by Dr. Shilpa Saxena, MD of Forum Health, Tampa
Some of the greatest pioneers in medicine work to find ways to utilize lifestyle-based solutions for even the most devastating diseases. Of course, nothing strikes fear into the heart and, literally, the chests of women than the diagnosis of breast cancer. Luckily for us, these trendsetting docs have uncovered some research-backed truths about what we can do to help ourselves. Up until now, many women have supported the cause by wearing pink ribbons, getting mammograms and doing monthly self-breast exams believing they are practicing prevention. First point I must make and, think about this one… getting a mammogram and doing a self-breast exam is NOT prevention, it’s early detection, right? Those two concepts are worlds apart. And even though finding a breast cancer early through these methods is valuable, preventing the breast cancer altogether is the ultimate goal!
These are some of the recommendations to prevent breast cancer naturally given to me by a leading researcher in Integrative Oncology, Dr. Donald Abrams, and I humbly pass these on to you for the women you love and care for in your community. Share these tips about breast health and pearls about improving breast cancer survival the next time you meet.
1. Eating a single serving of a cruciferous vegetable a day can reduce your risk of getting breast cancer (and other cancers as well!). Examples of these life-saving veggies include broccoli, cauliflower, arugula, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, cabbage, collard greens, daikon, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, radish, rutabaga, watercress and wasabi.
2. Women with estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer should not drink more than 3 alcoholic drinks per week. One drink is equal to one 12 oz beer, 4-5 oz of wine or 1.5 oz of hard liquor, to be precise.
3. Eating a diet rich in healthy soy early in life could reduce your risk of breast cancer. Intake after menopause could also favorably affect osteoporosis, heart disease and menopausal symptoms with no increased risk of breast cancer. Avoid soy protein isolate and other ‘manufactured’ soy like those in veggie burgers. Asian cultures have traditionally consumed soy that is fermented first, which makes it easier to digest and adds nutrients and probiotics. Stick with fermented soy products including miso, tempeh, natto, tofu, and some brands of soy milk. There is newer research that intake of whole soy foods and natural soybean-derived products (~0.5 serving/day) does not contribute to breast cancer recurrence and it might actually reduce your risk of a recurrent breast cancer. This is a significant shift from previous recommendations, just in case you were left a little confused by this one.
5. Weight gain and lack of exercise are easy traps to fall into during ongoing breast cancer treatment, but it remains prudent to advise women to eat right and exercise daily. So, whether you are aiming to prevent breast cancer or you are currently going through treatment, don’t take your breast cancer sitting down and eating your comfort food. Getting going might just help you survive not only your breast cancer, but also all-cause mortality (translation: all major causes of death).
Remember, the next time you see a Susan G. Komen race T-shirt, a TV announcement about getting a breast check buddy or getting your annual squeeze at the radiology center, you can do so much more to fight the battle against breast cancer by practicing true prevention tips today.