the breast," she says. "Having it is normal." Radiologists, for example, refer to dense breast tissue as fibrocystic disease, yet it is not necessarily related to lumps or what can be seen under the microscope. The consequences of this misleading definition is that research on benign breast disease is "terrible." Her own studies have shown that in the majority of cases, fibrocystic disease is not related to a later cancer. However, Love points out, there are legitimate benign breast problems: swelling and tenderness, mastalgia (severe pain), nodularity (lumpiness), dominant lumps, infection, inflammation, and nipple discharge. Each condition has a different physiology and must be studied separately.

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 About The Author
Emily Kane NDA graduate of Bastyr University in Seattle, she completed both the Naturopathic and Acupuncture/Oriental Medicine programs. Her preceptor work (similar to residencies) took place in Seattle, West Virginia and China,......more
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