In the United States, breast cancer is the second leading cause of death among women. Currently, science has not discovered the cause for a majority of breast cancers, though many of the risk factors have been identified.
There are many theories surrounding what causes cancer such as: inherited tendencies, genetic mutations, as well as certain environmental factors. The subject of breast cancer is an area of ongoing research and every single woman is at risk.
While there are many forms of traditional medical treatment options available for breast cancer, there are also alternative treatments to consider as well. These alternative treatments are not meant to replace or substitute traditional cancer treatment protocols, but to be used as an addition.
The most common conventional treatment approaches to breast cancer include; surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, hormonal and biological therapies. However, there are a growing number of alternative treatment clinics in the United States and around the world that are having good results in the treatment of breast cancer.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Traditional Chinese medicine is not the same thing as “New Age,” but rather a centuries old medical system that takes into consideration a deep understanding of the patterns and laws of nature and how they are applicable to the human body. Traditional Chinese Medicine tenets state that the cause of the illness and not symptoms must be treated.
Traditional Chinese medicine takes every human aspect, body, mind, emotions and spirit into its holistic approach. Each aspect of the human body is viewed as a whole circle and not as separate pieces.
Qi is the true foundation of traditional Chinese medicine and it translates to mean,”vital energy.” Though there is no definite way to measure a persons Qi level, through training a person can develop the ability to sense their flow of Qi.
In the human body, Qi flows through pathways or meridians, and each persons body contains twelve meridians. Qi travels through the body and carries messages from one organ to another and making sure the meridians are clear is important for the body to be able to self-regulate.
Oftentimes, the Qi that is supposed to flow through the body becomes blocked. As a result of the Qi being blocked, it can lead to minor issues such as pain, digestive issues, insomnia and fatigue. When Qi is blocked for a long period of time, the whole body will grow sluggish.
What is Qigong?
Qigong refers to a wide array of traditional methods which involve accumulating, working with and circulating Qi, energy around the body. The traditional practice of Qigong is done for health maintenance purposes, for therapeutic reasons, as a medical profession or a spiritual path and used in conjunction with Chinese Martial Arts.
Qigong is meditation and routinely practiced by Buddhist and Taoist monks, and has been officially recognized as a standard medical practice by Chinese hospitals since 1989. Both traditional Chinese and Western medical practitioners agree Qigong can improve health through the encouragement of moving, increasing range of motion, and improving the flexibility and resiliency of joints, as well as calm the mind through meditation.
Qigong is one of the most successful and effective tools used in traditional Chinese medicine, for the treatment and prevention of breast cancer. Through a system of gentle exercises, Qi is increased and as a result the body's immune system is bolstered and the inner healing abilities are unlocked.
Acupressure and Breast Cancer
Acupressure is another method practiced in traditional Chinese medicine, it involves using pressure applied to specific parts of the body where Qi can be trapped or blocked. Practicing acupressure can actually aid in the prevention of breast cancer and lessen the likelihood of recurrence.
When beginning to practice acupressure, it is not imperative to be right on target, massaging the general area can be just as useful as focusing on the precise spot. For a person suffering from breast cancer, it is recommended to massage the cancer spots for at least 5-minutes each per day. For general breast cancer prevention, practicing acupressure 3-5 times per week has shown to be moderately effective.
Acupressure is also highly effective at reducing the side effects associated with radiation and chemotherapy, by assisting the body in eliminating the toxins produced by these treatments. To achieve the greatest benefits possible, experts recommend practicing acupressure as often as possible.
Naturopathy and Breast Cancer
Naturopathic medicine is also referred to as Naturopathy, and is both a science and philosophy. Naturopathy is a practice of diagnosing, treating and preventing a disease. The primary tenet of naturopathy is to rely on the healing power of nature to maintain and restore good health.
Naturopathy practitioners are specialists of natural health care who use natural, non-toxic treatment and therapies to support the whole body and encourage self-healing. The goals for naturopathy for people undergoing cancer treatments include the following:
- To lend support to normal body metabolism during cancer treatments
- Decrease the side effects experienced during cancer treatment
- Increase the body's immune system response
- Providing workable strategies for long-term cancer prevention and maintaining good health
- Increase energy, sense of well-being and to improve the over all quality of the life for the breast cancer patient
Naturopathic medicine is aimed at supporting the whole body, which includes the immune system, digestive system, sleep, energy levels, exercise, diet and spirituality. Naturopathic medicine includes the following six modalities:
- Clinical Nutrition: using certain foods and dietary changes to combat and prevent diseases
- Botanical Medications such as; vitamins, minerals and herbs
- Chinese Medicine: whole body-mind harmony
- Homeopathy: using homeopathic remedies to stimulate healing
- Physical Medicine: involves the therapeutic manipulation of the bones, spine and muscles.
- Psychological Medicine: mental and emotional attitude (mind-body)
Naturopathy is not to be used as a substitution to modern medical treatment, but to be used in conjunction with traditional medical treatments for breast cancer patients.
Additionally, naturopathy can also include other modalities to address the prevention and treatment of breast cancer, which include:
- Homeopathic remedies to address help post-surgical recovery, nausea, constipation and diarrhea
- Traditional Chinese Medicine
- Manipulating the muscles, hones and spine
- Pain management through acupressure
- Massage therapy as a stress reliever
- Enemas (Colonics)
- Therapeutic exercises
- Minor surgeries
Naturopathic practitioners are also trained in biofeedback, stress reducing methods, counseling and other ways to improve the mental health of those being treated for breast cancer.
Mind-Body Medicine and Breast Cancer
The field of mind-body medicine, while still a relatively new practice, is called Psychoneuroimmunology or PNI. When broken down, the word “Psycho,” refers to thoughts, emotions and moods, while “Neuro,” refers to the neurological and neuroendocrine systems and “Immunology,” refers to cellular structures and the body's immune system.
The concept of mind-body medicine focuses on the interactions that take place between the brain, body, mind and behavior. Also on the powerful ways in which emotions, mentality, social, spiritual and behavior can correlate directly upon the impact of ones health. It enhances a persons ability for self-knowledge and self-care and teaches techniques centered around this approach.
The premise of mind-body medicine is not to be used as a treatment alternative for breast cancer, but as an enhancement to traditional medical treatment protocols. Such things included in a mind-body approach to breast cancer treatment might include use of the following methods:
Stress management techniques: a diagnoses of cancer can cause a wide array of emotional, physical, behavioral and emotional responses in the human body. With the assistance of mind-body specialists, patients will be taught effective ways of handling the wide array of symptoms a person experiences when going through breast cancer treatment.
Guided Imagery: negative images in the mind can cause a person to feel muscle tension, increased breathing and tachycardia (increased heart rate). With positive imaging a person can control breathing, nausea, raise blood count levels and help alleviate the symptoms of constipation and effectively manage pain.
Laughter Therapy: laughing is a wonderful way to reduce stress and stimulate the immune system of the human body. Through this inner stimulation the body is able to aid itself in the healing process and generate more energy.
Pain Management Methods: when a human being feels pain, the body responds by producing arousal in emotions and thoughts. Pain causes anxiety and can lead to depression, which may intensify the pain. Through mind-body medicine a patient can be taught techniques to help reduce and effectively manage pain, anxiety and depression, which will in turn assist the body in natural healing.
Suggested Foods for Breast Cancer Patients
All of the traditional methods used to treat breast cancer are very strong and can produce some horrible side effects, such as; nausea, vomiting, weight loss, weight gain, mouth sores, dry mouth, lactose intolerance, diarrhea, constipation, dental and gum problems, fatigue, depression and a change in the sense of smell or taste.
Which side effects a person will experience will vary from person to person, depending upon which part of the body is being treated, type and duration of treatment and the dose of treatment, will all factor into to which, if any, side effects will happen.
The follow information is a list of different foods and liquids that a patient can try during breast cancer treatments:
- Clear, carbonated liquids
- Strained broths
- Fruit juices
- Carbonated drinks
- Fresh or frozen, unflavored yogurt
- Fruit juices/drinks
- Milk, milkshakes
- Pureed potato soup
- Strained, refined, cooked cereals
- Smooth ice cream
- Soft, baked custards
- Tomato soup
- Vegetable Juices
- Cheese, hard or semi-soft
- Hard boiled eggs
- Milkshakes, “instant” breakfast drinks
- Peanut Butter
- Vegetables (fresh, raw or cooked)
- Cream soups
- Pita and hummus spread
Just as important as what you eat is how often you eat, nutritionists recommend eating whenever hungry and trying to eat several small meals and snacks throughout the day. These tips are imperative in reducing the many side effects breast cancer patients can experience during treatment.
Foods to Eat After Breast Cancer Surgery
After going through breast cancer surgery, the human body will need an increased amount of calories and protein to aid in healing and recovery. Unfortunately, after surgery many patients experience pain and loss of energy and the inability to consume a normal diet due to the surgical side effects.
Bear in mind that any foods and drinks that are low in protein are going to be easier on the body's digestive system than heavy, fatty foods. Speaking with your doctor and health care team will give you a good idea as to when you can start consuming a regular diet. It is recommended that patients follow the same diet after surgery, as they would follow during breast cancer treatment, ( listed above).
Foods for Chemotherapy and Radiation
When a patient is undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments for breast cancer, traditional Chinese medicine recommends consuming mostly fresh fruits and lightly cooked vegetables. Such foods include the following:
- Dandelion Greens
(These particular foods aid the body in the elimination of toxins and cool off the excess heat in the body caused by radiation and chemotherapy treatments.)
The following vegetables are recommended, but must be consumed fresh and uncooked:
Fruits recommended include:
- Asian Pears (or any other type)
- Lemons (as tolerated)
- Pine nuts
- Quail eggs
- Chinese pearl barley
- Lotus seeds
- Black beans
- Green tea (any type except decaffeinated)
- Chinese red dates
- Mung beans
- Chinese white fungus
- Bamboo shoots or tips
- Bee pollen
The goal of healthy eating during radiation and chemotherapy treatments, is to make the most of the nutrients the body is able to absorb from the foods consumed, while minimizing the energy need to aid digestion.
Foods to Avoid During Breast Cancer Treatment
According to the guiding principals of traditional Chinese medicine, the following foods should be strictly avoided when receiving treatment for breast cancer:
Charred, burnt or deep-fried foods: both of these types of foods cause a condition known as “internal heat,” within the stomach lining, which can result in a functional disorder.
Raw vegetables: eating too many foods of this type can result in the stomach and spleen weakening, two organs important in the treatment and prevention of breast cancer.
Cool or iced beverages and foods: a stomach functions best when warm food is consumed, eating or drinking cold foods and drinks daily can cause an imbalance in the function of the stomach.
Red meats, poultry and pork: these foods contain large amounts of protein, which can be more difficult to process and require more energy to digest.
It is important to approach breast cancer from an aggressive standpoint and to follow the recommendations of a licensed physician and oncology team. Doing so will allow a patient to make an informed choice as to which alternative treatment(s) would work well in conjunction with the traditional medical treatment options available.
Alternative medical treatment options are not designed to replace or be a substitute for sound medical treatment, only as a method of enhancing the health, well-being and quality of life for a breast cancer patient.