Category Archives: Tamoxifen

The Problem with Taking Antidepressants Along with Tamoxifen

http://MarnieClark.com/The-Problem-with-Taking-Antidepressants-Along-with-TamoxifenThe Problem with Taking Antidepressants Along with Tamoxifen

One of the most prevalent side effects from taking tamoxifen, the often-prescribed endocrine therapy drug for estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer, is depression. Whether the depression is associated with a cancer diagnosis or from taking tamoxifen (or both) we do not know. We do know that up to 25 percent of breast cancer patients suffer what is termed “clinically significant depression” following diagnosis. [1]

Depression is not the only side effect of tamoxifen, by any stretch of the imagination, but it is one of the most prevalent and debilitating side effects. Breast cancer patients and survivors on this drug commonly share with me just how debilitating the depression was for them. Many choose to stop taking it because of this. One told me that coming off the drug was like emerging from a long, dark tunnel out into the sunlight.

SSRI Drugs Prescribed For Depression

So what happens when a woman on tamoxifen goes to her doctor and complains of depression? Yes, you guessed it – she gets prescribed another drug, usually in the form of an SSRI antidepressant. That stands for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. Without getting too heavily into the chemistry of how these drugs work (which is not my purpose with this article), in a nutshell, they work by increasing serotonin levels in the brain, serotonin being a neurotransmitter (chemical messenger) that carries signals between brain cells. SSRI drugs work by blocking the reabsorption (aka reuptake) of serotonin, thus making serotonin more available for use in the brain. This is supposed to help ease the depression.

Estrogen’s Role in Brain Health

So why does tamoxifen cause depression? It is an estrogen antagonist, meaning it blocks the receptor sites on cells that estrogen would normally take up and direct the action of those cells. The problem with blocking the body’s natural estrogen is that it has a huge role to play in brain health (among many other biological activities). Estrogen has a protective effect on brain neurons and affects the nervous system in many different ways. By blocking estrogen, tamoxifen quite effectively compromises a person’s moods and cognitive health, even normal coordination and movement. It is a known fact that high doses of estrogen exert an anti-depressant effect in humans.

So What’s the Problem with Antidepressants and Tamoxifen Use?

A 2010 study by Canadian researchers, published in the British Medical Journal, had some interesting (and rather worrisome) findings. The researchers were hoping to discover whether using SSRI antidepressants concurrently with tamoxifen reduced the effectiveness of tamoxifen. The study was done with 2,430 women in Ontario, Canada, aged 66 years or older. These women started taking tamoxifen between January 1, 1993 and December 31, 2005.

What they discovered was quite remarkable. For women taking the SSRI drug Paxil (generic name paroxetine – one of the most commonly prescribed drugs for depression) along with tamoxifen, there was a much higher risk of death from breast cancer, namely a 24% – 91% higher risk, depending on length of time the drugs were taken together. The researchers stated that of the women taking tamoxifen and Paxil, 374 (or 15.4%) of them died of breast cancer during follow-up (mean follow-up 2.38 years). They saw no such risk with other anti-depressants, mainly paroxetine/Paxil. Researchers concluded that the use of Paxil during tamoxifen treatment was associated with an increased risk of death from breast cancer, supporting the hypothesis that Paxil can reduce or abolish the benefit of tamoxifen in women with breast cancer. These researchers concluded “We estimate that treatment with paroxetine for 41% of tamoxifen therapy (the median in our study) could result in one additional breast cancer death at five years for every 20 women so treated.” [2] (bold type added for emphasis)

That’s huge.

A newer American study reported in December 2015 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found no such increased risk for those taking paroxetine together with tamoxifen. The study followed 16,887 Californian breast cancer survivors diagnosed from 1996 to 2007 and treated with tamoxifen. Of this group of women 8,099 (roughly 50 percent) also took a variety of SSRI antidepressants. 2,946 of the women developed subsequent breast cancer in the 14-year follow-up period. Researchers stated “we did not observe an increased risk of subsequent breast cancer in women who concurrently used tamoxifen and antidepressants, including paroxetine. [3]

Huh? Of 8,099 survivors, 2,946 develop subsequent breast cancer and there’s no correlation? What the…?

Uninformed medical practitioners continue to prescribe Paxil and other SSRI drugs that are known to inhibit CYP2D6 enzymes (required by the body for the metabolization of tamoxifen). One 2013 study by Dutch researchers stated that “In clinical practice, one should strive to avoid potent CYP2D6 inhibitors as much as possible in tamoxifen-treated patients to reduce the risk of compromising the efficacy of the hormonal therapy.” [4]

To make matters worse, doctors are prescribing SSRI anti-depressant medications for hot flashes and menopausal symptoms. I was too, but I politely declined my doctor’s offering of this when I was going through terrible hot flashes related to breast cancer treatments. I’m suspicious of these drugs anyway, so that made NO sense to me. Back in 2004 I didn’t even have access to any studies that suggested taking SSRI’s could put me at a higher risk for breast cancer. I just didn’t want these drugs in my body. I also refused tamoxifen due to its long list of side effects and the fact that the State of California and the American Cancer Society have listed it as a carcinogenic agent. Why on earth would we want this in our bodies?

Truthstream Media has an interesting video on this subject on YouTube:

In this video, it is stated that Paxil has a weak estrogenic effect, but enough of an effect to promote breast cancer. Also mentioned is that FORTY to FIFTY PERCENT of American women aged 40-50 are taking these SSRI anti-depressants.

The video also references an older 1999 study entitled Antidepressant Medication Use and Breast Cancer Risk, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology [5]. This study found that taking tricyclic medications (ie SSRI drugs) for more than two years was associated with a two-fold increase in the risk for breast cancer. So we have known since at least 1999 that the use of SSRI drugs could put us at a higher risk for breast cancer.

I just thought you should know about this. As a natural therapist, I wonder about the combined toxicity of tamoxifen and SSRI drugs. Taking these drugs in combination gives the liver a lot of work to do to detoxify them. If the liver is involved in detoxification of these two drugs all the time, that taxes it to an extraordinary degree.

I think there’s a much better way to go. I believe our bodies were uniquely designed to use natural foods, herbs, essential oils and other remedies for our healing. If you’d like to find out more, sign up for my free newsletters over on the right-hand side of this page.

References:

[1] Breast Cancer Recurrence Risk Related to Concurrent Use of SSRI Antidepressants and Tamoxifen – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2892037/

[2] Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors and Breast Cancer Mortality in Women Receiving Tamoxifen: a Population Based Cohort Study – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2817754/

[3] Tamoxifen and Antidepressant Drug Interaction in a Cohort of 16,887 Breast Cancer Survivors – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26631176

[4] Unjustified Prescribing of CYP2D6 Inhibiting SSRIs in Women Treated with Tamoxifen – http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10549-013-2585-z

[5] Antidepressant Medication Use and Breast Cancer Risk – http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/151/10/951.full.pdf

Estrogen Effects on the Brain: Much More than Sex – http://misc.karger.com/gazette/66/mcewen/art_05.htm

GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right. You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates. I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.

Searching for Tamoxifen Alternatives?

Image source: freedigitalphotos.net / stockimages
Image source: freedigitalphotos.net / stockimages

Searching for Tamoxifen Alternatives?

One of the most searched phrases on the Internet for women fighting breast cancer is “tamoxifen alternatives”.

For those of you who have been prescribed the estrogen blocking drug Tamoxifen because your breast tumor had estrogen receptors on it, one of the first things you undoubtedly did was Google something like “Tamoxifen side effects”. And what you read scared you, with good reason. The list of side effects, as well as women complaining about those side effects, is pretty darned long.

When I was going through breast cancer in 2004, I was prescribed Tamoxifen as well, even though I didn’t have an estrogen-receptor-positive tumor – mine was progesterone-receptor positive (which in itself is odd, nobody knew quite what to do with me). I couldn’t see how blocking my body’s estrogen was going to help that situation and all my doctors could say in response was to mumble something about “well, it may have some therapeutic benefit anyway.” I found that hard to believe, especially after I learned a few things about it – and back in 2004 there was nowhere NEAR the amount of research available, or chat rooms, or online support groups, that we have available to us now. What I did find was pretty distressing, so I refused Tamoxifen. Then I went in search of other, better things I could do to support my health, well-being and ability to stay healthy. I will share some of those things later in this article.

Those Pesky Side Effects

As a breast cancer coach I am in regular contact with women who took Tamoxifen and some of the other inhibitors like Femara, Arimidex, Aromasin and Evista. With the rare exception, everyone complains about the side effects. Apparently only a small percentage of women taking the drug do NOT have any side effects.

What are some of the most common side effects? Here’s a partial list (and inside the parentheses are comments made to me by others taking these drugs): joint pain, muscle pain, bone pain, joint stiffness, feelings of arthritis (“I felt like I was 85 years old on this drug!”), hot flashes (“You could fry an egg on my head!”), leg cramps, vaginal dryness (“It’s a desert down there!”), tiredness, anxiety, depression (“I felt like killing myself”), vision changes, uterine lining abnormalities (“I had to have a hysterectomy.”), insomnia, weight gain, loss of mental acuity (“I couldn’t think straight while taking it.”), hair thinning and, most worryingly, unexplained blood clots.

And we MIGHT be prepared to put up with some of those side effects if the drug actually worked well. I don’t know what the statistics are, but what I am discovering with my clients is that many of the women who took this drug still had recurrences of breast cancer, despite putting up with the side effects and toxicity. I hear this all the time! Now we also are finding out that some women don’t metabolize them well.

What Does the Research Tell Us?

Plenty of studies have been done on Tamoxifen, far too numerous to list here. Several studies have established that there is an increased incidence of endometrial cancer among women taking Tamoxifen [1], [2]. In 1993, British researchers found that Tamoxifen administered to rats induced liver cancer and several subsequent studies confirmed those findings. [3] In other animal studies (again there have been many of them) Tamoxifen caused all sorts of reproductive organ cancers including testes, uterine, cervical, and vaginal cancers. In 2000, one researcher found that a key metabolite of Tamoxifen is mutagenic (DNA damaging) when particular conditions for its metabolism are met. Those conditions are discussed at length (if you can wade through the terminology) in the research paper listed at [4]. Notably, this researcher stated: “tamoxifen presents something of a problem in the arena of regulatory testing of pharmaceuticals for genetic toxicity: negative in the battery of short-term tests, but demonstrably genotoxic (and carcinogenic) in vivo.” (In vivo means inside a living body, either animal or human, not just a test tube.)

Of course, there do exist numerous studies which indicate Tamoxifen saves lives. Indeed one recent Lancet study [5] (funded in part by the pharmaceutial company making the drug) indicated that taking it for up to ten years substantially reduces breast cancer recurrence. We all heard about that not so long ago. However, all is not what it seems. I will point you to my learned friend, Sayer Ji, of GreenMedInfo.com, who has spent some time with the facts and figures on Tamoxifen, which culminated in his 2012 comment on this research: Tamoxifen: Praised As “Life Saving” But Still Causing Cancer.

It’s clear that the medical establishment believes that Lancet study because Tamoxifen continues to be one of the most-prescribed drugs for hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer. It irritates me that they remain stubbornly blind to the fact that natural medicine has many wonderful (and side-effect free) ways to stay well that can both help to prevent and also to treat cancer safely.

For those in the natural medicine arena, the bottom line is still what we see out there in the trenches – the terrible side effects from these drugs, the fact that so many women taking it are still having recurrences, and the fact that it is classed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the State of California as a human carcinogen.

So What Should an Empowered Survivor Do?

I can share with you what I did and what I am teaching others to do.

First of all, I disagree that our body’s own estrogen (a hormone we both want and need in our bodies) is causing breast cancer. If that were truly the reason, it seems to me that breast cancer would have been a problem since ancient times and it has only really become the huge problem that it is in recent decades, with the advance of processed foods, chemically-laden body products and cosmetics, environmental toxins and rising stress levels. Breast cancer is a multi-factorial disease and must be addressed on many other levels, not just hormonal. The medical establishment seems to be totally focused on the presence of estrogen receptors on breast cancer tumors. Of course they are there, estrogen plays a huge part in breast health. But complicating the problem is that there are synthetic estrogens in our body products, our drinking water, our cosmetics, our environment — they are coming at us from all directions – and I believe these synthetic estrogens, termed xenoestrogens, are just part of what is making us sick. For more about xenoestrogens, see my articles Protect Yourself From Xenoestrogens and Estrogen Dominance and Unraveling the Mystery of Xenoestrogens and Estrogen Dominance.

So my plan involved, firstly, detoxing my household of chemicals. I got rid of all that crap and began using only natural, organic products. If I couldn’t find them, I made them myself.

I began using some very particular essential oils, massaging them, undiluted, into my breast tissue on a daily basis. See my page Essential Oils for Overall Health and Specific Health Problems for a list of the oils I use.

I had my husband fit a filtration system to the kitchen sink and filtered the drinking water. I also had him install a shower filter.

I began buying only organic produce and when I couldn’t get it organically grown, I either learned how to grow it myself or washed the hell out of it (for things I really wanted/needed) or avoided it completely (I mean who really needs a rutabaga?).

I began working on building up my immune system. Here’s my page on how to do that:  8 Ways To Build a Super Strong Immune System.

I found out which supplements really made a difference in breast cancer and I discovered which foods had real research on them indicating they had anti-cancer activity and began eating those foods. Lots of them! See my page Diet and Cancer.

I got my hormone levels checked periodically. Even though I don’t believe our body’s own estrogen causes breast cancer, it made sense to me to keep an eye on things. When necessary, I use a natural wild yam cream trans-dermally to boost progesterone levels and I take certain supplements that contain wild yam and other things for breast health.

I also got my vitamin D levels checked periodically. When low, I take supplements. See my article: Why Vitamin D is So Important for Breast Health.

I amped up my exercise after reading a study called The Women’s Healthy Eating and Living (WHEL) study [6]. It involved 1,500 women from 1991-2000 who had early stage breast cancer. It found that women who ate plenty of vegetables and fruit every day as well as got regular physical activity were nearly 50 percent less likely to die. So I began getting more regular exercise (in addition to all those lovely plant based foods)!

I learned meditation, because I felt very strongly that a long period of badly managed stress was what undermined my immune system to such a degree that it let cancer in the door. I even created a downloadable how-to-meditate course to help others who don’t have access to meditation classes like I did. Here’s the link: Change Your Life Meditation Course

I learned how to improve my sleep because I found out that bad sleep also undermines the immune system, messes with your hormones and just generally makes you feel crappy. See my page about that: Want To Sleep Better?

I also learned how to do cleanses. A yearly or twice yearly bowel and liver cleanse is one of the best ways to get toxins and xenoestrogens out of your body and keep things running beautifully.

I am still well, healthy and here to tell the story.

References:

[1] Endometrial Cancer in Tamoxifen-Treated Breast Cancer Patients: Findings From the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP) B-14 – http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/content/86/7/527.abstract?ijkey=f6e51d3ed6a435030236801eb63df2f1c9279a5d&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha

[2] Risk and Prognosis of Endometrial Cancer after Tamoxifen for Breast Cancer. Comprehensive Cancer Centres’ ALERT Group. Assessment of Liver and Endometrial cancer Risk following Tamoxifen – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11036892

[3] Two-year Carcinogenicity Study of Tamoxifen in Alderley Park Wistar-derived Rats – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8358718

[4] Understanding the Genotoxicity of Tamoxifen? http://carcin.oxfordjournals.org/content/22/6/839.full#content-block

[5] Long-term Effects of Continuing Adjuvant Tamoxifen to 10 Years Versus Stopping at 5 Years after Diagnosis of Oestrogen Receptor-positive Breast Cancer: ATLAS, a randomised trial – http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2812%2961963-1/abstract

GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right. You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates. I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.

Natural Remedies For Tamoxifen Withdrawal Side Effects

http://MarnieClark.com/Natural-Remedies-For-Tamoxifen-Withdrawal-Side-EffectsNatural Remedies For Tamoxifen Withdrawal Side Effects

If you are in the process of weaning yourself off of tamoxifen (and there are many reasons why you might want to do so) and need help with the resulting withdrawal side effects, this article shares some tried and true natural remedies to help you out.

The side effects of tamoxifen can be heinous.  There are many reasons for these side effects but the major one is that while tamoxifen initially acts as an estrogen-blocker, over time it begins to have estrogen-like activities. When a person has been on tamoxifen for a lengthy period (and that time period varies between people) they can begin to metabolize the drug as they would estrogen, so withdrawing from it can bring on quite a few menopausal symptoms.

Dr Scott M Sedlacek, an oncologist with Colorado Breast Specialists in Denver stated back in 1998 that when a woman stops taking the drug, she can experience estrogen withdrawal.  Dr Selacek stated “Perhaps the longer a woman takes tamoxifen, the more likely it will be metabolized as an
estrogen and therefore stimulate some of these cancers to recur.”

And that is just what we are finding – the very drug that is meant to protect us from breast cancer recurrence CAN also cause it.  I can’t tell you how many women I have personally spoken with who have told me that they took tamoxifen for the recommended five years, only to have breast cancer come back later.

Tamoxifen Is Toxic To The Body

Tamoxifen is toxic to the body, especially to the liver.  Even the US Government website http://livertox.nih.gov advises “Long term tamoxifen therapy has been associated with development of fatty liver, steatohepatitis, cirrhosis, and rare instances of clinically apparent acute liver injury.” 1

California has a law called Proposition 65 that requires the state to publish and maintain a list of known carcinogens. In May 1995, California’s Carcinogen Identification Committee voted unanimously to add tamoxifen to that list, and in 1996 the World Health Organization designated tamoxifen a human carcinogen.

As you can see, there is ample reason to stop taking it.

To Wean Yourself Off Tamoxifen

There is no need to taper off the use of Tamoxifen, you can just stop taking it.  However, some women report that they fared better when tapering the use of it, that tapering off helped to lessen the side effects.  To do this:

1.  Rather than taking your usual daily dose, take a dose every other day and do this for two weeks.  For instance, take it on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday the first week and Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday the next week.
2.  Then take a dose every third day for one to two weeks.  For instance, if the last dose was on a Saturday, take the next dose on Tuesday and Friday and the following week Sunday and Wednesday.  At this point, you can stop altogether.

Natural Remedies To Help With Tamoxifen Withdrawal Side Effects

You may experience some side effects from withdrawal of tamoxifen, depending upon how long you have been taking it.  Woman speak to me of depression, terrible hot flashes, joint pains, body aches, lethargy, feeling like they have the flu, just an all-over-not-feeling-so-great experience. These side effects do not occur with everyone, but just be aware that they can happen, it’s not out of the ordinary.

For Depressed Mood or Mood Swings:
Food: Ensure you are eating well and including plenty of fresh organic vegetables and organic protein in your diet. Protein is especially important because it is necessary for good hormone levels, it has a hormone balancing effect. Also include legumes, nuts, seeds, roasted soy nuts, freshly ground flaxseed and other omega-3 fats for good brain health and neural connections, raw cruciferous vegetables, lukewarm chamomile tea (not too hot as that can usher in a hot flash!)
Exercise:  Also helps to elevate the mood. Whatever you like to do for exercise, get up and do it (even though you may not feel like it – it really does help lift the mood.)
Essential Oils: Basil, frankincense, lemon, a blend called Clarity – diffuse them in the room where you are sitting, massage them into the sides of your neck (dilute first if your skin is sensitive), rub them onto the bottoms of your feet before you go to bed.
Supplements: B vitamins assist a proper functioning nervous system, St John’s Wort, Transfer Factors (strengthening the immune system is known to help reduce depression), Panax Ginseng
Massage therapy: Research indicates massage therapy is excellent for depression, and being a massage therapist I can highly recommend it. I see a marked change in my clients that have depression after receiving a massage. You can’t beat a pair of highly trained hands for nurture-ability and easing your burdens.
Meditation: Helps to calm and balance the nervous system in ways we haven’t even learned yet. Try my guided meditation.

For Hot Flashes:
Food: Eating well is crucial for healthy hormonal balance. The same list of foods as those mentioned for Depressed Mood or Mood Swings can help with hot flashes as well. Also 1 tbsp of Bragg’s Organic Apple Cider Vinegar has been used successfully by some to help with hot flashes. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, white flour, hot drinks and sugar as they are all known to increase incidence of hot flashes. You can drink herbal tea, just let it cool down a bit first. Cruciferous vegetables are particularly helpful – broccoli, kale and cabbage contain indole-3-carbinol which naturally helps to balance estrogen levels.
Exercise: Recent studies indicate exercise does not really help hot flashes, but I beg to disagree, they obviously didn’t use yoga in their studies. I found yoga to be extremely beneficial because it helps on so many levels to calm the nervous system, it plays a part in hormonal balancing, yoga is an amazing resource.
Essential Oils: Essential oils can have a positive effect on the endocrine system by stimulating particular neurotransmitters that help to relieve hot flashes.  Clary sage, peppermint, spearmint, lavender and thyme all have a positive effect on hot flashes. If you are in the midst of a hot flash, a single drop of peppermint on the back of your neck will soon have you feeling much better.
Supplements: Omega-3 fats, black cohosh, vitex or chasteberry, American ginseng, maca – all appear to alleviate the frequency and incidence of hot flashes.
Meditation: Helps to calm and balance the nervous system, even 5-10 minutes of meditation can be very beneficial for hot flashes.
Acupuncture: Studies indicate that acupuncture does indeed help with frequency and severity of hot flashes and my clients who have tried it confirm this. 2

For Joint Pains and Body Aches:
Food: Eating lots of fresh produce definitely helps with joint pains and body aches.  Please avoid food known to be inflammatory such as caffeine, white flour and sugars.  Fresh ginger and turmeric (curcumin) are extremely good for joint pain, as are freshly ground flaxseed and other omega-3 fats.
Essential Oils:  Can be very helpful for joint pain and body aches. My favorites are wintergreen, peppermint, ginger, and a blend called Deep Relief. Rub into affected area.
Supplements: Glucosamine sulphate, omega-3 fats, MSM, ginger, turmeric
Hot Epsom Salt Baths: Use 1 cup of Epsom salts in bathtub, soak for 20 minutes (careful, not too hot as this will exacerbate hot flashes). The magnesium is a wonderful pain reliever and helps draw toxins out of the body.
Arnica Montana ointment: Very helpful for joint pain.

For Fatigue:
Food: The same list of foods as those mentioned for Depressed Mood or Mood Swings can help with fatigue as well.  Especially good quality protein (organic), legumes, vegetables (especially cruciferous), spinach and kale (high in magnesium), avocados, bananas. Drink plenty of filtered water too because dehydration can cause fatigue.
Sleep: If you are feeling especially fatigued, don’t try to fight through it.  Nurture yourself and get to bed early.  Rise later if you can, take naps, and know that this won’t last forever.
Supplements: B complex vitamins, Transfer Factors, Siberian ginseng, Coenzyme Q10.
Massage therapy: A healing massage session can definitely help with fatigue, it helps to unblock your energy channels.

Bone Density Problems After Withdrawal of Tamoxifen

Estrogen is necessary for good bone health, our bones rely upon it.  When taking tamoxifen, premenopausal women are at a higher risk for osteoporosis, and while postmenopausal women have been told that tamoxifen strengthens bone and reduces the risk of osteoporosis, its other side effects make that one particular benefit not worth risking, in my opinion.

According to Professor David S Goodsell, tamoxifen is “serendipitously specific. It is chemically very similar to estrogen, and binds in the same site on the estrogen receptor as the normal hormone. Tamoxifen is not a typical inhibitor, blocking action completely. It is found to have a range of effects, sometimes blocking the action of the receptor, but other times actually activating it…” Professor Goodsell goes on to state that tamoxifen “appears to act like estrogen in bone cells, actually providing the proper signals for bone maintenance.” 3

Maybe so, but still not worth the risk, there are many other, less toxic ways of building good bones and they don’t have the toxicity of this drug.

When withdrawing from tamoxifen, it is important to find out what state your bones are in. Research indicates that withdrawal from tamoxifen does put women at a higher risk of osteoporosis. 4

To help you find out which tests are the best ones to monitor your bone health, go to www.betterbones.com, run by Dr Susan E Brown, a bone specialist and nutritionist.  She has a very good article discussing which bone assessment techniques she feels are most advantageous: Bone Density Tests Are Not Enough.  Highly recommended reading.

Final Note:

If you have decided you wish to discontinue the use of tamoxifen, first of all I would suggest you discuss it with your oncologist or primary care physician.  You should always do this.  Some will be supportive, others may not be, so just be aware of that.  This is your body, however, and your quality of life and you have every right to do what you feel is right for you.

References:

1.  http://livertox.nih.gov/Tamoxifen.htm

2.  The effect of acupuncture on postmenopausal symptoms and reproductive hormones: a sham controlled clinical trial – http://aim.bmj.com/content/29/1/27.abstract

3.  The Molecular Perspective: Tamoxifen and the Estrogen Receptor – http://theoncologist.alphamedpress.org/content/7/2/163.full

4.  Prevention of Bone Loss After Withdrawal Of Tamoxifen – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3140137/

xxx FOR HELENA xxx

GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right.  You can also “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates.  I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.  

Fatigue In Breast Cancer Survivors Linked To Inflammation

Image source: freedigitalphotos.net / Marin

Image source: freedigitalphotos.net / Marin

Fatigue In Breast Cancer Survivors Linked To Inflammation

A common complaint amongst breast cancer survivors, especially if they have been through the gamut of conventional medicine treatments, is fatigue.  I hear this all of the time and, indeed, suffered through it myself after going through 6 months of chemotherapy.

The Link Between Fatigue, Inflammation and Chemotherapy

An interesting study reported in 2012 [1] found that high levels of inflammation may promote fatigue in women treated for breast cancer.

The study followed 633 women, all breast cancer survivors with an average age of 56 years and treated for stage I, II or III breast cancer.  It was discovered that 40% of the women in the study had elevated levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) in their blood, which is a marker of inflammation.  40% of the women also suffered from fatigue.  Interestingly, women with elevated CRP levels were 1.8 times more likely to feel fatigue.

“Fatigue is common among breast cancer survivors and may persist for years after cancer treatment, clustering with comorbid symptoms such as depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance, and pain that reduce participation in life activities and quality of life”, researchers reported.

This makes sense, especially in view of the fact that chemotherapy and radiation are both associated with increasing inflammation in the body.  In fact, a recent study [2] indicated that chemotherapy leaves a long-lasting epigenetic imprint in the DNA of the blood cells of breast cancer patients and that imprint is associated with inflammation up to 6 months after treatment is completed!

Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fats Play A Role In Inflammation

Going back to the first study and those 633 women [1] the researchers investigated the intake of omega-3 fats, which are highly anti-inflammatory, as well as omega-6 fat intake, which tends to be pro-inflammatory.  It was found that a higher intake of omega-6 fats (found in most cooking oils and processed foods) was associated with both higher CRP levels and a 2.6 greater likelihood of feeling fatigued.

Conversely, women who were including omega-3 fats in their diet had the lowest levels of CRP and reported feeling less fatigue.

Inflammation Is Associated With Reduced Survival

It is well known that inflammation is associated with reduced survival among women with breast cancer [3] and inflammation also increases the risk of atherosclerosis and development of further cancers.  Cancer is, after all, an inflammatory condition.

The good thing is there is something we can do about all of this.

Good Nutrition and Omega-3s Are Helpful

Both inflammation and fatigue can be improved with simple dietary changes.  Follow the recommendations on my page Diet And Cancer and include plenty of fresh salads, vegetables, whole grains and modest amounts of fruit in your diet. And most especially, get those healing omega-3 fats into you!

Omega-3 fats are easily included in the diet and the best source is freshly ground organic flaxseed.  Freshly ground is best because the fats have not degenerated as with some commercially prepared flaxseed oils and freshly ground includes the best quality fiber and lignans.

The 15 Best Reasons To Take Flaxseed

Flaxseed has been shown to have wonderful health benefits – here are 15 of the best things it does for us:

  1. May protect against primary breast cancer [4], [6] 
  2. Decreases incidence of hot flashes [6]
  3. Increases cancer cell death [6]
  4. Decreases HER2 expression (a protein associated with breast cancer malignancy) [6] 
  5. Decreases breast cancer cell proliferation [5], [6]
  6. Improves normal cell membranes
  7. Improves breast density
  8. Exhibits anti-invasive properties [5] 
  9. Decreases risk of primary breast cancer [4], [5], [6]
  10. Reduces risk of breast cancer mortality by 33-70 percent [5], [6]
  11. Increases effectiveness of tamoxifen [5]
  12. Increases effectiveness of Herceptin [5]
  13. Improves mental health and depression [6], [7]
  14. Good for bowel health due to high fiber content
  15. Great for cardiovascular health

16 Tips For Including More Flaxseed Into Your Diet

A common complaint among breast cancer survivors is that they simply forget or can’t be bothered grinding up the flaxseed and finding ways to incorporate it into their diet, so here are my best tips on delicious ways you can use it:

  1. Sprinkle it on salads
  2. Add it to freshly prepared juices
  3. Put it in smoothies
  4. Put it in sandwiches by mixing it with mustard, mayo or mashed avocado (that way it doesn’t fall out!)
  5. Mix it into muesli, granola, or oatmeal
  6. Mix it into hummus or dips
  7. Mix it into guacamole
  8. Mix it into protein shakes
  9. Add it to organic yogurt
  10. Combine it with organic cottage cheese for some extra special anti-cancer properties (see the Budwig Diet)
  11. Sprinkle it on vegetables
  12. Sprinkle it on soup just before serving
  13. Mix it into baked goods
  14. Mix it in with any nut butter
  15. Sprinkle it into casseroles
  16. Mix it into pancake batter

References:
1. Fatigue, Inflammation, and Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acid Intake Among Breast Cancer Survivors — http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3341143/
2. Epigenetic changes associated with inflammation in breast cancer patients treated with chemotherapy — http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889159114000567
3. Elevated biomarkers of inflammation are associated with reduced survival among breast cancer patients — http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2717751/
4. Consumption of flaxseed, a rich source of lignans, is associated with reduced breast cancer risk — http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23354422
5. Flaxseed and its lignan and oil components: can they play a role in reducing the risk of and improving the treatment of breast cancer — http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24869971
6. Flax and Breast Cancer: A Systematic Review — http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24013641
7. Omega-3 fatty acids and major depression: A primer for the mental health professional — http://www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/1476-511X-3-25.pdfDoesYou

GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right. You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates. I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.

Coping With Tamoxifen Side Effects

http://MarnieClark.com/ Coping-With-Tamoxifen-Side-EffectsCoping With Tamoxifen Side Effects

As a breast cancer coach, one of the most asked questions is how to cope with Tamoxifen side effects, so today I’m offering assistance!

Tamoxifen is a drug recommended for people whose breast cancer cells exhibited estrogen receptors, termed ER+ breast cancer.

The Action of Tamoxifen

Tamoxifen is in a class of drugs called “SERMs” – selective estrogen-receptor modifiers.  Tamoxifen’s action is to occupy an estrogen receptor on a cell, thus paralyzing the receptor and preventing it from triggering the events that result in cell division.  It does not kill cancer cells, rather it disables them or puts them to sleep.  Tamoxifen targets not only the estrogen receptors in breast tissue, but also all of the other cells in the body that have estrogen receptors.

Tamoxifen Side Effects

Tamoxifen is currently the “gold standard” treatment recommended for all women with hormone driven breast cancer, regardless of the stage.  The recommendation of most oncologists for women with ER+ breast cancer is that taking this medication for 5 years after a breast cancer diagnosis can supposedly reduce the risk of recurrence by up to 50%, which is a very persuasive figure.  They are now recommending Tamoxifen use for up to 10 years.

I am not convinced that Tamoxifen is such a wonder drug, and I discuss why in my article Why I Chose Against Hormone Blocking Drugs.

Part of my problem with Tamoxifen is the wide range of side effects which include headaches, dizziness, nausea, hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, leg cramps, hair thinning, brain fog, pins and needles in hands and feet, joint pain, moodiness, depression and anxiety.

Tamoxifen may also put a patient at a higher risk for blood clots in the legs (deep vein thrombosis) and the lungs (pulmonary embolism), endometrial cancer and overgrowth of the lining of the uterus.

Since women are recommended to be on this drug for 5-10 years, their concerns about the side effects and loss of enjoyment of life are very real.

It Doesn’t Work For Everyone

What we are finding out here in the trenches is that this drug works for some but definitely not all.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been told by a woman that she took the Tamoxifen for the prescribed amount of time and is still battling her second or even third round of breast cancer.  So it is clear that the drug doesn’t work for everyone.

Are There Alternatives To Tamoxifen?

At this time, there do not appear to be any good research studies that directly compare specific diets or nutritional strategies with the use Tamoxifen to prevent breast cancer recurrence.  Having said that, we do know that a healthy diet and plenty of exercise are truly important, they do make a big difference, and this has been proven by research studies.

The Women’s Healthy Eating and Living (WHEL) study followed 1,500 women with early stage breast cancer who were treated between 1991 and 2000, and found that women who both ate plenty of vegetables and fruit every day as well as got regular physical activity were nearly 50% less likely to die during the study follow up.  In this study both women taking Tamoxifen and not taking Tamoxifen were included, so it is clear that diet and exercise are incredibly important for staying well.

For those who choose to take Tamoxifen, some of the side effects can be quite troublesome and these people really need some help.

Here Are My Best Recommendations For Coping With Tamoxifen Side Effects:

Headaches – Having a regular deep tissue massage and/or acupuncture from qualified practitioners can make a huge difference with headaches.  Also, as simple as it may seem, drinking plenty of filtered water can assist your body to clear the drug from your system a little better.  So make sure to drink plenty of water (and not tap water!).

Dizziness – As odd as it may seem, meditation can be very helpful with the dizziness associated with Tamoxifen use.  If the dizziness becomes severe, however, seek the advice of your doctor.  You may need to go off the Tamoxifen or reduce your dosage.  As with headaches, drinking more water can often help to ease dizziness.

Nausea – Drink ginger tea.  You make it with organic ginger root (not the dried spice), slice off a small chunk of it and put it in hot (just off boiling) water and let it steep for several minutes.  Sip as needed.

Hot Flashes & Night Sweats – These are more difficult to solve – these symptoms show that the Tamoxifen is doing its work.  You may find that certain herbal remedies like Remifemin assist with the frequency, intensity and duration of hot flashes and night sweats.  Traditional Chinese Medicine has a number of herbs that are helpful, so seek the help of a qualified Chinese medicine doctor.  For a list of other helpful hints, see my article Tips Tricks and Support For Hot Flashes.

Vaginal Dryness – This is one of the most distressing of the side effects and not often discussed.  There is one very safe product I can recommend, a natural lubricant called Sylk.  Highly recommended.  Also organic coconut oil is very useful.

Leg Cramps – Take 500 mg of magnesium citrate twice daily.  Magnesium is also found in plenty of green leafy vegetables, so eat your salad!

Brain Fog – Essential oils are extremely helpful here because they help to clear off the neuron receptor sites of any accumulated gunk (which can result in brain fog).  Deep breathing of oils like basil, peppermint, and frankincense helps to clear your mind, improves memory and brain function.  Meditation is also very helpful.

Pins & Needles in Extremities – Again, I recommend the use of massage therapy and/or acupuncture, drinking plenty of water, and it would also be helpful to do a bowel cleanse and a liver cleanse because Tamoxifen is a toxic drug, and cleansing will help you clear chemical residues which may be building up in the tissues of your body.

Joint Pain – This is one of the more widely experienced side effects of Tamoxifen.  Yoga is helpful, as is massage therapy, and I also recommend a good quality glucosamine sulfate supplement for joint health, together with plenty of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet.

Moodiness, Anxiety, Depression – Sometimes associated with Tamoxifen use, but often these problems arise just from the fact that you are going through cancer.  It’s better not to ignore them and I recommend getting some counseling.  Meditation is extremely helpful for anxiety and moodiness.  For depression related to Tamoxifen, check with your doctor to see if you can reduce your dosage of Tamoxifen.  Some women are taking it every other day, rather than daily, and still getting good results.   Dietary assistance for these problems includes eating lots of fresh organic veggies and fruit, omega 3 fatty acids, and vitamin B complex – all of these are surprisingly beneficial.  One last word about depression – it can come on slowly over a period of several months, and some women will not realize that they are depressed.  Pay close attention to this please and get some help if you need it.  You may want to discontinue the use of Tamoxifen if the symptoms are severe (discuss this with your doctor).  I would not recommend the use of anti-depressants because they may make Tamoxifen less effective.

If you are having problems with any of these side effects (or anything not mentioned above) associated with Tamoxifen and would like more information from me, please feel free to contact me.  I have plenty of information about all of the things I have recommended and would be happy to share it with you.  I also have a more holistic protocol for staying well without the use of hormone blockers, so please contact me if you would like information about that.

GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right.  You can also “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com).  I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.

Vitamin D May Assist Some Side Effects Of Tamoxifen

 

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net / Grant Cochrane
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net / Grant Cochrane

Vitamin D May Assist Some Side Effects Of Tamoxifen

One of the things that most women who are going through breast cancer treatments complain about (and being a breast cancer coach, I do hear these complaints every single day) is all of the side effects of Tamoxifen and other aromatase inhibitor drugs. Things like terrible hot flashes, joint pain, muscle pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and even trigger finger (a painful painful condition that causes the fingers or thumb to catch or lock when bent, it happens when the tendons in the finger or thumb become inflamed) are quite common side effects.

A chance conversation with one of my subscribers this week led me to do some research on vitamin D because she shared with me that she was on Tamoxifen and had been recommended to take some higher-than-normal doses of vitamin D for her joint pain, and it was helping!

Vitamin D3 is one of the supplements I already recommend because it has great benefits for breast health (see my article Why Vitamin D Is So Important For Breast Health). 

Studies Indicate Vitamin D May Assist Musculo-Skeletal Pain

Spanish researchers at the Hospital Del Mar in 2011 discovered that the bone and joint pain associated with taking aromatase inhibitors like Tamoxifen was responsible for many women discontinuing their use.  They studied 290 breast cancer patients undergoing treatment with Tamoxifen or another of the aromatase inhibitor drugs.  At baseline, 90% of the women had serum vitamin D levels under 30 ng/ml, which is considered a deficiency.  All of the patients were given 800 iu daily of vitamin D, and those who were especially deficient also got an additional 16,000 iu every two weeks.

Of the women who were pain-free at baseline, those who reached serum levels of 40 ng/ml were 50% less likely to experience drug-associated joint pain than those who remained vitamin D deficient.  The authors noted that it is challenging to raise blood levels to the protective level, noting that at 3 months, 50% of the women treated with the booster doses were still deficient.  The researchers stated that a vitamin D deficiency was quite common in women treated with AIs but felt more research was required to ascertain whether AIs actually cause the deficiency. 

In an article appearing in the Annals of Oncology website titled “Aromatase Inhibitor-Induced Arthralgia – A Review” I found the following helpful information which goes a long way toward explaining how a lack of estrogen caused by AIs could certainly cause suboptimal levels of vitamin D:  “Vitamin D is closely tied to estrogen because estrogen increases the activity of 1-α hydroxylase, the enzyme responsible for conversion of 25OHD to the biologically active 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D form. Estrogen also increases the activation of the vitamin D receptor. Thus, it seems logical that the drop in estrogen levels caused by AIs may cause a decrease in vitamin D, and thus, a vitamin D deficient-like arthralgia syndrome.

Another study titled “Non-herbal Nutritional Supplements For Symptoms Relief In Adjuvant Breast Cancer: Creating A Doctor-Patient Dialogue” indicated that vitamin D had been “shown to be effective in reducing the incidence and severity of arthralgia resulting from treatment with the aromatase inhibitor letrozole.”  No dosages were recommended, however.

A more recent study released in March 2014, “Hypovitaminosis D Is A Predictor Of Aromatase Inhibitor Musculoskeletal Symptoms” appearing in The Breast Journal agreed with the Spanish study, finding that women with vitamin D levels under 40 ng/ml and taking AIs were much more likely to suffer with musculo-skeletal pain, concluding that “Further research should be carried out on identifying additional modifiable risk factors for this syndrome.

Yes, indeed.  Or maybe we could just get our vitamin D levels checked before starting the aromatase inhibitors and, if they are found to be suboptimal, start supplementing with vitamin D3.  The test you want your doctor to perform is 25(OH)D, also referred to as 25-hydroxy-vitamin D. 

The Bottom Line

Dosages will depend upon how deficient you are, but up to 4,000 iu/day have been well tolerated by most healthy people.  If you are taking AIs, however, you may be able to tolerate more than that.  I would highly recommend seeking the advice of a qualified professional because vitamin D is one of the fat soluble vitamins, meaning that it can accumulate in your body, it isn’t flushed away like excesses of water soluble vitamins such as vitamins B and C.

Not only will the vitamin D most likely assist in the joint pain associated with taking aromatase inhibitors, it just might also reduce risk of recurrence.

My own personal preference was to avoid these drugs and I explain why in my article “Why I Chose Against Hormone Blocking Drugs” (in case you’re interested).  I feel it’s much more important to keep my immune system nice and strong so that it can be doing its job effectively, keeping stress levels down, and eating lots of super foods.

I’d be glad to teach you how too – just sign up for my free newsletters and e-books on the right hand side of this page.  It would be my pleasure and my honor to assist you.

Research:

Vitamin D threshold to prevent aromatase inhibitor-induced arthralgia: a prospective cohort study

Non-herbal nutritional supplements for symptom relief in adjuvant breast cancer: creating a doctor-patient dialogue

Hypovitaminosis D is a Predictor of Aromatase Inhibitor Musculoskeletal Symptoms

Aromatase Inhibitor-Induced Arthralgia – A Review

Why I Chose Against Hormone Blocking Drugs

 

Photo courtesy of MorgueFile and Aidairi
Photo courtesy of MorgueFile and Aidairi

Why I Chose Against Hormone Blocking Drugs

Every single day I am contacted by women who are either going through breast cancer treatments or have finished their treatments and have been prescribed estrogen blocking drugs like tamoxifen (Nolvadex), anastrozole (Arimidex), exemestane (Aromasin), letrozole (Femara), raloxifene (Evista).

Many of these drugs are also known as aromatase inhibitors because they deactive a key enzyme (aromatase) that is responsible for a key step in the biosynthesis of estrogen.

Why Women Are Prescribed Hormone Blockers

A breast tumor is called “estrogen receptor positive” or “ER+” if it has receptors for estrogen – this suggests that the cancer cells, like normal breast cells, may receive signals from the hormone estrogen that could promote their growth.  The cancer is termed “progesterone receptor positive” or “PR+” if it has progesterone receptors.  Again, this means that the cancer cells may receive signals from progesterone that could promote their growth. According to BreastCancer.org, roughly two out of every three breast cancers test positive for hormone receptors.

The women who are contacting me are very concerned about the side effects of such medications, they are researching and wanting to know more and they are wondering if there are any natural products that will do the same job without the side effects.

My Personal History

I went through breast cancer in 2004.  If you’d like to read my whole story, check out my Breast Cancer Diary page.  Briefly, however, I had a 2.5 cm tumor, about the size of an olive, and it was a rapidly growing tumor known as infiltrating ductal carcinoma.  I had a large lumpectomy and a latissimus-dorsi flap reconstruction.  I was recommended to have chemotherapy right away, but being a natural therapist I needed to be convinced of the necessity of that, so I went home to heal up and work on my immune system.  Eventually both my oncologist and my natural therapists convinced me that it would be beneficial for me to undergo chemotherapy and I did 6 months worth.  I chose not to have radiation for various reasons, and although both my oncologist and my regular doctor tried hard to get me to say yes to the hormone blocking drugs, I just could not be convinced that this was a good route for me to follow.  For one thing, I was progesterone receptor positive only, which is somewhat unusual.  I couldn’t see how tamoxifen, which is used as an estrogen-blocker, was going to help me since I was PR+.  My doctors argued it would “still have some therapeutic benefit.”  I wasn’t convinced, and especially when I read about the side effects of these drugs.  Instead I went home and went into deep research mode.  Here’s what I found.

1.  Some research indicated that tamoxifen was more useful in elderly and frail women and it removed the need for surgery in a high proportion of those women. (Akhtar SS, et al.  A 10-year experience of tamoxifen as primary treatment of breast cancer in 100 elderly and frail patients.  Eur J Surg Oncol. 1991; 17:30-5.)

2.  The Institute of Cancer Epidemiology in Copenhagen studied 3,500 post-menopausal women who received surgery for breast cancer. About half of these patients were considered to be low risk and received no further treatment.  The high risk patients received either radiotherapy or radiotherapy plus tamoxifen.  After about 8 years, the scientists looked at the incidence of cancer in these women.  All 3 groups had more cancer than the general population and for those who had received radiotherapy there was a higher incidence of leukemia.  There was no difference in cancer incidence in the high risk group that  received tamoxifen plus radiotherapy compared to those who just received radiotherapy, indicating that tamoxifen did not confer any special protective effects.  In fact, there was a tendency to an elevated risk of endometrial cancer. (Andersson M, et al. Incidence of new primary cancers after adjuvant tamoxifen therapy and radiotherapy for early breast cancer: J Natl Cancer Inst. 1991; 83:1013-7.)

3. The McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research of the University of Wisconsin studied rats given tamoxifen.  At first, all appeared okay, but when the rats were also given a small dose of chemicals and then fed tamoxifen, the livers of these animals showed an increase in the size and number of altered liver lesions compared with the animals that had been fed the chemicals but not the tamoxifen.  The researchers felt that tamoxifen acts as a tumor promoter in the rat liver, that it was four times the strength of phenobarbital (a drug commonly used as a representative promoting agent in experimental carcinogenesis). (Dragan YP, et al. Tumor promotion as a target for estrogen/anti-estrogen effects in rat hepatocarcinogenesis. Prev Med. 1991; 20:15-26).

4.  There were too many disturbing reports of eye damage from the use of tamixofen.  In one article that appeared in the Annals of Ophthalmology, I read about toxicity to the cornea, retina and optic nerve.  And though it seemed that the damage did not progress once the drug was stopped, it could not be repaired. (Gerner EW. Ocular toxicity of tamoxifen. Annals of Ophthalmology 1989; 21:420-3).  I had enough problems with my vision, I certainly didn’t need any more.

I could go on and on here, citing all of the research that I did – and yes this research is a little older, I went through breast cancer in 2004, as I mentioned. 

Possible Side Effects of Hormone Blocking Drugs

The list of possible side effects of these drugs is lengthy:  hot flashes, vaginal dryness, headaches, muscle, joint and body aches, dry mouth, nausea and vomiting, changes in bowel habits, muscle weakness, fatigue, increased risk of liver cancer, precancerous changes in the uterus, blood clots which could travel to the lungs and cause pulmonary embolism or a stroke, cataracts and other vision changes. 

I just wasn’t willing to submit my body to any of that.

It’s Time To Wake Up

What I am seeing as a breast cancer coach is a large quantity of women (more than I ever thought possible) who have taken the hormone blockers for the prescribed length of time (usually 5 years) and are coming to me with a new breast cancer.

We need to wake up people!  These drugs are not working.  They are toxic to our bodies and there are better ways of regaining our health.  The thing is, you can’t just say no and do nothing else.  You really need to be very pro-active with your health.  If you don’t know what to do, feel free to sign up for my e-books and newsletters, I provide them as a free service to people going through breast cancer and I share all of my best tips and information in them (see the sign-up form on the right side of this page).

It’s Not All About Estrogen!

I have said this so many times lately, it’s starting to become my slogan.  Estrogen is a hormone we want and need in our bodies.  The doctors are so focused on the fact that there are estrogen receptors on our breast cancer cells but part of the problem is that there are synthetic estrogens in our body products, our drinking water, our cosmetics, our environment, and these are part of the problem with our health (see my article Protect Yourself From Xenoestrogens and Estrogen Dominance).

In her book “Molecules of Emotion“, author and scientist Candace Pert shares with us “… accumulated environmental pollutants within our bodies are mimicking and disrupting the action of our sex hormones — estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone — which run the male and female reproductive systems.”  She goes on to state that “A recent report on receptor binding in Science, for example, has shown that environmental toxins have estrogenlike effects and bind to estrogen receptors, where they can stimulate breast cancer tumor growth.  Similarly, various toxins can act like testosterone in the male body and stimulate prostate cancer, which is embryologically similar to breast cancer.  Although this has been suspected for a long time, only recently have we gotten the hard proof that accumulation of these toxins in our bodies chronically stimulates our estrogen and testosterone receptors, putting them into a state of overdrive and leading to cancer.”

There are many other factors which put us at a higher risk for breast cancer, and right up there at the top of the list is STRESS.  You can do little to avoid it but you certainly can change the way that you react to it.  Try meditation to relieve that stress.  Get yourself into a meditation group, or if you live in a remote area download my meditation course.

I also believe that it’s vitally important to build up your immune system to be as strong and healthy as it can be, since our immune system is our first line of defense against cancer cells.  Why don’t the doctors tell you that?  Any natural therapist certainly will.  Have a look at my page 8 Ways To Build A Super Strong Immune System.  How important are these 8 items?  I believe they’re absolutely crucial.   Give proper attention to each of the 8 items on the list and you will be much happier and healthier than if you are taking toxic drug therapies.

References:

http://www.webmd.com/drugs/drug-1555-anastrozole+oral.aspx

http://www.webmd.com/breast-cancer/tc/breast-cancer-comparing-hormone-blocking-treatments-topic-overview

http://www.breastcancer.org/treatment/hormonal/serms/tamoxifen

Cancer Therapy, The Independent Consumer’s Guide To Non-Toxic Treatment and Prevention by Ralph W Moss, PhD.

Molecules of Emotion by Candace B Pert, PhD.

If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters and e-book on the right, and/or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com).  It is my honor and my goal to help you through this so that you emerge from breast cancer feeling better than before, thriving!

 PLEASE BE AWARE THAT THIS BLOG POST IS INFORMATION I HAVE DISCOVERED FOR MYSELF. IT FEELS TRUE FOR ME. THE INFORMATION PRESENTED HERE IS NOT MEANT TO DIVERT YOU ON YOUR HEALING PATH, IT IS ONLY INTENDED TO RAISE AWARENESS OF OTHER WAYS OF THINKING. YOU MUST DO WHAT IS RIGHT FOR YOU.

18 Natural Aromatase Inhibitors

Artwork courtesy of rgbstock.com and Idea Go

18 NATURAL AROMATASE INHIBITORS

The number one topic in breast cancer communities, and the thing I get asked about most often, is definitely about natural aromatase inhibitors.  People are suffering from the effects of hormone blocking drugs like Tamoxifen, Raloxifene, Faslodex.  The list of side effects these drugs are capable of producing is seemingly endless and as a breast cancer coach I hear it all and have a lot of sympathy.

It’s a subject near and dear to our hearts and we can spend plenty of time trying to dig up research on new natural alternatives – I know I do because I chose not to take Tamoxifen, much to my oncologist’s annoyance.  I just wasn’t willing to risk the side effects, such as cardiotoxicity and blood clots, etc. 

Update: I recently wrote an article sharing why I chose not to (in case you’re interested): Why I Chose Against Hormone Blocking Drugs

It worries me that the side effects of these drugs can be so debilitating and disruptive to quality of life.  More than that, I know quite a few who were on AIs for the requisite period of time (usually 5 years) and suffered recurrences anyway.  That indicates to me these drugs aren’t working as well as they are meant to.

A Good Article

While doing some research today, I came across a lengthy article, “Natural Products as Aromatase Inhibitors” at the NIH website.  Click here to view that article, but be warned, it will do your head in, unless you are a doctor, researcher or medical professional! 

I will attempt to boil it all down into layman’s language for you – you can read for yourself all of the reasons why AIs are prescribed, how they work in breast cancer, and how scientists are actively researching many natural products to discover which ones can be utilized to help breast cancer patients.  I know what you are really after — the list of natural things that exhibit AI activity. 

18 Natural Aromatase Inhibitors

  1. Dioon Spinulosum – or gum palm, a cycad which grows in Veracruz and Oaxaca, Mexico
  2. Encephalartos ferox – also a cycad which grows mainly in Africa
  3. Riedelia – a genus of plants in the Zingiberaceae family, comprises approximately 75 species that are distributed among New Guinea and the Maluku and Solomon Islands
  4. Viscum album – a species of mistletoe, also known as European Mistletoe or Common Mistletoe to distinguish it from other related species. It is native to Europe and western and southern Asia
  5. Cycas rumphii – also a cycad, commonly known as queen sago or the queen sago palm, it grows in the Moluccan island group (New Guinea, Java, Indonesia)
  6. Cycas revoluta – also a cycad, native to southern Japan
  7. Alpinia purpurata – also known as Red Ginger, a native to Malaysia
  8. Coccothrinax Sarg – Coccothrinax is a genus of palms in the Arecaceae family, there are more than 50 species described in the genus, plus many synonyms and sub-species, and they grow in a variety of places
  9. Five red wine varieties, the most active being Cabernet Sauvignon from Tanglewood (France), the other mentioned was Pinot noir from Hacienda (Sonoma, CA)
  10. Brassaiopsis glomerulata – a deciduous tree found in North Vietnam
  11. Garcinia mangostana L. (Clusiaceae) – also known as mangosteen, has a long history of use as a medical plant, found mostly in Southeast Asia
  12. Euonymus alatus – also known as winged spindle, winged euonymus or burning bush, it’s a species of flowering plant in the family Celastraceae, native to central and northern China, Japan, and Korea
  13. Isodon excisus Kudo var. coreanus – a small herbaceous plant that grows in Western Asia (Japan, China, Korea)
  14. Scutellaria barbata – a plant used in traditional Chinese medicine, other names include ban zhi lian’, scullcap or skullcap, it grows in Korea and southern China
  15. Camellia sinensis – also known as green tea
  16. Vitis L. sp – also known as grape seed extract, the report cited a study where a water extract of grape seed extract was utilized and it had AI activity
  17. Agaricus bisporus – also known as white button mushrooms
  18. Trifolium pratense L. – also known as red clover flowers.  There is a lot of misinformation out there about red clover, please read my article Red Clover Controversy – Safe For Breast Cancer Or Not?

The article also mentioned that coffee, cocoa, collards, stout beer, tomato leaves and even cigarette smoke (!) strongly inhibited aromatase using a microsomal assay.  I don’t know about you but I’m not eating tomato leaves or breathing in cigarette smoke intentionally!

Many of the above listed things are not currently being produced as natural supplements, however some are.  I would suggest you print out this list and take it to your naturopath to see which ones would be safe for you to use.  Some of the listed items will be easily available (like #9, #15, #16, #17 #18) and you could easily incorporate them into your diet. 

Something not listed is selenium, we do have research indicating that it acts as a natural aromatase inhibitor, see my article  Why Iodine and Selenium Are Useful For Breast Cancer.

The above list is not exhaustive – the report did also discuss 125 flavonoids, 36 terpenoids, 19 peptides, 18 lignans, 16 xanthones, 15 fatty acids, 10 alkaloids, and 43 miscellaneous compounds having been evaluated but there was not sufficient information for me to feel it was worth listing them all.

Unfortunately, there is no information on dosages for any of the above nutrients, more information is clearly needed.

Just Remember Estrogen Is Not The Only Factor Involved In Breast Cancer

The important thing I would like you to take away from all of this is that we can drive ourselves crazy looking for the tiniest things that will give us an edge over this disease.  I hope you don’t get bogged down in this. Please remember, estrogen is not the only factor involved in breast cancer.  An overall anti-cancer strategy is to eat a healthy diet full of super foods, build a super-strong immune system (see my page on how to do that), include some of the things from this list where they make sense (and are available) to you, limit your exposure to toxic skin care products, get plenty of exercise and keep your stress levels down through the use of meditation or prayer. 

I am continually on the outlook for natural aromatase inhibitors (AIs) and have written a few articles you may find useful: The Down & Dirty on Aromatase Inhibitors for Breast Cancer Treatment, Acupuncture: How It Helps With Cancer Treatments , Aromatase Inhbitors Natural vs Toxic, Researchers Discover Mushrooms Could Be Potent Natural Aromatase Inhibitors, Why Vitamin D is So Important for Breast Health and Is Chrysin a Good Natural Aromatase Inhibitor?

Feel free to sign up for my free newsletters – they include a free copy of my e-book which is all about preventing recurrences and my holistic approach to healing.  Go ahead, don’t be shy – I will do my absolute utmost to help you through this.

 

Curcumin Very Helpful For Those With Resistance to Chemotherapy, Tamoxifen

Photo courtesy of rgbstock.com and Tacluda
Photo courtesy of rgbstock.com and Tacluda

Curcumin Very Helpful For Those With Resistance To Chemotherapy, Tamoxifen

According to breastcancerresearch.com, approximately 70% of breast cancers are estrogen receptor positive (ER+) at diagnosis.  These patients are often recommended to have endocrine therapies that target estrogen receptors, such as the drug Tamoxifen.

Tamoxifen works by binding to tissues that use estrogen. This binding blocks the action of estrogen in the breast but mimics the action of estrogen in the bones and uterus.  Tamoxifen is used to treat ER+ breast cancer in men and women and to prevent breast cancer in those at high risk.

Some People Are Resistant

Some people, however, are resistant to anti-estrogenic drugs like Tamoxifen, and also to certain chemotherapy drugs.  See my article about chemoresistance, Chemo-Resistant Breast Cancers In The News.  This has proven to be a huge problem for some patients.

According to breastcancerresearch.com development of resistance is a process that “appears to result from upregulation of growth factor and protein kinase signaling pathways that provide an alternate mechanism in support of tumor cell proliferation and survival.”  So researchers are keen to identify or target the factors that come into play with endocrine resistance.

Some progressive oncologists are utilizing the chemosensitivity test for their patients who are resistant to certain chemo drugs.  See my article If You Are Contemplating Chemotherapy, You Should Know About the Chemosensitivity Test.

Curcumin To The Rescue

The good news is that a new Chinese study, published in January 2013 in Molecules, indicates that curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has been shown to be effective in helping to restore Tamoxifen sensitivity and also sensitizes cancer cells to chemotherapy, thus making the chemotherapy more effective.  The researchers “discovered that curcumin treatment displayed anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic activities” and that the “findings suggested that curcumin alone and combinations of curcumin with endocrine therapy may be of therapeutic benefit for endocrine-resistant breast cancer.  Click this link to read the Chinese study.

You can get curcumin in capsules in health food stores, you can also use turmeric in your cooking.   Allrecipes.com has a big list of recipes that utilize turmeric.  It’s a gorgeous spice and adds depth and flavor to your curries, as well as other dishes.  I recommend turmeric in my page Diet and Cancer (scroll all the way to the bottom).

References:

http://breast-cancer-research.com/content/13/3/R70

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23299550

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More Information on DIM, Estrogen Metabolite Ratios

 

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and David Castillo Dominici

Image source: freedigitalphotos.net / David Castillo Dominici

Further to my article of December 11, 2012 “Dim Is NOT The Wonder Supplement We’ve Been Led To Believe“, the article written by Dr Jacob Schor, for which we were waiting publication in the Townsend Letter, the Examiner of Alternative Medicine,  has been published and I wanted to share that link with you:  Estrogen Metabolite Ratios: Time For Us To Let Go

Dr Schor is a gifted naturopath in Denver, and is also President of the Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians.  Fair warning – the article is not an easy one to read – I suggest you print it out and go put your feet up in a quiet place to digest the information.  It will probably require several readings to fully appreciate what Dr Schor is telling us about estrogen metabolite ratios.

I found the information fairly depressing, because I (and many like me) had been relying on DIM to keep circulating estrogen levels at a safe range without having to resort to the toxicity of Tamoxifen.  Having said that, I really appreciated Dr Schor’s review of the research, and his courage to publish an article that goes against the current thinking.  We need more fine minds like his in this fight.

If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach).  It is my honor and my goal to help you through this.

DIM Is NOT The Wonder Supplement We’ve Been Led To Believe

DIM Is NOT The Wonder Supplement Weve Been Led To Believe
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and healingdr

 

DIM – A Misunderstood Natural Supplement

A chance message from one of the members at a breast cancer forum of which I am also a member (breastcancer.org) had me scurrying around yesterday, in an attempt to discover some information about a favorite supplement of mine named DIM, also known as di-indolyl-methane, hence the easier moniker DIM.

She had heard that taking DIM might raise progesterone levels and since her tumor was progesterone receptor positive (as was mine), this was a concern.  So she asked me about it and I referred the question to the naturopath whose opinion I most highly respect, Dr Jacob Schor, my mother’s naturopath in Denver, who is the President of the Oncology Association of Naturopathic Oncology and also Associate Editor of The Natural Medicine Journal (and, among other things, a very learned man and someone I trust).

Too Good to be True?

DIM is a supplement I had been taking myself for about 4 years – it was recommended to me by a naturopath in Australia because it supposedly promotes beneficial estrogen metabolism and healthy hormonal balance and was supposed to be especially helpful for managing estrogen dominant conditions. Even though my tumor was not fueled by estrogen, he felt it would still have benefits for me.  Some articles I found on the Internet even said it was better than Tamoxifen, a well-known breast cancer drug.

DIM and Estrogen Metabolites

Apparently the longer view, taken from more current and exhaustive research, however, is that DIM is not in any way a replacement for Tamoxifen, nor does it work in the manner initially thought.

Dr Schor shared with me a soon-to-be-released article he’d written on the subject of estrogen metabolite ratios for The Townsend Letter, an alternative medicine journal, but asked me merely to ingest its contents and not forward it on as it had not been released yet.

The contents of the article had my head spinning. After reviewing decades of research on estrogen metabolites, Dr Schor feels that we have been going on a theory that just has not proven to be fact, no matter how much we might wish it to be true.  He told me in an email yesterday, “there is certainly little reason to think that DIM was a substitute for Tamoxifen, there was nothing about the proposed mechanism of action that was similar.  One could argue that at least flax seed or soy genestein was kind of similar in action.  Sorry to be the party pooper.”

He did say that DIM has some great health benefits and he still recommends it.  It just doesn’t work the way we thought it did.

 IMPORTANT UPDATE:  31 October 2013 – Rather than delete this page, because a few other websites and articles link to it, in an effort to keep you updated with all the relevant studies and thinking on the issue of DIM, here are links to two more of my articles on this subject, which will definitely help you to realize that DIM does have some very good healing properties, and that you SHOULD be using it for breast health, just not for the reasons we initially thought.

More Information On DIM, Estrogen Metabolite Ratios– this article contains within it a link to the article written by Dr Schor for the Townsend Letter

Clarification On DIM And Its Uses For Breast Cancer

And here is a link to another relevant website, Life Over Cancer, on the subject of DIM written by Dr Keith Block:   DIM and Breast Cancer

 My own thoughts and feelings are that the best thing we can do for ourselves to keep ourselves disease free are relatively simple.  Follow the recommendations in my page Diet and Cancer, exercise at least 30 minutes per day, keep stress levels down, keep toxic chemicals and xenoestrogens to a minimum and a few other important things I recommend in my free e-book “21 Crucial Things To Do When You Have A Breast Cancer Diagnosis” – you can receive a free copy when you sign up for my newsletters on the right-hand side of this page.

 

Researchers Discover Mushrooms Could Be Potent Natural Aromatase Inhibitors

Photo courtesy of rgbstock.com and salsachica
Photo courtesy of rgbstock.com and salsachica

Studies at the Beckman Research Institute of the City of Hope Cancer Center in Duarte, California, suggest that fresh white mushrooms contain substances that could make them potent natural aromatase inhibitors.

I have been investigating natural aromatase inhibitors for several years because controlling the enzyme aromatase helps to decrease estrogen levels and this is important because the bulk of breast tumors are reliant upon estrogen to fuel their growth.

On June 6, 2012, I wrote an article titled Aromatase Inhibitors – Natural vs Toxic and listed the problems with the pharmaceutical variety of various aromatase inhibitors, as well as introducing quite a few natural ones that don’t produce the side effects that so many are struggling with.

Last week I was watching a PBS program titled “Dr Joel Fuhrman’s Immunity Solution”.  Dr Fuhrman is an American board-certified family physician who specializes in nutrition-based treatments for obesity and chronic disease and his presentation included a discussion of particular nutrients that exhibited anti-cancer benefits, so of course I took notes!

One thing he mentioned – and it was the first time I’d heard it – was that mushrooms are natural aromatase inhibitors.  So I went online to discover where the research originated and found the City of Hope research.

The Parameters of the Study

“Postmenopausal breast cancer survivors who were cancer free after completion of their treatments were enrolled in the trial.  Groups received a 12-week course of white button mushroom extract at 5, 8, 10 or 13 gram doses.  Because aromatase inhibition leads to a decrease in estrogen levels, a specific estrogen called estradiol was monitored and response was defined as a greater than 50 percent decrease in free estradiol levels in the blood circulation. Mushroom extract was well tolerated at all doses. However, no dose could be identified that met response criteria. In spite of this, a measurement of aromatase activity developed by Dr. Chen suggested some modest transient aromatase inhibition that lasted longest at the highest dose level (6 hours), suggesting that weak aromatase inhibition by mushrooms is achievable in patients, but that likely much higher amounts would be needed to achieve a clinically significant result.

That didn’t sound too hopeful, so I read a bit deeper and discovered that over the course of the 12 week study, while the researchers were able to observe phytochemical activity of the mushroom extract, it wasn’t at high enough concentrations to significantly reduce estrogen levels in patients.  They admitted that future studies should focus on more highly concentrated preparations of mushroom extract and perhaps change their focus to watching tissue levels of estrogens rather than circulating estrogen levels.

The unknown factors are dosage and whether we should take the mushrooms via extract in a vitamin form or by eating them fresh.  I have sent an email to the researchers at City of Hope and if I get a response, I will let you know!

Obviously further research needs to be done (and it may be underway right now) but I believe that since mushrooms are yummy anyway, they should be included in our daily diet, particularly because mushrooms have two other anti-cancer activities:

(1) they have antigen binding lectins which inhibit the growth of cancer cells; and

(2) they are angiogenesis inhibitors – tumors rely on the formation of new blood vessels to keep them growing and mushroom extracts have been shown to inhibit this growth.

Read my other articles on natural aromatase inhibitors.

Reference:

http://www.cityofhope.org/about/publications/news/Pages/city-of-hope-researchers-demonstrate-anti-cancer-effect-of-mushrooms-in-studies-at-2011-asco-annual-meeting.aspx

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Chinese Study Examines the Role of Soy, Tamoxifen, Estrogen in Breast Cancer Survival

LastSoybeans growing week I received a copy of a very interesting 2009 study which examines the role of soy, tamoxifen and estrogen receptors in breast cancer survival.

The study was published in the esteemed JAMA, Journal of American Medical Association, December 9, 2009.  If you’d like to read the entire article, click:  Soy Food Intake & Breast Cancer Survival 2009 study.

The objective of the study, called the Shanghai Breast Cancer Survival Study (“the Study”) was to evaluate the association of the intake of soy foods after a breast cancer diagnosis.  It was quite a large study – over 5,000 female breast cancer survivors aged 20-70 years with diagnoses between March 2002-April 2006 were followed up through June 2009.  It was one of the largest population-based studies of breast cancer survival when it was published.  See the Study for all of the relevant details.

Many are Confused About Whether Soy is Safe or Not

I’m writing about this today, some 3 years after publication, because there still seems to be quite a lot of confusion about the role of soy’s phytoestrogens (plant estrogens) among breast cancer survivors and those actively battling it.  We are told to be wary of too much soy – that because soy’s phytoestrogens can supposedly act as weak estrogens, those who had estrogen receptor positive tumors (meaning estrogen appeared to fuel the growth of the tumors) should exercise caution and not eat too much soy.

The Study blows that theory out of the water. Here’s a direct quote:

In our comprehensive evaluation of soy food consumption and breast cancer outcomes using data from a large, population-based cohort study, we found that soy food intake was inversely associated with mortality and recurrence. The inverse association did not appear to vary by menopausal status and was evident for women with ER-positive and ER- negative cancers and early and late-stage cancers.”

For those not accustomed to the language used in scientific studies, “inversely associated with” means that the more soy foods that were eaten, the less mortality and recurrence was exhibited in the Study participants.

Soy Phytoestrogens vs. Our Estrogen

The Study also found that soy isoflavones (one of a family of phytoestrogens found chiefly in soybeans) compete with the body’s estrogen in the binding of estrogen receptors, they increase the synthesis of sex hormone-binding globulin (thus lowering the bioavailability of sex hormones), they reduce estrogen synthesis and increase the clearance of steroids from circulation.  It is thought that these anti-estrogenic effects may be one of the underlying mechanisms through which the consumption of soy foods is associated with better breast cancer outcomes.

Soy Phytoestrogens vs. Tamoxifen

Additionally, the Study found that soy food intake was associated with improved survival, regardless of tamoxifen use.  Interestingly, the Study concluded that for women who took tamoxifen and had low soy intake, the tamoxifen helped their overall survival rates.  For those who ate high levels of soy foods, tamoxifen was not related to further improvement of survival rates.  More importantly, women who had the highest level of soy food intake and who did not take tamoxifen had a lower risk of mortality and recurrence rate than women who did take tamoxifen and who had the lowest level of soy food intake.  This suggests that high soy food intake and tamoxifen use may have a comparable effect on breast cancer survival.

I know which one I’d rather take!

How much is enough?

The study indicated that 11 grams per day of soy protein was sufficient to confer the benefits they observed.

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Dr John Lee Hated Tamoxifen, He Advocated Progesterone

 

Photo courtesy of rgbstock.com and lusi
Photo courtesy of rgbstock.com and lusi

Dr John Lee Advocated Progesterone

Dr John Lee, a rather amazing renegade Harvard educated doctor, internationally acknowledged as a pioneer and expert in the study and use of the hormone progesterone, and on the subject of hormone replacement therapy for women, absolutely hated tamoxifen, a well known breast cancer drug.

He stated “In my opinion, progesterone alone opposes the undesirable effects of estrogen very effectively, and if oncologists understood this they would be prescribing progesterone for their breast cancer patients instead of tamoxifen and Femara.

Dr Lee was worried about the harmful side effects of tamoxifen and said that it doesn’t address the underlying issues of DNA damage and lack of progesterone, which he felt were some of the root causes of breast cancer.   In 2002, Dr Lee co-wrote “What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Breast Cancer – How Hormone Balance Can Help Save Your Life“, along with David Zava, Ph.D. and Virginia Hopkins.

Partly based on what I read in this book, I decided against Tamoxifen.  I just wasn’t willing to risk the side effects.

Instead, Dr Lee advocated hormone balancing and treating imbalances with natural progesterone rather than synthetic estrogen (which you won’t be given anyway if you’ve had breast cancer).

An Interesting 2001 Study

There was an interesting article on Dr Lee’s website (johnleemd.com) where he discussed the results of a study done in 2001:

The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center released study results in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (July 2001) showing that women taking tamoxifen for treatment of first breast cancer are more likely to develop estrogen receptor-negative tumors in the other breast. These tumors are particularly aggressive and difficult to treat with conventional medicine.

The study looked at 9,000 women who survived breast cancer, about half of whom were being treated with tamoxifen. Some 27 percent of the tamoxifen group had estrogen receptor-negative tumors in the other breast, while only 4 percent of the tamoxifen-free group developed estrogen-negative tumors.

It’s frustrating to me that this huge study didn’t look more closely at the relationship between progesterone receptors and tamoxifen. Estrogen and progesterone are dependent upon each other for keeping their respective receptors active. In other words, estrogen is needed to maintain progesterone receptors, and progesterone is needed to maintain estrogen receptors. Thus, a drug like tamoxifen that blocks estrogen would be likely to severely down-regulate progesterone receptors, which would in turn down-regulate estrogen receptors, which would of course create a hormone receptor-negative milieu in the breasts.

The researchers said that this study should not discourage women from using tamoxifen, but to me it’s just one more reason to run from it. Tamoxifen also increases the risk of uterine cancer, blood clots and eye problems, and its benefits don’t last beyond about three to five years.

In Memoriam

Dr Lee passed away in 2003 but his work lives on.  From his website: “Dr. Lee s colleagues, family, and friends will carry on his legacy, as will the millions of others whose lives he touched over the years. We know that many of you will write, asking What can we do? The most meaningful way to remember John R. Lee, M.D. and carry on his work is to educate others, one-to-one, and give them the gift of optimal health, as he gave us.

That’s what I’m doing here – my best to educate others.

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Survivor Rejects Oncologist’s Advice to Take Tamoxifen in Favor of Special Diet

To Take Tamoxifen or Not…. That is the Question

I wanted to share with you this great article I read today about Vicky Sewart, a 4-year breast cancer survivor who has rejected her oncologist’s advice to take Tamoxifen in favor of a special diet.

Here’s a link to that article.  It’s a great article, I hope you’ll read it.

I did exactly the same thing 7 years ago.  It’s nice to have company.

I’m not passing any judgment whatsoever on those who have decided to take Tamoxifen, I just know that for myself and my body it wasn’t the right thing to do.  I wasn’t willing to risk any of the side effects that the drug engenders, there are too many of them.

This may not be a good course of action for everyone, I’m not saying that either.  My whole desire here is just to inform – to let you know that in some cases doctors don’t know everything there is to know about the healing power of certain nutrients in our food.

My Biggest Hope

My biggest hope is that the field of oncology will begin to pay attention to and take on some of the wisdom that natural medicine has to offer.

I loved the part of the article that stated “Her experience will now form part of an academic study into how lifestyle can affect the body’s response to cancer.”  There are lots of these studies being done already. 

Just go to the pubmed.gov website and put the words “turmeric cancer” in the search field and you’ll get 20 studies that say curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric) is effective against all kinds of cancer cells. 

The most interesting and newest study just published on June 14, 2012 says “The findings indicate that curcumin is of potential value for the chemoprevention of breast cancer, especially in breast cancer with Skp2/Her2 overexpression.”  Cycle arrest and apoptosis in MDA-MB-231/Her2 cells induced by Curcumin, Sun SH, Huang HC, Huang C, Lin JK, Eur J Pharmacol. 2012 Jun 14. [Epub ahead of print].

Come on, oncologists.  Your way isn’t the only way.  Get with the program!

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