What Every Woman Needs to Know

Early detection is the most successful way to treat and heal Cancer.

Here are four important steps you should take:

  1. Know your risk and lifestyle factors (how much exercise, foods you eat, stress)
  2. Educate yourself.. learn how to prevent breast and colon cancer
  3. Get regular screenings and do breast exams
  4. See your doctor if you have any of the symptoms

Breast Cancer Quick Facts

More than 80% of breast cancercases are discovered when the woman feels a lump, 26% would not have been visible by Mammogramy!

Early breast cancer usually doesn't cause symptoms. But as the tumor grows, it can change how the breast looks or feels. The common changes include:

  • A lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm area
  • A change in the size or shape of the breast
  • Dimpling or puckering in the skin of the breast
  • A nipple turned inward into the breast
  • Discharge (fluid) from the nipple, especially if it's bloody
  • Scaly, red, or swollen skin on the breast, nipple, or areola (the dark area of skin at the center of the breast). The skin may have ridges or pitting so that it looks like the skin of an orange.

Other Imaging Tests

There is a little controversy around the safety of exposure to radiation from mammograms.  The proof is that a woman's age and recommended frequency of breast screening has changed.

Personally, I think MRI's should be the method of choice. Now that I have had breast cancer I will not have mammograms.

Look into your insurance, and talk to your doctor about your concerns and options.

  • Ultrasound: A woman with a lump or other breast change may have an ultrasound test. An ultrasound device sends out sound waves that people can't hear. The sound waves bounce off breast tissues. A computer uses the echoes to create a picture. The picture may show whether a lump is solid, filled with fluid (a cyst), or a mixture of both. Cysts usually are not cancer. But a solid lump may be cancer.
  • MRI: MRI uses a powerful magnet linked to a computer. It makes detailed pictures of breast tissue. These pictures can show the difference between normal and diseased tissue.

Before starting treatment, you might want a second opinion from another doctor about your diagnosis and treatment plan. Some women worry that their doctor will be offended if they ask for a second opinion. Usually the opposite is true. Most doctors welcome a second opinion. And many health insurance companies will pay for a second opinion if you or your doctor requests it. Some companies require a second opinion.

Biopsy

A biopsy is the removal of tissue to look for cancer cells. A biopsy is the only way to tell for sure if cancer is present.

You may need to have a biopsy if an abnormal area is found.  In this case, doctors can use imaging procedures (such as a mammogram, an ultrasound, or MRI) to help see the area and remove tissue.

Your doctor may refer you to a surgeon or breast disease specialist for a biopsy. The surgeon or doctor will remove fluid or tissue from your breast in one of several ways:

  • Fine-needle aspiration biopsy: Your doctor uses a thin needle to remove cells or fluid from a breast lump.Please be wary of procedures that cut through or make a hole in a mass. I believe the risk is greater than any medical practitioner is willing to admit, since it is costs the Insurance company more to allow a surgical biopsy.  You have to assess the risk you want to take: 1) the risk of spreading the cancer if indeed it is malignant, 2) the risk that comes with any surgery.
  • Core biopsy: Your doctor uses a wide needle to remove a sample of breast tissue.
  • Skin biopsy: If there are skin changes on your breast, your doctor may take a small sample of skin.
  • Surgical biopsy:Your surgeon removes a sample of tissue.
    • An incisional biopsy takes a part of the lump or abnormal area.
    • An excisional biopsy takes the entire lump or abnormal area.Colon Cancer Quick Facts

Risk Factors

  • Not eating enough fruits and vegetables
  • Being overweight
  • Eating too many foods with high fat content
  • Not getting enough exercise
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Smoking

Recommended Tests

  • Fecal occult blood test
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy (flex sig)
  • Colonoscopy

Treatment

1. Surgery for early-stage colon cancer If your cancer is small, localized in a polyp and in a very early stage, your doctor may be able to remove it completely during a colonoscopy. If the pathologist determines that the cancer in the polyp doesn't involve the base — where the polyp is attached to the bowel wall — then there's a good chance that the cancer has been completely eliminated.

Some larger polyps may be removed using laparoscopic surgery. In this procedure, your surgeon performs the operation through several small incisions in your abdominal wall, inserting instruments with attached cameras that display your colon on a video monitor. The surgeon may also take samples from lymph nodes in the area where the cancer is located.

2. Surgery for invasive colon cancer

If your colon cancer has grown into or through your colon, your surgeon may recommend a partial colectomy to remove the part of your colon that contains the cancer, along with a margin of normal tissue on either side of the cancer.

3. Chemotherapy Chemotherapy uses drugs to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy can be used to destroy cancer cells after surgery, to control tumor growth or to relieve symptoms of colon cancer. Your doctor may recommend chemotherapy if your cancer has spread beyond the wall of the colon or if your cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. In people with rectal cancer, chemotherapy is typically used along with radiation therapy.

4. Radiation therapy Radiation therapy uses powerful energy sources, such as X-rays, to kill any cancer cells that might remain after surgery, to shrink large tumors before an operation so that they can be removed more easily, or to relieve symptoms of colon cancer and rectal cancer.

5. Targeted drug therapy Drugs that target specific defects that allow cancer cells to proliferate are available to people with advanced colon cancer, including bevacizumab (Avastin), cetuximab (Erbitux) and panitumumab (Vectibix). Targeted drugs can be given along with chemotherapy or alone. Targeted drugs are typically reserved for people with advanced colon cancer.

Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the cervix.

The cervix is the lower, narrow end of the uterus (the hollow, pear-shaped organ where a fetus grows). The cervix leads from the uterus to the vagina (birth canal).

Risk Factors

Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn't mean that you will not get cancer. People who think they may be at risk should discuss this with their doctor.

Infection of the cervix with human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common cause of cervical cancer. Not all women with HPV infection, however, will develop cervical cancer. Women who do not regularly have a Pap smear to detect HPV or abnormal cells in the cervix are at increased risk of cervical cancer.

  •  Giving birth to many children.
  • Having many sexual partners.
  • Having first sexual intercourse at a young age.
  • Smoking cigarettes.
  • Using oral contraceptives ("the Pill").
  • Having a weakened immune system (Keep up your antioxidant intake!)

Symptoms

There are usually no noticeable signs of early cervical cancer but it can be detected early with regular check-ups.

Have regular check-ups, including a Pap smear to check for abnormal cells in the cervix. The chance of recovery is better when the cancer is found early.  A doctor should be consulted if any of the following problems occur:

  • Vaginal bleeding.
  • Unusual vaginal discharge.
  • Pelvic pain.
  • Pain during sexual intercourse.

Treatment

1. Surgery (removing the cancer in an operation) is sometimes used to treat cervical cancer. The following surgical procedures may be used:

  • Conization: A procedure to remove a cone-shaped piece of tissue from the cervix and cervical canal. A pathologist views the tissue under a microscope to look for cancer cells. Conization may be used to diagnose or treat a cervical condition. This procedure is also called a cone biopsy.
  • Total hysterectomy: Surgery to remove the uterus, including the cervix.

2. Radiation - There are two types of radiation therapy. External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer. Internal radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters that are placed directly into or near the cancer.

3. Chemotherapy may be given at the same time as radiation therapy (chemoradiation). Compared with radiation alone, chemoradiation improves survival. It is usually used as the primary therapy or after a hysterectomy.

Beating Cancer with Nutrition

Below are a couple of pages from Dr. Patrick Quillin's book "Beating Cancer with Nutrition" to aid in motivating you to take care of yourselves now, BEFORE you have a 'reason' to.

If you feel you can't get all the recommended foods in your diet, then high-quality supplements can help.  I am happy to refer you to the brands made by reputable companies, known for the purity of their products, some of whom were recommended to me by the Complimentary practitioners I consulted with.

Please take the time to read this excerpt (since it took me two days to type out :)), and let me know if there is ANY way I can be helpful.

*~*~*~*~*

For the past 10 years, Dr. Patrick Quillin has served as the Director of Nutrition for Cancer Treatment Centers of America. He is an internationally respected expert in the area of nutrition and cancer. He has earned his bachelor's, Master's and doctorate degrees in nutrition and is a registered and licensed dietitian ( RD & LD) and Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) with the American College of Nutrition.

Starve the Cancer

Cancer is a sugar-feeder.  The scientists call it an “obligate glucose metabolizer”. You can slow cancer growth by lowering the amount of fuel available to the tumor cells.  Americans have become humming birds in their constant consumption of sweet fluids and foods.  The resulting constant high blood glucose levels yield many diseases, including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and yeast infections. Trying to beat cancer while eating a diet that constantly raises blood glucoseis like trying to put out a forest fire while someone nearby is throwing gasoline on the trees.

sugar cubes
sugar cubes

Stop eating sugar. Eat very few sweet foods, including high glycemic fruits. Begin an exercise program to burn blood glucose down to a manageable level.  Your cancer is not going to be happy as you begin to starve it.  You will develop cravings worse than you currently have.  Ignore them and push through the discomfort.

Make fish and colorful vegetables the staples of your diet.  Eat small amounts of fresh fruit…(Berries, apples, pears, peaches) at a mixed meal, which will blunt the rises in blood glucose. Use cinnamon liberally, since it helps to stabilize blood glucose.  Take supplements of chromium and magnesium. I have yet to see a cancer patient beat the disease who continued to load up on the average amount of sugar in our diet, which is 140 pounds per year per person.

cinnamon
cinnamon

Avoid Malnutrition

Cancer is a wasting disease.  Over 40% of cancer patients actually die from malnutrition, not from cancer. Cancer generates chemicals that lower appetite while increasing calorie needs. The net effect is that many cancer patients begin to lose weight. You cannot fight a life-threatening disease while malnourished. You need all the proper nutrition you can get to feed your immune system, which is your army assigned to killing the cancer cells.  The backbone of the immune system is protein.

If you cannot eat solid foods, then try the high protein shakes.

Nutrition

While chemotherapy and radiation can kill cancer cells, these therapies are general toxins against your body cells also. A well –nourished cancer patient can protect healthy cells against the toxic effects of chemo and radiation, thus making cancer cells more vulnerable to the medicine.  Proper nutrition can make chemo and radiation more of selective toxin against the cancer and less damaging to the patient. (It's during this phase that you should consider supplements that support your body, and enhance the drugs' effectiveness).

Turbocharge Your Immune System

Your immune system consists fo 20 trillion cells that compose your police force and garbage collectors.  The immune system is responsible for killing the bad guys, any cells that are not participating in the processes of your body, including cancer, yeast, bacteria, virus, and dead cells. “Kill the bad guys and take out the trash,” That is what your immune system is supposed to do.  But since you have cancer, something is wrong with your immune system; usually either stress, toxic burden, or malnutrition.

Eat well and take professionally designed nutrition supplements. Lower you stress levels.  Use guided imagery to imagine your immune cells like sharks gobbling up the cancer cells. This technique REALLY WORKS!! Detoxify your body. The average American has 1,000 times more heavy toxic metals than our primitive ancestors before the dawning of the industrial age. Toxins shut down the ability of the immune system to mount a good battle against cancer cells.

As your cells divide billions of times daily, mistake cells are the inevitable consequence.  These mistake cells sometimes grow into cancer cells, which your immune system is programmed to gobble up like Pac Man. The average adult gets 6 bouts of cancer in a lifetime, yet only 42% of Americans will end up in a cancer hospital.  The other 58% had a respectable immune system, which protected them.

Nutrition products that have demonstrated an ability to bolster immune function include; colostrums extracts, whey extracts, aloe extracts, mushroom extracts (Maitake, AHCC [Immpower]), yeast cell wall extracts (1,3 beta glucan), IP-6 (phytic acid), ImmKine, and Essiac tea.

The Healing Power of Whole Foods

It is amazing how simple the answer to cancer can be. Our brilliant researchers have spent 33 years and $50 billion of your tax dollars wrestling with the complex issue of curing cancer.  Yet Nature has been solving the dilemma for thousands of years. All of us get cancer all of the time, yet magical ingredients in whole food diet are there to help the body beat cancer.  Ellagic acid from berriesinduces “suicide” in the cancer cells.  Lycopenes from tomatoes help to suppress cancer growth.  Genistein in soy, glutathione in green leafy vegetables, and S-allyl cysteine in garlic are examples of the new scientifically-validated cancer fighters of the 21st century.

You don’t have to wait 7 years while some drug company goes through $800 million drug approval process, nor for FDA approval, nor for a doctor’s prescription for some drug that has many toxic side effects and costs thousands of dollars each month. These miracle anti-cancer agents are waiting patiently at your nearby grocery store and health food store.

Herbal Medicine

There are thousands of herbs that have been used for thousands of years to treat cancer. None are guaranteed cures for all cancers, but many are non-toxic boosters of immune function and detoxification pathways. If you want the basic herb that all cancer patients should be using daily, then start with garlic--  as a food, seasoning, and/or pill supplement.

garlic
garlic

Many other herbs that merit attention are: Atragalus, Echinacea, goldenseal, licorice, ginseng, ginkgo, ginger, Rhodiola rosea and cat’s claw are on the hit parade of herbs to help you toward recovery from cancer. Work with a professional who can help guide you toward the herbs best for your disease, your therapy, your wallet and your stomach tolerances.

Healthy Fats

While too much fat and the wrong kind of fat have been killing millions of Americans for the past 50years, we are now finding a new form of fat malnutrition: deficiencies of the essential fats. Fish oil, borage or primrose oil, flax oil, conjugated linoleic acid, and shark liver oil are all fats that can help you beat cancer.  For a simple starter, begin taking a few capsules of fish oil daily, preferably basic cod liver oil with all the good Vitamin A and D intact. You can also make a delicious, healthy Italian dressing by using flax oil, olive oil, water, vinegar, and some seasonings.

Healthy fats line the cell membranes and help to lower blood glucose by making insulin more effective. Healthy fat make the immune cells more likely to recognize and destroy cancer cells.

Order the Book here.

~ Be Well. ♥

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is the treatment of cancer with drugs that can destroy cancer cells by impeding their growth and reproduction. Though chemotherapy is an effective way to treat many types of cancer, chemotherapy treatment also carries a risk of side effects. Some chemotherapy side effects are mild and treatable, while others can cause serious complications. The drugs used are made to destroy fast-reproducing cells. However, some healthy cells also grow quickly and cancer treatments destroy these cells as well.

The fast-growing, normal cells most likely to be affected by certain treatment drugs are blood-forming cells in the bone marrow, as well as cells in the digestive track, reproductive system, and hair follicles. Thankfully, most normal cells recover quickly when treatment is over. Therefore, most side effects gradually disappear after treatment ends. During the course of your cancer journey, you may experience many, a few, or no side effects.

Some newer anti-cancer treatments — such as Herceptin for breast cancer — may cause heart damage as well, although the effect is often temporary and reversible.

If your doctor is considering using a chemotherapy drug that may affect your heart, you may undergo heart function testing before and during treatment. Be sure to ask questions if you have any misgivings.

Chemotherapy drugs that may cause nausea and vomiting

Certain chemotherapy drugs are more likely than are others to cause nausea and vomiting. Some medications associated with significant risk of these side effects include:

  • Altretamine (Hexalen)
  • Busulfan (Busulfex, Myleran)
  • Carmustine (Bicnu)
  • Cisplatin (Platinol)
  • Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan)
  • Dacarbazine
  • Doxorubicin (Adriamycin)
  • Epirubicin (Ellence)
  • Estramustine (Emcyt)
  • Etoposide
  • Ifosfamide (Ifex)
  • Lomustine (Ceenu)
  • Mechlorethamine (Mustargen)
  • Procarbazine (Matulane)
  • Streptozocin (Zanosar)
  • Temozolomide (Temodar)

You will most likely be given a prescription medication to help with these side effects.  There are also nutritional foods and supplements that can help.  Acupuncture has been known to reduce the occurrence of nausea and vomiting, and is a wonderful complimentary therapy.

Hair  Loss

Chemotherapy may cause hair loss all over your body — not just on your scalp. Sometimes your eyelash, eyebrow, armpit, pubic and other body hair also falls out. Some chemotherapy drugs are more likely than others to cause hair loss, and different doses can cause anything from a mere thinning to complete baldness. Talk to your doctor or nurse about the medication you'll be taking.

I found that a wig helped me through this phase, and I bought eyebrow tattoos online that worked well.  A light eyeliner helped me feel better about losing my eyelashes.  Three weeks after the end of Chemo, my hair began to grow back.

'Chemo Brain'

Chemo brain is a common term used by cancer survivors to describe thinking and memory problems that can occur after cancer treatment. Chemo brain can also be called chemo fog, cognitive changes or cognitive dysfunction.

Signs and symptoms of chemo brain may include:

  • Being unusually disorganized
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty finding the right word
  • Difficulty learning new skills
  • Difficulty multitasking
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling of mental fogginess
  • Short attention span
  • Short-term memory problems
  • Taking longer than usual to complete routine tasks
  • Trouble with verbal memory, such as remembering a conversation
  • Trouble with visual memory, such as recalling an image or list of words

Signs and symptoms of cognitive or memory problems vary from person to person and are typically temporary, often subsiding within two years of completion of cancer treatment.

Again, there are many nutritional supplements and foods that can help you with Chemo Brain.  See my post on Managing Side Effects.

Books:

  1. Questioning Chemotherapy (1996) Equinox Press. ISBN 978-1881025252
  2. Integrative Strategies for Cancer Patients: A Practical Resource for Managing the Side Effects of Cancer Therapy;  Elena J. Ladas , Kara M. Kelly 
  3. Living well with cancer: a nurse tells you everything you need to know about managing the side effects of your treatment; by Katen Moore, Libby Schmais