Category Archives: Breast Cancer and Radiation

How To Protect Your Skin During Radiation Treatment for Breast Cancer

Image Source: freedigitalphotos.net / khunaspix Image Source: freedigitalphotos.net / khunaspix

How To Protect Your Skin During Radiation Treatment for Breast Cancer

I am frequently asked by those just about to begin radiation treatment for breast cancer what cream or lotion or ointment they can use to minimize the harsh effects of the radiation on their skin. That’s a great question and I’m always glad that they know this is important. I will answer it shortly.  First it’s important to know what the possible side effects of radiation are.

The Skin Problems You May Encounter With Radiation

Taking care of your skin during and after radiation treatment is really important.  Some of the skin changes that can be experienced during radiation treatment include redness, itching, dryness, swelling and peeling. In some extreme cases there can also be blistering (as with a sunburn), infections, fever and swelling – these symptoms should always be reported to your doctor.

Most of these effects do go away within weeks but sometimes people are left with long-term problems with their skin, such as fibrosis and/or pigmentation changes. For those who have had mastectomies, followed by radiation, followed by breast reconstruction with tissue expanders, there can be real problems.  If nothing is done to manage the side effects of the radiation therapy, the skin can often be quite damaged and this makes the tissue expanders and silicone implants used with breast reconstruction more difficult and uncomfortable because radiated skin can lose its elasticity and be tight and dry.

What NOT To Use

Some women are recommended to have a product such as Eucerin Aquaphor healing ointment.  Now I don’t wish to denigrate a company’s product but no one should be putting this stuff on their breast (or anywhere else for that matter).  Here is the list of ingredients:
Petrolatum, Mineral oil, Ceresin, Lanolin Alcohol, Panthenol, Glycerin, Bisabolol. These look pretty harmless unless you know something about these ingredients.

Petrolatum is a by-product of the petroleum industry, it’s full of xenoestrogens (environmental estrogens) that put us at a higher risk for breast cancer.  No way you should be using anything with petrolatum in the ingredients. Mineral oil is no better, It’s an extremely cheap and commonly used byproduct from crude oil and is a known xenoestrogen.  For more information on xenoestrogens, see my article Protect Yourself From Xenoestrogens and Estrogen Dominance.

Ceresin is a wax derived from ozocerite, a naturally occurring fossil wax found near soft shale. That sounds safe, right? Maybe not. This ingredient has been shown to cause skin irritation and sensitization in some people. You can check it out on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database (reference below).

Lanolin is a wax obtained from the sebaceous gland of sheep. Years ago, lanolin was a good thing and has been used down through the centuries for moisturizing the skin and for softening leather. Sounds nice and natural, right? But there are hidden problems with lanolin. For one thing, lanolin is removed from sheepskin and wool with chemical scouring. Also, sheep are routinely dipped in pesticides and chemicals such as organochlorine, organophosphate, and pyrethroid to kill parasites. You can be sure that these toxic chemicals will concentrate in the lanolin – studies show that these chemicals bind to lanolin because of its waxy consistency and become concentrated in the lanolin. No way do you want to use anything with lanolin in it on your irradiated tissues.

Panthenol is derived from vitamin B-5. I have no problem with this ingredient, as far as I know, it is a safe ingredient.

Glycerin is chemically produced by combining water and fat, usually from vegetables, and while that sounds nice and natural (you can guess what’s coming!), these days it is generally made from GMO (genetically modified) vegetables such as corn and beets, and people are beginning to have problems with this. Sometimes glycerin is derived from the jatropha plant and back in 2012 the FDA sent out a notification that oils, glycerin, and proteins, if derived from the jatropha plant, may contain toxins. Glycerin actually draws moisture from the lower layers of the skin and holds it on the surface, thus drying the skin from the inside out and that won’t help you during radiotherapy.

Bisabolol is a plant-based chemical derived from certain essential oils. In this formulation it is probably not organically grown, so may be another source of toxic chemicals.

Parabens are chemical preservatives. Be sure not to use anything that contains propylparaben or methylparaben, these are usually the last ingredient in the list, they are associated with breast tumors. Prof Darbre at Reading University in the UK has been studying the effect of parabens on breast tissue for many years and has observed that 99% of human breast tissue samples collected contained parabens.  Her most recent research appears below. Parabens are causing major problems for our breast health.

You Have To Be A Label Reader!

All of this just shows why I teach that you MUST become a label reader when it comes to your body products and cosmetics.  You have to know what’s in them, otherwise you may just be putting yourself at risk for breast cancer (or risk of recurrence).

I am frequently asked for my recommendation on what to do about keeping skin healthy and protected against the burning experienced during radiotherapy so I am happy to share that here.  Although I chose not to have radiotherapy, a number of my coaching clients have used this protocol and it works wonderfully, includes no toxic chemicals nor (most importantly) anything that would hamper the radiotherapy process.

Avoid The Burned Boob!  Marnie’s Skin Protection Protocol During Radiotherapy Treatments

Two weeks prior to commencement of radiotherapy, follow this routine daily. Once radiotherapy commences, follow this routine twice per day, but making sure not to do this within an hour prior to radiotherapy appointment.

  1. Using a cotton pad soaked in organic calendula officinalis oil like this one, apply liberally to area to be irradiated.  It will soak in and should leave no residue that you need to wash off.
  2. Once that has soaked in, then apply a sufficient quantity of organic aloe vera gel (this is a good brand). Saturate tissue with this.
  3. Lastly, dilute 1-2 drops of a medicinal grade lavender essential oil (organic is best if you can get it) in one teaspoonful of organic coconut oil (this is a good brand) or organic hempseed oil (this is a great one) and apply that to the area.
  4. Repeat again at bedtime or the next morning, but not within one hour of the next radiotherapy session.

If you are not in the USA, the links above will not work for you. Check with suppliers in your region or let me know if you need help locating something.

So to recap – two weeks prior to commencement of radiotherapy, you are following this protocol once per day. Once radiotherapy commences, you are using the calendula oil, the aloe vera gel, and the lavender oil mixed with coconut or hempseed oil twice per day (or more as your skin requires).  Continue this procedure on the weekends as well and continue doing this for a couple of weeks after the treatments end.  The difference between following this protocol and not doing it is quite stunning.

Why does it work so well?

The calendula oil helps to heal the skin and works better than the commonly prescribed remedies, and it has anti-cancer properties. The aloe vera gel is well known for its burn healing benefits, plus one study showed it may also assist radiotherapy to do its job better. The lavender oil helps to heal burns and wounds and has natural anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, pain relieving and anti-cancer properties. Coconut oil helps to heal burns and keeps the skin well nourished with its essential fatty acids. Hempseed oil has pain relieving, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-cancer, anti-fungal and neuroprotective properties.

Other tips – keep the area out of the sun while you are going through radiotherapy.  Wear loose fitting cotton or natural fiber clothing.  Avoid chlorine whenever you can, both in swimming pools and in shower water (use a good shower filter like this).

For more information on the healing effects of calendula, see my article The Benefits of Calendula Officinalis for Radiodermatitis.  Also learn how curcumin can help you at this time: Going Through Radiotherapy For Breast Cancer? Better Take Curcumin

References:

Relationship between everyday use cosmetics and female breast cancerhttp://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24694726

Parabens can enable hallmarks and characteristics of cancer in human breast epithelial cells: a review of the literature with reference to new exposure data and regulatory status — http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25047802

Phase III Randomized Trial of Calendula Officinalis Compared with Trolamine for the Prevention of Acute Dermatitis During Irradiation for Breast Cancer – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15084618

Anti-inflammatory, Anti-tumor-promoting, and Cytotoxic Activities of Constituents of Marigold (Calendula Officinalis) Flowers – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17190444

Radio Sensitizing Effect of Aloe Polysaccharide on Pancreatic Cancer Bxpc-3 Cells – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27393447

Burn Wound Healing Property of Cocos Nucifera: an Appraisal – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2792613/

http://101healthsteps.com/2009/05/30/dangerous-chemical-glycerin-glycerine-glycerol-glycyl-alcohol/

http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/search.php?query=petrolatum

http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient/701212/CERESIN/

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. 

Going Through Radiotherapy For Breast Cancer? Better Take Curcumin!

Image Source: freedigitalphotos.net / artur84
Image Source: freedigitalphotos.net / artur84

Going Through Radiotherapy For Breast Cancer?  Better Take Curcumin!

If you are currently going through radiotherapy for breast cancer, you would be well advised to include curcumin in your daily supplement regime.  I’ll share why in a moment.

First, however, a little rant.  I am frequently told by women going through breast cancer that when they asked their oncologist or their radiologist whether there were certain supplements which would help them get through the treatments, without much variation they are told “Just eat what you want to, evidence doesn’t support that a certain diet or supplements will help you.”

THIS IS JUST PLAIN WRONG!

Anyone who advises that nutrition is unimportant for people going through cancer is both ill-informed and dangerous.  Ill-informed because the research is out there!  Evidence that nutrition makes a huge difference is comprehensive.   And I say they are dangerous because such advice causes vulnerable people to ignore or disregard a source of significant help which would improve both their quality of life and their survival.   Good nutrition can indeed reduce the risk of developing cancer, it can slow the rate of progression, and it can very effectively stop recurrences.  Okay, rant over.  Back to curcumin and how it can help with radiotherapy.

Should you not be familiar with curcumin, it is a yellow pigment derived from turmeric, a common root used for spice and cooking.

In a 2007 study, Radioprotection and Radiosensitization By Curcumin, researchers found that  curcumin “…has been reported to protect various study systems against the deleterious effects induced by ionizing radiation and to enhance the effect of radiation. Therefore, curcumin can be very useful during radiotherapy of cancer.  Administration of curcumin in patients will be able to kill the tumor cells effectively by enhancing the effect of radiation and, at the same time, protect normal cells against the harmful effects of radiation.”

In plainer language, this means that curcumin was found to be protective against the harmful effects that occur as a result of radiotherapy, and that curcumin actually enhanced the effect of radiotherapy.

The available information on curcumin suggests that its protective effects may be due to its ability to reduce oxidative stress and inhibit transcription of the genes related to oxidative stress and inflammatory responses.  In addition, curcumin’s ability to enhance radiotherapy could be due to the upregulation of genes responsible for cell death.

A newer Iranian study published in 2013 and done with prostate cancer patients, A Pilot Clinical Trial of Radioprotective Effects of Curcumin Supplementation in Patients with Prostate Cancer found that “Curcumin can confer radioprotective effect in patients with prostate cancer who undergo radiation therapy through reducing the severity of radiotherapy related urinary symptoms.”

I think the best article, and the most relevant one to date is The Effect Of Curcumin On Breast Cancer Cells published in the Journal of Breast Cancer in June 2013.  Although this one didn’t study curcumin’s effects for those going through radiotherapy for breast cancer, take the time to read the study because it will make a believer out of you that curcumin has a powerful chemotherapeutic role to play in the treatment of breast cancer.

For more information about curcumin, particularly its benefits for cancer patients, and for specific dosages, see my article Harvest the Power of Curcumin To Kill Breast Cancer Cells.

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.  

The Benefits of Calendula Officinalis For Radiodermatitis

Image Source: freeimages.com / claudmey
Image Source: freeimages.com / claudmey

The Benefits of Calendula Officinalis For Radiodermatitis

I had an interesting exchange of emails this week with one of my subscribers who was asking me about the benefits of calendula for radiodermatitis (a/k/a the Burned Boob).

Because of my ongoing herbal studies, I am quite well acquainted with the herb calendula officinalis for many health complaints, chief amongst them being the healing of skin complaints like eczema, wound healing, insect bites, etc and it does this mainly through its antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.

Research on Calendula Officinalis and Radiodermatitis

I decided to see if there had been any recent research on calendula, I wanted to satisfy myself that it could be safely used as a healing agent after radiotherapy treatments so as to prevent the dreaded Burned Boob.

I found a very interesting 2004 study: Phase III randomized trial of Calendula officinalis compared with trolamine for the prevention of dermatitis during irradiation for breast cancer which indicated that calendula officinalis was highly effective for the prevention of acute dermatitis for postoperative patients undergoing radiation for breast cancer, better than the trolamine that was usually recommended.  The patients used a particular brand, Boiron, a French company, and it is widely available in many parts of the world.

I also found a 2013 study comparing calendula cream with another widely used aqueous cream called Essex: No differences between Calendula cream and aqueous cream in the prevention of acute radiation skin reactions–results from a randomised blinded trial.  This study, as can be gleaned from the title, found there was no difference between the effects of the calendula cream compared with Essex cream on patients undergoing radiotherapy.  That might be so, however, if you have a look at the ingredients for the Essex cream, it is full of petroleum products, which are known xenoestrogens (see my article Unraveling the Mystery of Xenoestrogens and Estrogen Dominance for more information on the hazards of xenoestrogens) and hormone disruptors, and put us at a higher risk for breast cancer.  Why anyone would recommend Essex cream to a woman who is undergoing treatments for breast cancer seems to me to be irresponsible.

To be fair, there were problems with a few of the ingredients in the Boiron cream as well – both Pegoxol-7 stearate and sodium hydroxide are moderate hazards, according to the Environmental Working Group website, Skin Deep.

Calendula Officinalis Has Anti-Tumor Properties

While scrolling through the list of research on the pubmed.gov website, I came across an interesting 2006 study that indicated calendula officinalis also has anti-tumor properties, as well as having a positive effect on lymphocytes, an important part of the immune system.  The study is titled A new extract of the plant Calendula officinalis produces a dual in vitro effect: cytotoxic anti-tumor activity and lymphocyte activation.  Please read it – I believe this to be important information for anyone going through breast cancer.

I do recommend the use of calendula officinalis for avoiding the Burned Boob.  I do believe, however, that the empowered patient must find a good organic calendula cream or gel and it should be used after each treatment (you might have to clear it with your radiologist however).

Here are a few good ones I found for you:

Weleda Calendula Healing Cream (available in the USA, UK and Australia)

Four Cow Farm Organic Calendula Remedy (Australian company)

Roseneath Organics Calendula Cream (Australian company)

Mukti Calendula Cream (Australian company) – this one also has the benefit of organic aloe vera in it, an especially good healing agent for radiodermatitis.

Lotioncrafter Certified Organic Calendula Extract (USA company, ships internationally)

I hope that helps you – and please contact me if you need any more information or assistance.

If you would like to receive my best tips on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences, just  sign up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right, and/or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com). I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond. 

Unusual Help For Radiation Dermatitis

 

Photo courtesy of morgueFile / cohdra

Image Source: morgueFile / cohdra

Unusual Help For Radiation Dermatitis

Anyone who has gone through radiation therapy for breast cancer understands the meaning of the term “radiation dermatitis”.  By the time the treatment has ended, the patient can have a few nasty side effects ranging anywhere between a mild sunburn to severe and painful ulcerations of the skin.  Some unlucky patients even suffer from radiation necrosis, where the skin of the radiated area actually dies off, creating a hardened and painful area which can take quite some to heal properly.

I don’t share that with you to frighten you, but only to inform because if you are proactive you can definitely ease the discomfort and even hasten your healing time.

What Causes Radiation Dermatitis?

Radiotherapy, also known as radiation oncology, is a form of cancer treatment generally paired with chemotherapy and surgery.  The treatment consists of  beams of radiation being focused onto a tumor (or tumor site if it has been removed), the goal being to kill any malignant cells.  Because the radiation must first pass through the skin, the skin’s quickly dividing cells become damaged as a result.  Radiation dermatitis first presents as a patch of irritation resembling a sunburn. In most cases, healing occurs within weeks of the end of radiotherapy, though some patients report that the skin discoloration remains for many years.

As one radiation oncologist describes it, “Radiation causes skin to fail to reproduce properly, and thus as you ‘use up’ your normal skin, like we all do all day, there are no new layers of skin coming up from the bottom. So eventually the area can ulcerate. This might look like a thermal burn, but it has very little in common with a thermal burn, and the treatments for thermal burns will not help much.” (I’m sorry, I’ve lost the name of the doctor who shared this information.)

Dr Schor Shares Some Research on Bleach Baths for Radiation Dermatitis

Whenever I hear of some new tidbit of information about something assisting radiation dermatitis, I do try to share it.  This time, it comes from Denver-based naturopath, Jacob Schor, ND, FABNO (who is often quoted in this website).  Dr Schor shared this information in a newsletter dated January 14, 2014:

A study published in November 2013 suggests something rather peculiar, that exposure to very dilute laundry bleach may protect against radiation dermatitis.  If you’ve ever followed a cancer patient as they went through radiation treatment, you know what radiation dermatitis is.  Radiation damages the skin, causing what might be less euphemistically described as causing an industrial sunburn, or more accurately as producing human jerky.  Bleach may prevent this from happening, at least to some extent.

A dermatologist named Thomas Leung from Stanford University reported on a pair of trials bathing mice in diluted bleach (hypochlorite). Dilute bleach baths have been used for years to treat eczema, without anyone really knowing why they helped.

One theory was that bleach, being antimicrobial, killed off bacteria that were causing the eczema. A 2009 paper by Amy Paller et al suggests that bleach baths are effective at lowering Staph aureus populations on the skin.[1]    While this sounds like a plausible explanation, there is debate and many consider the bleach dilutions used too weak to have any antibacterial effect.

Really dilute bleach is used to treat eczema, 0.005% sodium hypochlorite, or about one part laundry bleach to 1000 parts water. Leung offers a different explanation for the benefit of bleach.  His research group first examined how diluted bleach affects inflammation; eczema is after all inflammation.

The researchers first examined the effect bleach has on Nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kB ).  This signaling protein triggers the recruitment of inflammatory cells to sites of infection. Leung’s team exposed human skin cells to the bleach dilution used to treat eczema for an hour and found it blocked NF-kB signaling. The bleach oxidizes the molecule responsible for activating NF-kB and so stops the inflammatory cascade from being initiated. By blocking this activator, the bleach inhibits the NF-kB inflammatory pathway.

This is ever so interesting and opens multiple possibilities.  NF-kB is kind of the common denominator of most inflammatory reactions; it ‘regulates cellular responses to inflammation and aging, and alterations in NF-kB signaling underlie the pathogenesis of multiple human diseases.’

Leung’s team tried dilute bleach on mice to see if it changed radiation dermatitis, as this reaction is instigated by NF-kB. They also tried bleach on the ageing skin of healthy but old mice.

In the radiation experiment, the mice were placed in either a dilute bleach bath or a water bath for 30 minutes daily for ten days prior to radiation treatment. The radiation burns on these ‘bleached’ mice were milder and healed faster than those on the mice who had only been exposed to water baths.

Similar benefits were seen in the old mice.  Daily bleach baths ‘… increased skin cell production resulting in thicker, younger-looking skin than old mice that took plain water baths. In addition, they had lower expression of two genes classically associated with aging.  The effect was short lived, however. The rejuvenated skin returned to its elderly look after about two weeks because the action of bleach on NF-kB is mild, and diminishes with time.’ [2,3]

This might be a surprisingly simple way to reduce radiation dermatitis.  Nasty skin reactions can force postponement of radiation treatment and reduce its effectiveness at preventing cancer recurrence.  Preventing the skin reactions might improve long-term survival.

Bleach may do more than prevent these skin reactions in cancer patients.  NF-kB  ‘plays a critical role in cancer development and progression’ and is a ‘key pathway in activation of immune responses’ and this ‘activation may also affect the cancer’s response to therapy, making it less susceptive to radio and chemo treatment.’ [4]

We already encourage cancer patients to take many of the supplements that lower NF-kB .  These include green tea [5] , curcumin [6,7], quercetin [8-10], nigella sativa, [11] resveratrol  and other polyphenols [12].  A daily dip in the bleach might help cancer patients in other ways.

This study draws my attention because it is so counterintuitive.  It is backwards from what you would think.  Bleach is a nasty caustic oxidant. It should hurt, not help.

One way to understand this is to see this as an example of hormesis. In toxicology, hormesis refers to the phenomenon in which a graph of a substance’s toxic effects takes on a j-shaped or u-shaped curve.    Low doses can sometimes produce the opposite effect of higher doses.  It is like homeopathy’s Law of Similars, just skip the infinitesimal dilutions where there is nothing left except good vibrations..   Concentrated bleach will burn the dickens out of your skin, but in tiny amounts, bleach will protect and heal the skin.

Understanding hormesis may be key to our understanding other therapies we employ in naturopathy.  Many of the phytochemicals we value so much are toxins produced by plants for self-protection.  Curcumin, resveratrol, quercetin and other  of our valued phytochemicals are actually insecticides, anti-fungals and neurotoxins.  Plants make them to ward off predators and kill infectious microbes.  When we use them, it is for their hormetic action.  Exposure triggers an adaptive response in the body recruiting resources to neutralize potential injury.

So what exactly is a 0.005% hypochlorite bleach solution?  Generic bleach is typically about 3-6% sodium hypochlorite.  To reach this dilution one would dilute one-part bleach with about 1,000 parts water.  An average bathtub contains about 100 liters of water, more or less, so a tenth of a liter or 100 ml of bleach, (3.4 oz or about half a cup) would produce approximately this dilution.  Of course bathtubs vary greatly in size, but this gives you an approximate idea.

This is close to the dilution that various websites suggest to treat eczema. The National Eczema Association[13]  and the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology both suggest ¼ to ½ cup. [14]

While these data come from animal experiments, there seems to be little risk in translating them into treatment protocols for people.  As mentioned bleach baths are already used to treat eczema.  It seems easy enough to incorporate them into a treatment for cancer patients as well.

References:

1. Huang JT, Abrams M, Tlougan B, Rademaker A, Paller AS. Treatment of Staphylococcus aureus colonization in atopic dermatitis decreases disease severity. Pediatrics. 2009 May;123(5):e808-14. doi: 10.1542/peds.2008-2217.

2.   Alyssa Botelho. Vastly diluted bleach may have protective effect on skin. New Scientist:18:28 15 November 2013.

3.  Leung TH, Zhang LF, Wang J, Ning S, Knox SJ, Kim SK. Topical hypochlorite ameliorates NF-κB-mediated skin diseases in mice. J Clin Invest. 2013 Dec 2;123(12):5361-70. Full text: 10.1172/JCI70895

4.  Berkovich L, Ron I, Earon G, Abu-Ghanem S, Rimmon A, Lev-Ari S. [The role of medicinal herbs with anti-inflammatory properties in prevention and treatment of cancer].[Article in Hebrew] Harefuah. 2012 Nov;151(11):629-32, 654.

 5. Syed DN, Afaq F, Kweon MH, Hadi N, Bhatia N, Spiegelman VS, Mukhtar H. Green tea polyphenol EGCG suppresses cigarette smoke condensate-induced NF-kappaB activation in normal human bronchial epithelial cells. Oncogene. 2007 Feb 1;26(5):673-82.

6.  Meng Z, Yan C, Deng Q, Gao DF, Niu XL. Curcumin inhibits LPS-induced inflammation in rat vascular smooth muscle cells in vitro via ROS-relative TLR4-MAPK/NF-κB pathways. Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2013 May 6.

7.  Capini C, Jaturanpinyo M, Chang HI, Mutalik S, McNally A, Street S, Steptoe R, et al. Antigen-specific suppression of inflammatory arthritis using liposomes. J Immunol. 2009 Mar 15;182(6):3556-65

8.  Weng Z, Zhang B, Asadi S, Sismanopoulos N, Butcher A, Fu X, Katsarou-Katsari A, et al. Quercetin is more effective than cromolyn in blocking human mast cell cytokine release and inhibits contact dermatitis and photosensitivity in humans. PLoS One. 2012;7(3):e33805.

9.  Yin Y, Li W, Son YO, Sun L, Lu J, Kim D, Wang X, et al.  Quercitin protects skin from UVB-induced oxidative damage. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2013 Jun 1;269(2):89-99.

10.  Byun EB, Yang MS, Choi HG, Sung NY, Song DS, Sin SJ, Byun EH. Quercetin negatively regulates TLR4 signaling induced by lipopolysaccharide through Tollip expression. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2013 Feb 22;431(4):698-705. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2013.01.056.

11.  Vaillancourt F, Silva P, Shi Q, Fahmi H, Fernandes JC, Benderdour M.J. Elucidation of molecular mechanisms underlying the protective effects of thymoquinone against rheumatoid arthritis.
Cell Biochem. 2011 Jan;112(1):107-17. doi: 10.1002/jcb.22884.

 12. Zhu X, Liu Q, Wang M, Liang M, Yang X, Xu X, Zou H, Qiu J. Activation of Sirt1 by resveratrol inhibits TNF-α induced inflammation in fibroblasts. PLoS One. 2011;6(11):e27081. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0027081.

13.  http://nationaleczema.org/eczema/treatment/alternative-therapies/bleach-baths/

14.  http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/allergy-library/bleach-bath-recipe-for-skin-conditions.aspx

A big thank you to Dr Schor for allowing me to share his newsletter with all of you.  I particularly enjoyed his description of why he thought bleach might work, as well as the protective supplements that he recommends to help radiation patients.

One More Recommendation

I frequently get asked for natural topical products that help with the discomfort of radiation dermatitis and my followers and clients have had very good results with one particular organic body cream so I like to share it whenever anyone mentions they are about to have radiation treatments.  Despite what the radiation oncologist said earlier in this article, there are things that help quite significantly by protecting the skin and helping it to heal much quicker.

UPDATE: See my page How To Protect Your Skin During Radiation Treatment for Breast Cancer

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 (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach).  It is my honor and my goal to help you through this so that you emerge from breast cancer feeling better than before, thriving!

Do Radiation Treatments Increase Your Risk For Pericarditis?

Photo courtesy of imagina / MorgueFile.com
Image source: imagina / MorgueFile.com

I was contacted this week by one of my Facebook fans, a lady who is 44, normally in good health, but currently undergoing radiation treatments for breast cancer.  She told me that she began suffering (in her words) the worst chest pain, thought she was having a heart attack, so she went to the hospital ER and was diagnosed with pericarditis.

What Is Pericarditis?

Pericarditis is caused by inflammation of the pericardium, which is the sac that surrounds the heart.  The pericardium exists to protect the heart and reduce friction between the heart and surrounding organs. 

When the pericardium gets inflamed, it can be pretty uncomfortable, bordering on agonizing (especially when taking a deep breath).  According to uptodate.com, Some of the causes of pericarditis can be drugs and toxins, infection, trauma, kidney failure, cancerous tumors, rheumatic diseases such as lupus, gastrointestinal diseases such as Crohn’s, and yes, you guessed it, radiation therapy.

While this lady’s cardiologist believes the pericarditis could very well be caused by her radiation therapy, her radiation oncologist said “No way, you haven’t had enough treatments for that to happen.”  She had undergone 11 treatments when the chest pain began.

So now she doesn’t know what to do, or who to believe.  She doesn’t want to resume the radiotherapy, believing it could be creating the pericarditis.  Can’t say I blame her.  Time to go into research mode.

Ralph Moss Speaks on Radiotherapy and Heart Disease Risk

I found a very interesting article written by Ralph W Moss, PhD, “Radiation Therapy for Breast Cancer“.  In his article, Dr Moss (who wrote the book “Cancer Therapy”, among others) mentions a study published in the March 7, 2007 Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI) which revealed that radiation increases the risk of heart disease in women who receive it following surgery for breast cancer.  Dr Moss states “The JNCI study is unquestionably a major blow to the orthodox medical profession’s insistent claims that radiation has evolved into a safe modality for the post-operative treatment of breast cancer.”

Dr Moss goes on to state, “In the JNCI study, researchers at the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam evaluated 4,414 breast cancer patients who survived for at least ten years after receiving radiotherapy between the years 1970 and 1986. The patients were followed for a median of 18 years. These patients’ rates of cardiovascular disease were then compared with those seen in the general population (Hooning 2007). In other words, this was a very large and prolonged study.  There were a total of 942 ‘cardiovascular events’ during the follow-up period.  The good news was that radiation therapy limited to the breast itself did not increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. However, when either the left or right internal mammary chain of lymph nodes was included in the radiation field, as is common in post-operative radiotherapy, it did significantly increase that risk.”

The fact that radiation of the breast increases the risk of heart disease is not a new finding.  Clear back in the 1960s, it became known that, after receiving adjuvant radiation to prevent breast cancer recurrence, quite a few women were dying of heart disease, often decades after their breast cancer diagnosis (Fajardo 2001).  Apparently, there were so many women dying from the long-term adverse effects of radiation therapy, it overturned any survival benefit that the treatment supposedly conferred.

When you consider the fact that some chemotherapy drugs (most notably Adriamycin and Herceptin) also increase the risk of cardiotoxicity, it is truly worrisome and each patient must carefully consider these facts before commencing therapies.

A Couple of Suggestions

I have two suggestions for this lady.  One would be to consider having prone breast radiation.  See my article Prone Breast Radiation, A Newer, Safer Way for more information.

Secondly (and particularly if continuing radiation therapy isn’t something she wants to do), contact an oncologist naturopath (you can locate one in your area by contacting the Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians (www.OncANP.org).

If you are not familiar with what a naturopath does, this description comes from the OncANP website: “Naturopathic Physicians diagnose, treat, and help prevent diseases using a system of practice that is based on the natural healing capacity of individuals. They may use physiological, psychological or mechanical methods. They may also use natural medicines, prescription or legend drugs, foods, herbs, or other natural remedies.” 

I chose to work with a naturopath, among many other things, because after going through chemotherapy, I just felt like my body could not endure one more toxic therapy so rather than going forward with radiation therapy, I chose to rebuild my body using particular foods, herbs, supplements, exercise and meditation I knew I needed badly.  I was under the care of a naturopath, I had regular chiropractic adjustments  and acupuncture treatments (since we are electrical bodies and optimal functioning of nerves and muscles and bones do need regular tune-ups).  I also used very particular essential oils to help rebuild my immune system and increase breast health.  Check out my page “Essential Oils For Overall Health and Specific Health Problems” for more information about that.

 References:

Radiation Therapy for Breast Cancer, by Ralph W Moss: http://www.encognitive.com/node/1574

Fajardo LR, et al. Radiation Pathology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Hooning MJ, Botma A, Aleman BM, et al. – Long-term risk of cardiovascular disease in 10-year survivors of breast cancer, J Natl Cancer Inst, 2007

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, 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!

How To Detox Your Body After Chemotherapy & Radiation

 

Image Source: freedigitalphotos.net / zirconicusso

 How To Detox Your Body After Chemotherapy & Radiation

Why It’s Important To Detox Your Body After Chemotherapy & Radiation

Although your body does a great job of detoxing all on its own – at least when you’re healthy – when you’ve been through chemotherapy and/or radiation, your body is overloaded with chemical residues.  It is important to detox after chemotherapy and/or radiation and you’re going to feel so much better if you do.

An overload of toxins is known to cause bloating, fatigue, headaches, poor memory, aching muscles, a suppressed immune system (which is the very thing you’re relying on to keep you well), even halitosis (bad breath!). Toxic buildup within the body can also be a problem if you have had lymph nodes removed because our lymphatic system acts as another method of waste removal, and this toxic buildup can worsen lymphedema.

Once chemotherapy and radiation are finished and these strong treatments have done their work, the body is filled with toxins.  Radiation can damage healthy cells and create toxic buildup and if you think about it, even cancer cells themselves become toxins as they wither up and die from the treatments.

Make sure you’re strong enough to undergo cleansing, however.  Consult with your physician or naturopath before embarking on a cleansing path.  You might find it necessary to wait a number of weeks or even months if you are too weak but the sooner you get started detoxing, the better you will feel.  Even if you are too weak, you can still increase your water intake, do some gentle exercise and begin juicing (for more on juicing, keep reading).

How To Detox Your Body After Chemotherapy & Radiation – 10 Tips

1.  Colonic Hydrotherapy – Colonic hydrotherapy can be of assistance not only after chemotherapy but also during to help alleviate the terrible constipation that often results from chemotherapy.  Your medical staff may argue the efficacy of chemotherapy (I had one nurse tell me that we are designed for wastes to move ONE way and we shouldn’t go against that!) but it really helps tremendously.  I went through a course of colonic hydrotherapy post-chemo and found it to be a gentle and effective method for toxin and waste cleansing.  There’s nothing new about colonics – Egyptians were using it for constipation centuries ago.  If you’d like to read one person’s experience with it, click here.

2.  Drink Plenty of Water, Herbal Tea – This is the most natural way to detox your body after chemotherapy.  Make sure your water is filtered (here are some good water filters) to help keep you safe from herbicides, pesticides, and other assorted nasties that our water can often contain.  We used to hear that drinking 8 glasses of water per day was essential, however, newer studies have shown that as long as you are sipping away on water all day you are probably getting what you need.  Put in a slice of lemon for some additional flavor, cleansing qualities and antioxidant protection.  Herbal teas are also wonderful to help the cleansing process, particularly dandelion tea which is a liver tonic.

3.  Juicing, Juicing, Juicing – It seems like I am always touting the benefits of juicing organic vegetables and fruits but their importance for health cannot be overstressed.  Make sure you have a great juicer though, as not all juicers are designed to keep the living enzymes within your expensive organic produce alive!  Here’s a great one, this is the one I use (and it’s a great price).  Live juices can help to heal, rejuvenate, and flush away toxins. Fresh vegetable and fruit juices are the cleansers, energizers, regenerators, and blood builders of the human body.  Try any combination of beet (great blood cleanser), kale, spinach, carrot, cucumber, apple, ginger and pineapple (both great anti-inflammatories, so that makes them anti-cancer as well).  Blueberries, strawberries and raspberries are full of antioxidants and help to cleanse the blood of impurities.  See my page Diet and Cancer for some data on why certain vegies and fruit are good for cancer. I have loads of articles on my website about the benefits of juicing, so be sure to check them out as well.

4.  Circulate Your Blood – Something as simple as bouncing on a rebounder (one of those mini trampolines) for 10 minutes a couple of times per day helps to get your heart pumping, blood circulating and toxins flushing out of your body.  Best done BEFORE a meal or juicing, however!  Walking, cycling, hiking, dancing, yoga – all of these are great to get the body moving and detoxing.  Make sure you drink plenty of filtered water after exercising.

5.  Fiber – Fiber helps to grab onto toxins in your digestive tract.  Fiber soaks up toxins rather like a sponge, speeds up elimination, helps with cleansing.  Natural fiber is available from fruits, vegetables and whole grains, however there are also plenty of fiber products on the market which you could add to your health regimen.  One particularly good one is freshly ground organic flaxseed.

6.  Herbal Medicine – There are many herbs and essential oils which will assist you in detoxing after chemotherapy and radiation.  Milk thistle is a particularly good herb for liver cleansing.  I would definitely recommend seeking the advice of a qualified naturopath before using herbal medicine, however, because they are specifically trained in herbal medicine and since herbs can sometimes have drug interactions you would want the best guidance possible for your particular needs.

7.  Eating Organic Food – Because at this stage you are working towards detoxing and keeping well and healthy, your best bet is to avoid processed and sugar-laden foods as these will not assist the detox process.  Eating plenty of organic fruits, vegetables and lean meats like fish or chicken is much more conducive to keeping your system clear of any further toxins.  Google “raw food recipes” for some really great suggestions and recipes that appeal to you.

8.  Epsom Salt Baths – There is something so restorative about a hot epsom salt bath!  Hot water opens the pores and assists perspiration to take toxins away.  Epsom salt is actually magnesium sulfate, and these two minerals help generate enzymes that clean up the body.  To make it a totally revitalizing experience, add lavender essential oil for its calming effects, or ginger which also helps to open the pores and is a good natural anti-inflammatory.  If you don’t have epsom salts, baking soda is also useful and it helps to neutralize the effects of radiation.  This is another place where water filtration is important because if you live in an area where the water is highly chlorinated you are soaking all that chlorine up into your body through the skin.  Chlorine and breast cancer are linked, see this article from globalhealingcenter.com.  For a great recipe on a particular sort of detox bath, see my article How To Detox In Your Bathtub.

9.  Detox Your Household – You might not think about this, but if your body and skin care products are laden with toxins you are taking all of those into your body via the skin as well.  If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin or hair.  I would be doing you a disservice if I didn’t mention the importance of using organic body products and cosmetics when you are detoxing your body.  There are several good brands out there, contact me if you need help finding good ones.

10.  You Must Rebuild Your Immune System – Since your immune system is your first line of defense against cancer and all other diseases, you must rebuild it because the chemotherapy and radiation treatments will have blasted the hell out of the very thing you are relying upon to stay well.  Yes, your body may eventually do this on its own, but the process is generally quite slow and we don’t want to give any open doors to stray cancer cells.  Here’s my page on how to build immunity quickly so that it’s very strong:  8 Ways To Build A Super Strong Immune System.

I know that’s a lot of things to think about, but if you are determined to get well and stay well, incorporating even just two or three of these suggestions into your life will be very helpful.

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, and/or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com).  It is my honor and my goal to help you through this, so that you are better than before, thriving!

Prone Breast Radiation – A New, Safer Way

http://MarnieClark.com/prone-breast-radiation-a-new-safer-way

Prone Breast Radiation

One of my subscribers just shared with me that she chose to have prone breast radiation, as opposed to the usual supine, or face-up style of radiation.

I hadn’t heard of this before so I’ve just done some research for you and wanted to share it with you.  Color me impressed!

Minimizes Damage to Cardiac and Lung Tissue

What I liked about the research on prone breast radiation is that with the breast dangling down away from the body during radiation in the prone position, radiation exposure to the surrounding organs and tissues, such as the heart and lungs, is minimized. This lowers the risk of complications, such as future heart disease and lung damage, which was a definite deciding factor for me when I decided against radiotherapy.

Adjuvant radiotherapy to the breast appears to contribute to improved outcomes in persons with breast cancer after breast-preservation surgery, however, whole breast radiotherapy is associated with damage to the heart and lung, increased cardiovascular mortality, and the development of lung cancer, acknowledged Dr Silvia C Formenti, of the NYU School of Medicine, New York, and colleagues in a JAMA research letter (2012;308[9]:861-863).  Some patients are apparently having problems with supine breast radiation some 15 to 20 years after treatment.

Video Shows More

I found a You Tube video showing the equipment – it’s rather like an info-mercial so you might want to ignore the obvious selling component, but the video does show you the positioning of the patient and the breast so you can see how it all works.

As with most new technology, this is not available in all areas, it is generally only available in larger treatment centers in major cities.  But as I mentioned in my article on hyperthermia we are going to have to start demanding the equipment and treatments that provide us with the best technology and chances for living disease-free.  Ask your doctor – the more people who ask for this (and sometimes we have to educate our doctors!) the more chances this type of radiotherapy will become more mainstream and available.

References:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20562590

http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1356348

http://www.igrt.com/prone_breast_radiation_therapy.asp

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 (MarnieClark.com).  It is my honor to help you through this.

Hyperthermia Treatment for Breast Cancers

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and Renjith Krishnan
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and Renjith Krishnan

I’ve been following hyperthermia treatment for breast cancer for a number of years.  Everything I’ve been reading about it is quite promising.

Hyperthermia for cancer treatment is well explained in this article from the National Cancer Institute.

Hyperthermia is the heating of body tissues (usually a tumor) to high temperatures (up to 113°F) to damage and kill cancer cells.

It is not considered to be a stand-alone treatment – hyperthermia is almost always used together with other forms of cancer therapy, such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

The interesting thing is that adding hyperthermia to pre-operative chemotherapy and radiotherapy has been shown to increase a patient’s response rates more so than chemotherapy or radiotherapy alone.

Hyperthermia and Radiotherapy May Make A Powerful Combination

Scientists are discovering that hyperthermia may make some cancer cells more sensitive to radiation and that’s why the two are generally used together – they are often given within an hour of each other.

According to Hyperthermia For Locally Advanced Breast Cancer, an article on the NCBI website, hyperthermia has been “quite effective in the treatment of chest wall recurrences of breast cancer.”  This is quite an extensive article on hyperthermia and definitely worth reading.

Hyperthermia and Chemotherapy – Another Powerful Combination

In addition to the research mentioned above, scientists in China recently published an article showing that short-term hyperthermia promoted paclitaxel (a popular breast cancer drug) in its suppression of cell proliferation.

Be sure to read Hyperthermia for Locally Advanced Breast Cancer (see link above) to see how chemotherapy is being utilized in unison with hyperthermia.  Pretty exciting research!

Side Effects of Hyperthermia?

There can be some side effects associated with heating body tissues but they appear to be minimal, usually small burns, blisters, discomfort, or pain – all of which are quite manageable and temporary.

The Down-Side

There is a down-side, but only as it relates to the inability of many patients to access this form of therapy.  The NCBI article specifically mentions: “The lack of widespread access to institutions with the experience to perform hyperthermia is a critical barrier to such trials and needs to be addressed.” 

If hyperthermia interests you, ask your oncologist about it.  Remember the old adage “The squeaky wheel gets the grease”.  If more patients start asking for this type of therapy, we improve our chances of getting more facilities offering it.

The Bicher Cancer Institute in Los Angeles utilizes hyperthermia – check out their interesting You Tube video discussing it.  I respected Dr Bicher’s strong suggestion that even after treatment a woman must be vigilant and have quarterly exams.

I send my love to everyone taking this journey right now. 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 (MarnieClark.com) and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.  

Reduce Breast Cancer – Avoid Unnecessary Medical Imaging and HRT (And How To Do That)

reduce breast cancer avoid unnecessary medical imaging and hrt
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and renjith krishnan

Today I’m making an attempt to catch up (ha ha! as if!) on the stack of articles and medical research that has been piling up in my office and came across something interesting that I thought you’d want to know about.

It appears that the Susan G Komen for the Cure Foundation recently requested the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to perform a comprehensive review of environmental causes and risk factors for breast cancer.  Here’s a link to the full report.

I found it somewhat unbelievable that things such as phthalates, bisphenol A, industrial chemicals such as benzene, ethylene oxide, or pesticides like DDT could not be conclusively linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, but I will be avoiding them anyway, and I think you should too.  The IOM did acknowledge that more research into these areas was required.  Amen to that.

The Two Environmental Factors Most Strongly Associated With Increased Breast Cancer Risk

The IOM found sufficient evidence to conclude that the two environmental factors most strongly associated with breast cancer were:

  1. Exposure to ionizing radiation; and
  2. Postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy (which will be covered in a follow-up article).

The IOM’s conclusion that there was a direct connection between radiation exposure and cancer is consistent with a great many other bodies of research which indicate that exposure to radiation in the same range as used for computed tomography (CT-scans) will increase the risk of cancer.

75 Million CT Scans Performed Annually In The U.S.

The use of CT scans has increased nearly 5-fold over the last 2 decades – did you know that 75 million CT scans are performed every year in the United States alone?  SEVENTY-FIVE MILLION!  According to the IOM report, “Thought leaders in radiology are often quoted as estimating that 30% or more of advanced imaging tests may be unnecessary.”  You think?

The reasons for overuse are many:

  • the ease of conducting the exam;
  • the clear diagnostic images made possible;
  • strong financial incentives, reflected by the growing ownership of CT scanners by non-radiologists for use in their private medical offices;
  • strong patient demand, resulting partly from advertisements that do not mention adverse effects;
  • medical malpractice concerns which lead to defensive test ordering.

I have said this before and I’ll repeat it: BREAST CANCER RISK CAN (AND SHOULD) BE REDUCED BY AVOIDING UNNECESSARY MEDICAL IMAGING.

What You Can Do To Reduce Your Risk from Medical Imaging

There are times when CT scans, x-rays and other forms of medical imaging are absolutely crucial, necessary and can be life-saving.  It is important, however, for us to enter into a dialogue with our doctors when making decisions about medical imaging.  You have every right to insist on the necessity and safety of all radiology scans that you undergo.  Make sure you understand the risks and benefits and ask your doctor to explain those risks and benefits fully before you say yes.

Here 6 Important Questions You Can Ask Your Doctor:

  1. Is this scan absolutely necessary?
  2. Are there alternative tests that could be done?
  3. How can I be assured that the test will be done the safest way possible?
  4. Will information from this scan change the management of my disease?
  5. Can/should I wait until after seeing a specialist before getting the scan?
  6. Is it necessary to do it now?

Isn’t it interesting that the very thing most doctors recommend for determining whether breast cancer has begun in a woman (mammography) is also responsible for increasing her risk?  There is another option!  See my article about thermal imaging.

My next article will cover natural alternatives to synthetic hormone replacement therapy.

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 (MarnieClark.com).  It is my honor to help you through this.

A Contemplation of Brachytherapy and IORT (You Might Want to Rethink Them)

Artwork courtesy of Zela/ rgbstock.com
Artwork courtesy of Zela/ rgbstock.com

I recently discovered that there are two new-ish therapies available as breast cancer treatments that were not available when I had breast cancer in 2004, known as brachytherapy and intra-operative radiation therapy, or IORT.

They are interesting, but do not come without risk and I thought you should know about them.  This is likely to open up a can of worms, but here goes.

Brachytherapy

For women who do not need to undergo mastectomy, a lumpectomy is performed to remove a cancerous tumor.  Brachytherapy involves the insertion of either a series of tubes or a catheter attached to a small balloon into the breast.

A radioactive source is then delivered to the surgical site, where it can kill off any remaining cancer cells within about 1 cm.  After five days of treatment, the tubes or catheter can be removed.  This allows doctors to irradiate the breast “from the inside out,” unlike the traditional method of applying radiation to the entire breast with an external beam.

Intra-Operative Radiation Therapy (IORT)

Intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT) is an intensive radiation treatment that is administered during surgery.  IORT is used to treat cancers that are difficult to remove during surgery and there remains a concern that microscopic amounts of cancer may still be in situ.  IORT allows direct radiation to the target area while sparing normal surrounding tissue.

According to the Mayo Clinic website: “IORT allows higher effective doses of radiation to be used compared to conventional radiation therapy. It’s not always possible to use very high doses during conventional radiation therapy, since sensitive organs could be nearby. IORT also allows doctors to temporarily move nearby organs or shield them from radiation exposure.”

They both sound good, right?  Read on.

The Problem Is…

In theory, these two therapies seem like a good idea because doctors can basically deliver the whole radiation treatment at the time of surgery or just after, rather than requiring the patient to go back daily for 6-7 weeks.

The problem is that these two therapies still need extensive studies to be done to ensure their effectiveness!  There is a complete lack of randomized trial data comparing the effectiveness of either of these therapies with standard whole-breast irradiation.

Randomized trials can take years, however, and how these treatments have managed to be put forward and offered without those trials is mind-boggling to me.  There is one such trial underway sponsored by the National Cancer Institute, but it will be years before the results are known.

An Interesting Research Study

In the meantime, a group of researchers from the University of Texas, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and the University of Chicago decided to compare women who had already selected one option or the other to see how they were faring.  They called it a retrospective population-based cohort study, which is not the “gold standard” of research studies, that being the randomized controlled study.  But it was useful information anyway and the results of their research was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and you can access that study here.

The research team used data compiled by Medicare, and they had a large patient population – 92,735 women treated for breast cancer between 2003 and 2007. The average age for these women was nearly 75, and they were tracked for an average of about 3 years following their radiation therapy.

One interesting thing is that the research showed very clearly the growing appeal of brachytherapy.  In 2003, only 3.5% of women on Medicare chose this treatment, but by 2007 that figure had risen to 12.5%.

Here are the results.  In the 5 years after receiving brachytherapy, 3.95% of these women went on to need a mastectomy, compared with only 2.18% of women who chose whole breast radiation. After controlling for various demographic and other factors, the researchers still found that women who had brachytherapy were 2.19 times more likely to have their breast removed.

Overall, the researchers calculated that “for every 56 women treated with breast brachytherapy, 1 woman was harmed with unnecessary mastectomy.”

There were also more post-operative complications for these women, including infections. In the first year after their lumpectomy, 28% of women in the brachytherapy group had a complication, compared with 17% of women who had their whole breast radiated.

There were also more complications from radiation. In the five years after their treatments began, 25% of women who got brachytherapy reported some sort of complication, versus 19% of women who got whole breast irradiation. These complications included breast pain, fat necrosis and rib fracture, according to the study.

It really isn’t too surprising.  It’s radioactive material that is being inserted into the body, after all.

The good news is that most women survived their breast cancer no matter which type of radiation treatment they chose – 86-87% were still alive after 5 years.

My own personal opinion is that it’s all about quality of life.  Give yourself the best chance you can to survive and enjoy your life.  For me, that choice did not include radioactive material being inserted into me or blasted onto me from above.  Here’s what I did instead.

 If you’d like to stay connected, sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com) and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.

Choosing the Right Oncologist for YOU

oncologist

Choosing the Right Oncologist for YOU

When a person is newly diagnosed with breast cancer, the last thing on our minds is whether or not we will have the right oncologist – someone who cares about us and understands what we’re going through.

Yet it is probably one of the most important things about your journey through breast cancer because this person is part of your healing team.

What exactly is an oncologist?

Breaking the word down, “onc” means bulk, mass, or tumor, and the suffix ”-logy”, means “study of”.  A medical professional who studies cancer and practices oncology is an ”oncologist”.

I know so many women who have been complaining about their oncologist lately!  There are good ones and bad ones, just as with any profession.  As long as you are paying attention and observant, you’ll easily be able to pick whether you have one or the other.

Honestly, this is so important.  If you don’t feel like your oncologist is giving you what you need, you have every right to “fire” them and find another.  Remember – they work for YOU, not the other way around.

Here’s what to look for

*Are they honest and open, easy to speak with?  Do they look at you and meet your gaze?

*Do they answer your questions using technical jargon you don’t understand?  If so, you must tell them you don’t understand.  Do they then take the time to rephrase the terminology so that you do understand?

*Do they discuss your lab results with you and make sure you understand them?

*Do they present you with options for treatment and explain each one carefully until you understand?

*Do they keep their appointments with you? (keeping in mind that sometimes they will get delayed)

*Do they return your phone calls within 24 hours?

*Are their office staff pleasant to deal with and happy?

*Are they open to allowing you to do some things your way?

If you have to answer “no” to any of those questions, it might be time to find yourself another oncologist.  It’s your body and your life, you have the final say here. 

Having a good rapport with your oncologist is really important because they are part of your healing team.  You must be comfortable with them and know that they are doing their absolute best for you.  If you don’t feel that way, you have every right to find yourself another doctor!

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. 

My Thoughts on Breast Radiation

 

Photo courtesy of rgbstock.com and Drow

Image source: rgbstock.com and Drow

My Thoughts On Breast Radiation

A few of my readers have asked me about my decision not to undergo radiation therapy on my breast after I finished chemotherapy.

Okay, so here goes.

It wasn’t an easy decision to make, I debated about it backwards and forwards for what seemed like weeks but was probably only about 10 days.  The pressure on me was enormous from both my oncologist and the radiotherapy department to which he’d referred me.

But I wasn’t about to be rushed or bullied (yes, bullied – one person who called me from the radiotherapy department tried everything she could think of to get me in there for this treatment).

Here are my reasons for not doing radiotherapy:

1.  We lived an hour away from the radiotherapy facility, so the traveling would have been grueling, two hours per day of just car time, 5 times per week for 6 weeks.  Add another hour for the actual treatment and waiting for it.  I still needed to work!  Be that as it may, if i believed it would actually help me, I would have done it.

2.  I hated the idea of the side effects I knew were waiting for me – fatigue, sensations of sunburn, possible injury to the heart, possible lung inflammation, possible nerve damage and even generation of cancer stem cells, although I didn’t know about that last item at the time.  I just wasn’t willing to risk all of that, especially after already having been through 6 months of chemotherapy.

3.  After visiting with a radiologist, I found out that for me personally radiation only improved my survival chances by about 3-5%.

I could see that my stress levels and quality of life were going to seriously suffer for 6 weeks.

Here’s what I did instead:

I had been studying natural medicine for several years.  I knew of so many other things I could do that would enhance my health and not impact my sanity, my immune system or my working life as much as radiation would.

Here’s what I did (and I don’t say you should do this too – I am just sharing information here, you have to do what’s right for you):

  • Every morning after a hot shower I spread across my chest two particular essential oils and every 3 days, I would change that pair of oils.  Click on the link to see which essential oils I used.  The hot shower helped open my pores so that the oils penetrated more deeply.
  • I then went back to bed and utilized a specific healing meditation that brought white light into my body – if you’d like that information, go to my page Guided Meditation and you can download it.
  • I took in plenty of super foods – see my page Diet and Cancer for a list of the best ones.
  • I worked on my immune system constantly.  See my page 8 Ways To Build A Super Strong Immune System.

And that’s it.  At the end of 6 weeks, I was positively glowing with health.  I’m still 100% healthy.

As I said, I’m not saying you should do exactly what I did, you must find your own healing path.  I just wanted you to know there are other ways of achieving health.

GET MY BEST TIPS on healthy ways to beat breast cancer and prevent 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.  

Member No 267494 Member No 267494

 

Ultimate Diet & Nutrition While Undergoing Chemotherapy and Radiation

Ultimate Diet & Nutrition While Undergoing Chemotherapy and Radiation
Photo courtesy of rgbstock.com and Mela

Today I’m sharing with you the ultimate diet and nutrition to help you while you are undergoing chemotherapy and radiation.

It is really important to keep your energy and nutrition levels high while undergoing chemotherapy and radiation.  Try to drink plenty of filtered water throughout your day – it helps to flush toxins from your body and cleanses and protects your kidneys.

Wherever a fresh  juice is mentioned below, include any combination of carrot, kale, celery, beet, garlic (if you can stand it!), ginger, apple, pineapple, lemon, broccoli, lettuce, and wheat grass, made with your own juicer.

Always use organic produce whenever you possibly can, but if you live in an area where organics are not readily available, just make sure to wash everything thoroughly to remove any traces of pesticide residue.

Upon Rising

Every morning drink 2 glasses of filtered water with juice from a lemon half squeezed in

Glass of fresh juice

Breakfast

A second glass of fresh juice

AND

Cereal made from a combination of oat bran or quinoa, lecithin granules, psyllium, LSA mix (combination of linseed, soy and almond), dried apricots, prunes, chopped figs or chopped banana.  Use almond, coconut or soy milk with it.

OR

Grilled or baked fish, preferably mackerel, tuna, cod, sea perch, dory or salmon

OR

Whole grain or rye bread with a thin layer of avocado, chopped tomato, sprouts and lemon juice for flavoring

OR

Energy/protein shake

Mid-morning

Any of the following:

Fresh juice diluted 50/50 with filtered water

Fruit if you feel especially hungry

Herbal teas including echinacea, red clover, chamomile, essiac tea, pau d’arco, chaparral, burdock root or dandelion

Lunch

Vegetable or miso soup (not canned) made with onions, garlic, ginger and vegetables of your choice

OR

Fresh vegetable salad (good ones to include: lettuce, carrot, bell pepper, tomatoes, celery, spinach, avocado, broccoli, cauliflower, green peas, green beans and cabbage)

AND/OR

Whole grain bread, rye bread or yeast-free pita bread with avocado spread onto it.  Add sun-dried tomatoes, lettuce, cottage cheese, grated carrot, grated beet and either salmon, tuna or tofu

Mid-Afternoon

Any of the following:

Fresh juice diluted 50/50 with filtered water

Fruit if you feel especially hungry

Herbal teas including echinacea, red clover, chamomile, essiac tea, pau d’arco, chaparral, burdock root or dandelion

Dinner

One source of protein, either organic chicken breast, turkey breast, fish (especially cod, mackerel, salmon, tuna, halibut or sardines), tofu or tempeh, or organic red meat (no more than 3 x week for red meat). Add protein source to steamed or raw vegetables (good ones to include: broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, green beans, carrots, pumpkin, potatoes, spinach, brussel sprouts, turnips)

OR

Fresh vegetable soup

OR

Wild or brown rice with fresh vegetables and shiitake mushrooms

After Dinner

Fresh chopped fruit such as apple, banana, papaya, pineapple, berries, strawberries, kiwi, grapes, melon.  Sprinkle with LSA mix and lecithin granules.

Herbal teas including echinacea, red clover, chamomile, essiac tea, pau d’arco, chaparral, burdock root or dandelion

After chemotherapy or radiation treatment has ended, it is important for you to detoxify your body – see a naturopath for help with this.

Source:  Naturopath Katrina Ellis, in her book “Shattering the Cancer Myth” (which I admit is a somewhat inflammatory title, but I found this book to be an invaluable source of information while I was going through breast cancer and I highly recommend it and the author.)

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 (MarnieClark.com).  It is my honor to help you through this.

Cancer and Fatigue: 6 Helpful Remedies

 

Cancer and Fatigue 6 Helpful Remedies

Image Source: freedigitalphotos.net and Ambro

Cancer and Fatigue

Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation can cause so much fatigue that the cancer patient often wonders what is worse – the disease or the treatment for it!

Fortunately, complementary medicine offers much to assist the cancer patient and below are a few suggestions.  I used most of these at one time or another during my breast cancer treatments and can highly recommend them.

6 Helpful Remedies for Cancer Treatment Fatigue

  1. Combine Massage with Essential Oils – You wouldn’t think that something which promotes relaxation would actually help with fatigue!  But massage is wonderful.  If you ask your therapist to include certain essential oils (such as lemongrass, eucalyptus, juniper, basil, lemon, rosemary, cypress, peppermint) as fatigue busters you will definitely notice a difference, especially the day following your massage.  Or use some of the suggested oils daily, just breathing in essential oils on a regular basis can help banish fatigue and promote clearer thinking.
  2. Eat your Greens! – Sometimes this can be really hard.  I remember just thinking about eating a green salad when I was undergoing chemotherapy would almost make me gag.  I just could not stand the thought of it!  If you’re like that, it might be easier to take supplements.  If you need suggestions about the best ones to take, see my webpage:  Marnie’s Must-Have Supplements for Breast Health
  3. Experience Chinese Medicine – While I was undergoing chemotherapy, I saw a Chinese Medicine doctor who prescribed certain herbs and did acupuncture for me every couple of weeks – I believe this helped my chemo related fatigue immensely.  The Chinese have some truly healing herbs that will really help your chi (energy).
  4. Try the Amazingly Restorative Juice of Lycium Barbarum – I drank this juice just as soon as I got my breast cancer diagnosis.  I’d been doing research on it for several years so I knew the wonderful benefits of it. I truly believe that this remarkable berry confers health benefits far and above every other juice product on the market.  I took it with me to my chemotherapy appointments – while they were pouring their chemicals into me, I was drinking goji/wolfberry juice.  I rarely suffered any fatigue or nausea.
  5. Movement Practices such as Yoga – I found yoga to be absolutely fantastic while I was undergoing treatments and I still carry on with it to this day.  It seems to help you stay active and full of energy, while at the same time it decreases stress and tension.  If you don’t have access to a class, this is a great yoga DVD for beginners.
  6. Grab Some Extra Sleep – It may seem obvious, but if you’re suffering unduly from cancer related fatigue, sometimes the best thing to do is just sleep.  Give yourself permission to do this whenever you need to!  No feeling guilty!

I hope this post helps you and I wish you great healing today.

I send my love to everyone taking this journey right now. 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) and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.  

 

If You’re Feeling Slightly Stupid During and After Cancer Treatments…

 

If You're Feeling Slightly Stupid During and After Cancer Treatments
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and Now and Zen Photography

Chemobrain Does Exist

I am an 8-year breast cancer survivor and to this day I maintain that the “therapy” I underwent caused me to have cognitive difficulties I still struggle with!

Now there’s research that bears this out.  Science Daily reported in December 2011 that breast cancer survivors may experience problems with certain mental abilities several years after treatment, regardless of whether they were treated with chemotherapy plus radiation or radiation only.  Interesting!

The article stated that “previous research suggests that chemotherapy can cause problems with memory and concentration in breast cancer survivors. To compare the effects of different types of cancer treatment on such mental abilities, Paul Jacobsen, PhD, of the Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute in Tampa, and his colleagues examined 62 breast cancer patients treated with chemotherapy plus radiation, 67 patients treated with radiation only, and 184 women with no history of cancer.  Study participants completed neuropsychological assessments six months after completing treatment and again 36 months later, which is further out from the end of treatment than most previous studies of this type.”

The study confirmed that chemotherapy CAN cause cognitive problems in breast cancer survivors that persist for three years after they finish treatment.

In addition, the investigators found that breast cancer survivors who had been treated with radiation (and not chemotherapy) often experienced problems similar to those in breast cancer survivors treated with both chemotherapy and radiation. They did not find that hormonal therapy (such as tamoxifen) caused cognitive difficulties.

It’s interesting that the study was done on both chemotherapy patients and radiation patients – all too often people are happy to lump cognitive difficulties into the “chemobrain” classification but obviously it’s not just chemotherapy that causes the problem.

I do have several things that helped me with this problem – if you’d like to know more, just sign up for my newsletters on the right and you’ll get two free reports, the first of which outlines everything I did that helped me!