Taking Action against Breast Cancer
Since 1985, October has been marked as the month for Breast Cancer Awareness. As the most prevalent kind of cancer that afflicts women worldwide, more than a million women are diagnosed with it every year. It is a testament to this yearly awareness campaign that breast check-ups are now part of an adult woman’s routine medical examinations, particularly in developed countries.
But despite these efforts, its incidence in low- and middle-income countries has been rising due to the increased life expectancy, changing reproductive patterns (such as later age at first childbirth and less breastfeeding), and the embracing of Western lifestyles. There is yet the need to increase awareness on the disease, its diagnosis, treatment, and care for women who are experiencing this sickness.
To start, it is a threat that is most effectively fought through prevention and early detection. Early diagnosis will lead to better outcomes as patients undergo treatment promptly. Here’s our short guide on what to be cautious about and how to mitigate its risks.
The most useful tool for early detection is simply one that you can perform on yourself. A regular breast-self exam is recommended for all women, and online guides for this are easily available.  The aim is to feel for irregularities within and around the breasts—particularly, for the dreaded lump.
While this is the iconic image that we have of breast cancer, this doesn’t lead to an immediate diagnosis. Causes of benign (non-cancerous) breast lumps include breast infection, fibrocystic breast disease (“lumpy breasts”), fibroadenoma (non-cancerous tumour), and fat necrosis (damaged tissue).
Lumps aside, early signs of breast cancer include changes in the shape of the nipple, breast pain or a new lump that doesn’t go away after your next period, nipple discharge (from one breast that is clear, red, brown, or yellow), unexplained redness, swelling, skin irritation, itchiness, or rash on the breast, and swelling or a lump around the collarbone or under the arm. A prudent consultation with a doctor will determine if more tests, such as an ultrasound, mammogram, or biopsy, are needed.
In general, breast cancer generally shows no symptoms in its earliest stage, which makes vigilance even more important for the slightest sign. This is especially important for people that have following associated risk factors for the condition:
- Increasing age
- History of breast conditions
- Family medical history of cancer
- Exposure to radiation
- Early onset periods (before 12 y.o.)
- Late onset menopause
- Late first pregnancy (after 30)
- Had never been pregnant
- History of hormonal therapy
- Drinking alcohol
Choosing the right treatment for breast cancer relies heavily on the type and stage of the breast cancer. Even a person’s other health conditions and personal preferences play a role in the decision-making process. Other people prefer to get an opinion from more than one doctor to help them choose the right treatment for them.
Some treatments would remove or destroy the disease within the breast and nearby tissues. People with breast cancer would get more than one treatment, depending on the kind and how far it has spread. The most common treatments to stop the disease in its tracks are surgery (cutting out malignant tissues), radiation therapy (high-energy waves that aim to kill cancer cells), and chemotherapy (usage of drugs to kill or shrink cancer cells).
The field of cancer research is yet a developing one. We might not have the full answers yet to its causes and cures, but there are methods to lessen the risk factors of the disease. Additionally, supporting the health of the whole body—in terms of diet, activity, weight, and lifestyle—allows it to condition itself against illnesses. In both ways, supplements may be of help.
When considering adding supplements to your diet, always seek the advice of a doctor first to check whether or not these are appropriate or compatible for you.
Supplements for Prevention
- Vitamin D  – The sunshine vitamin has shown promise in studies in slowing down the progress of cancer. Additionally, according to BreastCancer.org, certain cancers can have a higher risk of occurring when the body has low levels of Vit. D. And so, a daily intake of 600 international units (IU) or 15 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin D like Now Foods Ultra Omega 3-D is recommended for most people as a precaution.
- Vitamin E– An excellent cancer-fighting nutrient, Vit. E is fat-soluble and acts as a strong antioxidant, helping the body remove cell-damaging free radicals. The recommended daily amount of Vit. E is 8 to 10 mg. You can supplement with Now Foods Natural E-400 or aim for the regular consumption of Vit.E rich foods like avocado, beans, broccoli, spinach, or olive oil.
- Turmeric - Turmeric contains the compound curcumin, which has both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Studies show that the curcumin in turmeric may kill cancer cells and slow tumor development. Include turmeric to your next dish, or take a supplement containing curcumin like Now Foods Curcumin to boost your cells against cancer-causing oxidation.
Supplements for Recovery
Therapies for breast cancer, particularly chemotherapy, are known to unfortunately affect the immune system, as well as bring a host of side effects that includes weakness, nausea, hair loss, diarrhea, and loss of appetite. Taking supplements to relieve these side effects and strengthen the immune system may be prescribed by the patient’s doctor as an addition to the main anti-cancer medications. It is important to remember that supplements along this line are not a substitute for the latter. Also, must be taken under medical supervision as some substances, natural or synthetic, may negate or clash with other medications.
That said, the following three supplements are healing herbs that have been long used in traditional medicine as ways to heal the body naturally. Reviewed in recent research, these are found to have immune-boosting and antioxidant properties that might help support and revive the body weakened by illness and treatment.
- Astragalus - Because of its capability to stimulate the body’s immune system, this herb is particularly valued for fighting disease and dealing with the after-effects of cancer treatments. Astragalus, which is also present in Now Foods Astragalus, has been used to stimulate the immune system of people undertaking radiation or chemotherapy for cancer by increasing the body’s production of white blood cells.
- Echinacea – It is common as a harmless and powerful immune system booster to fight colds, the flu and other infections. Echinacea acts by stimulating different immune system cells that are key weapons against infection. It also has some antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antifungal effects and contains Vit. C, beta-carotene, flavonoids, selenium and zinc. Now Foods Echinacea may prove effective against some types of cancer, particularly in people with weak immune systems.
- Ginkgo biloba – This ancient herb has been observed to affect the circulatory and central nervous systems. It increases blood flow to the brain, arms and legs by regulating the tone and elasticity of blood vessels. Ginkgo which is present in Now Foods Ginkgo Biloba appears to have antioxidant properties as well, removing the destructive compounds known as free radicals and aiding in the preservation of healthy blood cells.
Supporting Breast Cancer Patients
Whether it’s you, a relative, or someone you know, emotional support during the trying times from diagnosis thru recovery will mean a lot. A person undergoing such disease may experience a carousel of emotions, and knowledge about this disease, its symptoms and treatment, and what can be done to make them feel comfortable would aid the patient.
Keep in mind that the right diet and activities will impact health and recovery greatly. Take note of the following tips:
- Staying hydrated – Drinking at least 2 to 3 liters of liquid a day, excluding drinks with caffeine.
- Consuming enough calories – Eating regularly throughout the day. Five to six times of small meals a day would be a great help.
- Getting the most nutrients per calorie – Eating nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, nuts, seeds, meats/eggs and dairy products. This is to ensure that the body is strong.
- Adding protein - Protein is found in meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, soy and dairy products. This is to sustain lean body mass/muscle.
Treatment aside, having someone to be there for is crucial to the recovery process, to push them on and remind them to keep on fighting for tomorrow.