In many ways, breast cancer in women is quite analogous to prostate cancer in men. As with prostate cancer, my views on the optimal management of patients with the disease differs markely from that of the conventional medical establishment. Breast cancer is a much feared, growing menace that needs attention.
My plan is to outline some important facts about breast cancer in terms of incidence, mortality, risk factors and possible causes. This discussion will imply something about what can be done both by the individual and our society to help tame this menace. I will then discuss the general conventional management of breast cancer, which generally involves surgery and/or radiation and/or chemotherapy and/or hormonal or anti-hormonal treatment. Following this, I’ll discuss alternative treatments for breast cancer, both as adjuncts to conventional treatment and as a replacement in some cases.
I hope that you women in the audience who have not been afflicted with breast cancer will learn some very practical things that you can do to help reduce your risk of developing this disease. For those of you who have had a bout with breast cancer or are currently suffering from it, I hope to provide you with some information that you haven’t heard to help improve your chances of long term survival, as well as improve your quality of life.
Breast cancer is the most frequently occurring cancer in women, just as prostate cancer is the most frequently occurring cancer in men. It is the second leading cause of cancer death in women behind lung cancer, just as prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men behind lung cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 1995, 182,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 46,000 women will die from it. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetimes compared to one in twenty women in 1950. The five-year survival rate of women with breast cancer is virtually identical to what it was 30 years ago, implying that in spite of all the hype about early detection and the great advances in the conventional treatment of breast cancer with radiation and chemotherapy, there has really been no significant improvement in treatment.
Staging of Breast Cancer
The staging of breast cancer is important in terms of predicting the prognosis (that is, the course of the disease) and from a conventional medicine point of view, the best conventional approach to a particular patient’s breast cancer. The staging of breast cancer involves the size of the cancer in the breast, whether or not it has spread or metastasized to regional lymph nodes and whether or not it has metastasized to distant organs, such as the liver, lungs, bones or brain.
A stage 0 breast cancer is one that is limited to the topmost cell layer and the five-year survival is about 90%. A stage 1 breast cancer a cancer that is less than 2 centimeters (about an inch) in diameter with no evidence of spread to the lymph nodes or distant organs. The five-year survival for stage 1 is about 85%. In a stage 2 breast cancer, the cancer is 2 to 5 centimeters in diameter or the tumor is less than 2 cm, but there is a spread of the cancer to the lymph nodes under the arm. The overall 5-year survival for stage 2 is about 60%. However, the larger the tumor and the more lymph nodes involved, the worse the prognosis. In stage 3, the cancer is more than 5 cm in diameter or the lymph nodes that are involved are fixed to either themselves or to other tissue, such as the skin or muscles. The 5-year survival for stage 3 is about 40%. Finally, stage 4 breast cancer involves either a cancer that is fixed to the chest wall or overlying skin, has metastases to lymph nodes above the collarbone, or has distant metastases to distant organs, such as the liver, lungs, bones or brain. The 5-year survival for these patients is less than 10%.