What To Do If You’re Diagnosed With Breast Cancer
- Having tools to effectively address the emotional trauma caused by a cancer diagnosis is an important first step. The Emotional Freedom Techniques is noninvasive and easy to learn, and can be done just about anywhere, at any time
- When faced with a cancer diagnosis, consider finding a qualified holistic cancer treatment expert that can help guide you through the options. Resources are included
- In order for holistic cancer treatment to work, it needs to be done first. Once you’ve done chemo or extensive radiation, your chances of remission through alternative methods are slim, as the damage done is too great
- Foundational basics of many holistic cancer treatment plans include nutritional ketosis, intermittent fasting and vitamin D optimization. Other helpful adjuncts include hyperbaric oxygen, cryotherapy, exercise, detoxification and avoiding toxic exposures of all kinds
- When speaking to someone who is suffering, don’t try to relate to their suffering by comparing it to something you’ve experienced, don’t offer solutions and treatment strategies unless asked, and don’t tell them their suffering has some greater purpose. Instead, make yourself available, be present with them and let them express how they feel about their diagnosis
Approximately 1,663 people will die today from cancer in the United States.1 This is criminal since cancer is a relatively new disease and would rarely occur if you were healthy. The time to use natural medicine, ideally, is before you are diagnosed, but certainly when you are diagnosed.
If you are motivated by fear and run to conventional physicians, they implement therapies like chemo and radiation that will compromise your immune system, which ultimately is responsible for controlling the cancer. Even if they are successful, these approaches will typically kill you from another disease a few years later.
An estimated 1,762,450 Americans are expected to be diagnosed with cancer in 2019.2 The mere words, “You have cancer” is a traumatic blow that can paralyze even the most resilient among us. Panic can easily set in, which has its own ramifications for health and well-being.
Interestingly, most say they thought they were healthy up until they received their cancer diagnosis. However, common sense will tell you that’s impossible. Cancer, like many other diseases, does not manifest until you’re about 80% of the way down the proverbial hole.
Most cancers take years, and some even decades, to progress to the point of being diagnosable. As noted by Dr. Nasha Winters, a naturopathic physician who specializes in cancer treatment, cancer is a res ipsa loquitur factor, meaning “the facts speak for themselves.”
In other words, you, in some way, were not leading a healthy lifestyle — or you simply failed to counteract the inevitable toxic exposures we’re all subject to in today’s modern world.
Proactive Measures Can Pay Dividends
Unfortunately, conventional medicine pays little attention to actual prevention of cancer, and few doctors are properly trained in evaluating lab tests that can provide early indications that a problem is brewing, even though such tests are readily available.
In “The Metabolic Approach to Cancer Treatment,” Winters reviews several oft-ignored lab tests that can give you a nice overview of how your immune system is doing, and whether you might be at risk for cancer or other chronic disease.
Dr. Leigh Erin Connealy also covers this important topic in “The Cancer Revolution: A Groundbreaking Program to Reverse and Prevent Cancer,” which is also the title of her book.
Even if you believe yourself to be in decent health, finding a doctor who can help you assess your risk and provide guidance on how to optimize your health would be an ideal scenario. But what do you do if you’ve already been diagnosed with cancer? That’s the focus of this particular article, although most of the recommendations apply equally to both prevention and treatment.
Addressing Your Emotions
Getting a cancer diagnosis is bound to throw anyone for a loop. Having tools to effectively address the emotional trauma is an important first step. One of my favorite tools for this is the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT).
It’s noninvasive and easy to learn, and can be done just about anywhere, at any time. In the video above, Julie Schiffman demonstrates how to tap for the emotional (and physical) stress associated with a breast cancer diagnosis.
When faced with a cancer diagnosis, it’s easy to panic and lose sight of the big picture. Most people immediately start on conventional treatment, which typically involves chemotherapy, radiation and/or surgery.
Centering yourself with EFT, meditation or any other form of stress relief that you find effective may help you calm down enough that you might consider your alternatives. Most are indoctrinated to think chemo, radiation and surgery are “givens,” when in fact there are now many different kinds of alternatives.
Importantly, once you’ve done chemo or extensive radiation, your chances of remission through alternative methods are slim, as the damage done is too great. I’ve yet to talk to an expert in alternative cancer treatments that does not agree with this statement.
In order for holistic treatment to work, it needs to be done first. This in turn means you have to be brave enough, and not too panic stricken, to explore your options and give them time to work before jumping into the “cut, poison, burn” paradigm.
You may also find inspiration from Kate Bowler’s podcast,3 “Everything Happens.” Bowler, a cancer survivor, interviews a wide range of individuals, talking to them about “what they’ve learned in dark times.” Some discussions center around loss and grief, while others tackle living with chronic illness.
Finding Your Way
So, just what are your options? I’ve written many articles and interviewed many alternative cancer specialists on this very issue. One way to get started is to find a qualified expert that can help guide you through the options.
Winters, for example, is a naturopathic physician who specializes in consulting with clinicians who treat cancer patients. To engage her services, your doctor will need to go to the doctor section on her website, drnasha.com,4 to sign up for a consultation. There you can also find a free guide describing the five steps Winters recommends taking when diagnosed with cancer.
Hope4Cancer,5 which has integrative cancer treatment centers in Mexico, Colombia and Thailand, also offers consultations, and will discuss treatment options with your oncologist if desired.
You can learn more about these facilities in my interview with Hope4Cancer’s founder, Dr. Antonio Jimenez. Educational material can be found on Hope4Cancer.com,6 including a printable PDF7 summarizing the seven key principles of cancer therapy that Hope4Cancer is founded on.
A third helpful resource where you can find oncologists who are open to holistic and integrative cancer treatments is the Best Answer for Cancer Foundation.8 It’s a hybrid nonprofit that services both integrative physicians and patients with cancer and other chronic disease.
As you might expect, your diet not only can help prevent cancer from developing in the first place, but is also an important piece of the treatment puzzle. Overwhelmingly, the nutritional approach with the strongest scientific support is time-restricted eating, which is restricting your eating window to six to eight hours initially, and eventually down to four hours.
This will help increase metabolic autophagy, lower your insulin resistance, improve your sleep, radically increase your metabolic flexibility, increase ketones, and improve your mitochondrial function — especially if you add exercise in your fasting window.
In my experience, the vast majority of people are adapted to burning carbs as their primary fuel, as opposed to burning fat. One of the most effective strategies I know of to become a fat burner is to fast for 16 to 18 hours each day.
Remember, cancer is a metabolic disease rooted in mitochondrial dysfunction. In a nutshell, cancer cells burn glucose, which generates far more reactive oxygen species than fat and ketones. To burn fat, the cell must be healthy and normal. Cancer cells cannot burn fat, so a high-fat, low-sugar diet essentially starves the cancer while nourishing healthy cells.
To be clear, time-restricted eating and a ketogenic diet can safely and easily be implemented even if you’re going through conventional cancer treatment. In fact, it can actually make chemotherapy more effective.
The ChemoThermia Oncology Center in Turkey, for example, specializes in low-dose chemotherapy treatments for late-stage cancers, which are in large part made possible through the implementation of a ketogenic diet.
You can learn more about their general treatment protocol in “Metabolically Supported Therapies for the Improvement of Cancer Treatment.” Other strategies used at this cancer center include fasting, hyperthermia and hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
Why Nutritional Ketosis Is so Important
One of the leading researchers in this field is Thomas Seyfried, Ph.D. In my May 2019 interview with Seyfried, he explains how the origin of cancer is damage to the respiratory function of your mitochondria, triggering compensatory fermentation that is run by oncogenes.
To survive, the cancer cells must use fermentation, and the two most available fermentable fuels in the cancer microenvironment are glucose and glutamine (one of the most common amino acids found in proteins).
For this reason, targeting glucose and glutamine is a crucial component of cancer treatment. The simplest approach is to bring the patient into therapeutic ketosis, and then strategically target the availability of glucose and glutamine.
Seyfried’s research also sheds much-needed light on how metastatic cancer works, and thus its treatment. According to Seyfried, a metastatic cancer cell is essentially a hybrid mix of a macrophage (an immune system cell) and a dysregulated stem cell.
Macrophages are part of our primary defense system against bacterial infections. They live both in the bloodstream and in tissues, and can go anywhere in the body. When an injury or infection occurs, they immediately move in to protect the tissue.
In the case of metastatic cancer cells, their dysregulated energy and function make them proliferate out of control, spreading unpredictably through the body. Like normal macrophages, metastatic cancer cells are also able to survive in hypoxic environments, which is why most angiogenic therapies are ineffective against metastatic cancer. Seyfried’s research suggests that by strategically targeting glutamine, you can effectively kill these metastatic cancer cells.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and Cryotherapy
Another component that we’re starting to see more and more of in holistic cancer treatment programs is the addition of hyperbaric oxygen therapy. As mentioned, it’s one of the adjunct therapies used at The ChemoThermia Oncology Center in Turkey.
In 2015, Seyfried and Dominic D’Agostino, Ph.D., another cancer-is-metabolic-disease researcher,9 published a paper10 demonstrating a phenomenal synergy between a ketogenic diet and the use of hyperbaric oxygen for metastasized cancers.
Another oft-ignored alternative discussed in Connealy’s book, “The Cancer Revolution: A Groundbreaking Program to Reverse and Prevent Cancer,” is cryotherapy, which is where you freeze the cancer cells. Cryotherapy typically works well for breast cancer.
In our interview (hyperlinked above), Connealy recounts treating 9-centimeter breast tumors with cryotherapy in combination with a cocktail of low-dose chemo and hypodermic mistletoe, successfully eliminating the tumor in a single month.
Vitamin D Optimization Is Essential
Optimizing your vitamin D is another foundational move that you should consider regardless of the type of cancer treatment you’re opting for. Research shows most cancers occur in people with a vitamin D blood level between 10 and 40 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL), and the optimal level for cancer protection has been identified as being between 60 and 80 ng/mL.
Generally speaking, research11 has shown that once you reach a minimum serum vitamin D level of 40 ng/mL, your risk for cancer diminishes by 67%, compared to having a level of 20 ng/ml or less. Several studies also show that higher vitamin D levels are protective against breast cancer specifically.
A 2005 study12 showed women with vitamin D levels above 60 ng/mL have an 83% lower risk of breast cancer than those below 20 ng/mL. I cannot think of any other strategy that can offer that kind of risk reduction.
A pooled analysis13 published in June 2018 of two randomized trials and a prospective cohort study came to a near-identical conclusion. Mirroring the 2005 findings, women with vitamin D levels at or above 60 ng/mL had an 82% lower incidence rate of breast cancer than those with levels of 20 ng/mL or less.
Vitamin D also increases your chances of surviving cancer,14,15,16,17 and evidence suggests adding vitamin D to the conventional treatment for cancer can boost the effectiveness of conventional cancer treatment.18
GrassrootsHealth makes testing easy by offering an inexpensive vitamin D testing kit as part of its consumer-sponsored research. You also have the option of getting both your vitamin D and omega-3 index tested.
By signing up, you are helping further vital health research that can help millions in coming years. (All revenues from these kits go directly to GrassrootsHealth. I make no profit from these kits and only provide them as a service of convenience to my readers.)
All women are also encouraged to enroll in the Breast Cancer Prevention project,19 to track your vitamin D level and help prevent an initial cancer occurrence, or, if you’ve already had it, to help prevent a recurrence.
Other Cancer Treatment Recommendations
As discussed in “Metabolically Supported Therapies for the Improvement of Cancer Treatment” (hyperlinked above), clinical evidence from the ChemoThermia Oncology Center in Turkey shows nutritional ketosis and fasting can radically improve treatment outcomes and minimize the need for chemotherapy, even in advanced-stage and hard to treat cancer cases.
Other strategies, aside from those already discussed, that can help minimize your cancer risk and improve your outcome if added to a comprehensive cancer treatment plan include the following:
|Sauna — Detoxification is another crucial component. Most of us are inundated with thousands of toxins each day, many of which have carcinogenic potential. One of the simplest and perhaps safest ways is to use a low-EMF, infrared sauna coupled with a near-infrared light, as your skin is a major organ of elimination.
Cancer cells also have a harder time surviving in high temperatures. I strongly believe that near-infrared, not far-infrared, saunas are the best out there and highly recommend the sauna space sauna.
|Exercise — One of the primary reasons exercise works is that it drives insulin resistance down. One of the most recent studies20 looking at exercise for cancer was published online August 5, 2019. It found that women who exercised and lost weight had more favorable breast cancer biomarker profiles than those who exercised but lost no weight.|
|Minimize your exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF), including both wireless technologies and household wiring — To learn more about how EMFs affect your health, see “The Harmful Effects of EMFs Explained.”|
|Get eight hours of high-quality sleep each night to optimize your melatonin production — Melatonin (a hormone with antioxidant and anticancer activity) both inhibits the proliferation of cancer cells and triggers cancer cell apoptosis (self-destruction). It also interferes with the new blood supply tumors required for their rapid growth (angiogenesis).|
|Reduce your exposure to environmental toxins like pesticides, household chemical cleaners, synthetic air fresheners and air pollution.|
|Boil, poach or steam your foods, rather than frying or charbroiling them to avoid the creation of acrylamide, a known carcinogen. Avoid all processed meats for the same reason.|
How to Speak to Someone Who Has Received a Cancer Diagnosis
Last but not least, some advice for friends and family of those who have received a diagnosis of cancer or some other chronic disease. It can be very difficult to talk about a devastating diagnosis, both for the patient and those around them.
A July 2019 article21 in The Atlantic addresses this sensitive issue. Taylor Lorenz tells the story of Kate Bowler, a 35-year-old historian and author. Bowler’s cancer diagnosis came like a lightning bolt from a clear-blue sky.
In 2015, she sought treatment for stomach pain. It turned out to be Stage 4 colon cancer, and she was given less than a year to live. The podcast I mentioned earlier, “Everything Happens,”22 was an outgrowth of her journey.
Despite a grim diagnosis, Bowler survived. Today, four years later, her focus has shifted to educating people about how to support people in the midst of their suffering. Her own experiences taught her a lot about this, and many of the things people say turn out to be less than helpful. For example, Bowler suggests that when speaking to someone who is suffering:
- Don’t try to relate to their suffering — While this may sound odd, the way we experience suffering is uniquely our own, so hearing stories about someone else’s situation typically isn’t helpful. It also shifts the focus away from the patient, making it instead about you.
- Don’t offer solutions and treatment strategies unless asked.
- Don’t tell them their suffering is “part of God’s master plan” or has some greater purpose — Randomness happens. Sometimes it’s just bad luck. Sometimes, a tragic story will have a happy ending, but it’s not guaranteed.
- Make yourself available and just be present — Lorenz writes,23 “Bowler had friends who faded away from her life after her diagnosis because they didn’t know how to confront her tragedy. But the type of person she found most helpful when she was at her lowest, she said, was someone who just ‘shows up, doesn’t ask for anything, and just knits in front of you.”’
- 1 CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians January/February 2019; 69(1): 7-34, Abstract
- 2 Cancer.org Cancer Facts & Figures 2019
- 3, 22 Everything Happens, A Podcast with Kate Bowler
- 4 drnasha.com
- 5 Hope4Cancer Treatment Centers
- 6 Hope4Cancer.com
- 7 Hope4Cancer, 7 Key Principles (PDF)
- 8 Best Answer for Cancer Foundation
- 9 Academia.edu, Dominic D’Agostino
- 10 Cancer Research August 2015, DOI: 10.1158/1538-7445.AM2015-1159
- 11 PLOS ONE 2016; 11 (4): e0152441
- 12 European Journal of Cancer 2005 May;41(8):1164-9
- 13 PLOS ONE June 15, 2018
- 14 Anticancer Research February 2011: 31(2); 607-611
- 15 UC San Diego Health System Press Release March 6, 2014
- 16 Cancer Therapy Advisor March 23, 2016
- 17 Cancer Network March 21, 2016
- 18 VCU News June 5, 2003
- 19 Grassrootshealth, Breast Cancer Prevention Project
- 20 Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention August 5, 2019 [Epub ahead of print] (PDF)
- 21, 23 The Atlantic July 1, 2019