Prevention and Breast Cancer – What YOU Need To Know
Written by: Vickie T Baker
My beautiful, healthy mother is a two-time breast cancer survivor. My aunt (mom’s sister) is also a two-time breast cancer survivor. Their father, my maternal grandfather, died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 69, but my maternal grandmother died of natural causes at the age of 95, never having developed breast cancer in her lifetime.
Twenty-two years ago, when I sat in the pre-operating room with my then 54 year old mother before she went into surgery to have one of her breasts removed, her surgeon stopped by and we chatted. Looking directly at me he said, “you do realize you now have a 50% chance of getting breast cancer…” I have never forgotten his words.
So, where exactly did my mom and my aunt’s breast cancers originate? And will I develop it? Worse – will my daughter? I have asked these questions of every doctor I have seen with no good answer.
Medical science does not know what causes breast cancer. They can tell you that as your age increases, so does your risk for developing the disease, but not how to prevent it. Breast cancer, in literature, has been linked to estrogen dominance, which is caused by either a deficiency in natural progesterone or an excess of estrogen or both. Factors that contribute to excess estrogen may include hormone imbalance (low progesterone, which doesn’t adequately oppose the estrogen levels) or excess estrogen from body fat and xenoestrogens, the multitude of chemicals we are exposed to daily from our environment.
There has basically been little – if any – change in the treatment of breast cancer and very little public discussion of cancer prevention during the past twenty-two years. If you go to breast cancer web sites, you are advised to have annual mammograms and perform breast self-exams (BSEs). But by the time you find a lump in your breast, it has likely been in your body for over ten years. The primary breast cancer treatments only apply after you have been diagnosed with cancer and are not preventive. These include tamoxifen, chemotherapy, radiation and surgical removal of the breasts, made ever so popular in the past few years by Angelina Jolie.
Since my mother’s diagnosis, I have focused on healthy living to reduce my risk of developing breast cancer. The recommendations for prevention include limiting alcohol, not smoking, controlling your weight, getting regular exercise, limiting hormone therapy and avoiding exposure to radiation and environmental toxins. I have been diligent with my annual mammograms (despite the radiation involved) and have also had breast MRI’s during the past few years.
Along the way, my doctors have encouraged me to get the gene mutation testing, known as BRCA1 and 2 (Breast Cancer Susceptibility Associated). The cost for the testing is around $5,000 for which insurance does not pay. But I have chosen not to have the testing. I have concluded that there is nothing that I could or would do differently than I am already doing to prevent breast cancer, even if I tested positive for BRAC 1 or 2. While I empathise with Angelina Jolie’s decision to have not just her breasts, but also her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed from her body, that is not a decision I intend to make, at least not until I am forced to. And a recently published report supports my decision.
A PLoS research analysis published March 27, 2015, titled Worse Breast Cancer Prognosis of BRCA1/BRCA2 Mutation Carriers: What’s the Evidence? A Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis reaches the conclusion that after a review of sixty-six relevant studies, in contrast to currently held beliefs of some oncologists, current evidence does not support worse breast cancer survival of BRCA1/2 mutation carriers in the adjuvant setting – differences, if any, are likely to be small. More well-designed studies are awaited.
Twenty-two years ago, I was told that because my mother had breast cancer (first line relative) and because her cancer was aggressive (estrogen receptor), I had a 50% chance of getting it. I was curious, so I went to the cancer.gov website and used their Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool to assess my current lifetime risk for developing breast cancer, which resulted in a 14.5% chance (the accuracy of these assessment tools are relative, of course, due to the input criteria and they simply predict risk, not outcome).
My conclusion is that I have somewhere between a 14.5% and 50% chance of developing breast cancer by the time I am 90. I will continue with my prevention measures, but this year I am implementing a new one – I am going against convention and skipping my annual mammogram in order to reduce exposure to radiation and placing even more emphasis on reducing my exposure to environmental toxins.
I believe that the only way to prevent breast cancer is using the same prescription as that for heart disease and other chronic diseases – reduce chronic inflammation by consistently maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet, exercising, balancing your hormones and not worrying – instead, focusing on being happy and striving to be the healthiest version of myself I can be!
Certified Project Management Professional and Author
at Vickie T Baker
Vickie Baker is a daughter, mother, wife, grandmother, nature lover and author.A certified project management professional with a bachelor’s degree in industrial and management engineering, she is also a certified health coach accredited through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.
Vickie specializes in using project management tools to coach her clients to live long, happy and healthy lives, while making their dreams come true.
Latest posts by Vickie Baker (see all)
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS