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How To Cope With DCIS
Because of the fact that there has been so much controversy lately about overtreatment of DCIS, I thought it might be helpful to share with you some of the things that you can do after a DCIS diagnosis, and some good ways to cope with DCIS.
What Is DCIS?
DCIS stands for “ductal carcinoma in situ” and it means that there are too many cells and while they have the features of cancer, they are confined to the inside of the milk duct of the breast. For more information about the different kinds of breast cancer, including DCIS, please see my article The Difference Between DCIS, LCIS, ILC, IBC, Paget’s Disease & Phyllodes Tumors.
Essentially, however, a DCIS diagnosis is a good thing. It is the earliest stage of breast cancer, considered stage 0, and not invasive. Some doctors treat it aggressively, with surgery (sometimes even mastectomy), chemotherapy and radiation, while others take a “wait and see” approach because it grows so slowly. Most DCIS is discovered by mammogram, because it is usually undetectable by palpation.
Grading of DCIS
During a biopsy, when cells from your breast are removed for closer inspection, they are graded to help your physician determine the best course of treatment for you. There are three grades of DCIS:
1. Low or grade I – these look very similar to normal cells;
2. Moderate or grade II – these cells grow faster than, and look less like, normal cells.
3. High or grade III – these cells tend to grow more quickly and look much different from healthy breast cells.
Within the low-moderate grades, there are four further subclassifications:
Cribriform DCIS: Gaps exist between cancer cells in the affected breast ducts, the pattern looks like little holes and slits.
Comedo Type DCIS: This type can be slightly more aggressive than other forms of DCIS. The cells look and behave closer to invasive breast cancer cells. Comedo cells also look different under the microscope – the center of the duct is plugged with dead cellular debris known as necrosis. Also, microcalcifications (small calcium deposits) are frequently seen in the areas of necrosis.
Micropapillary and papillary: These two types have little fern-like projections of cells into the center of the duct. The micropapillary type projections are smaller than the papillary type.
How To Cope With a DCIS Diagnosis
The first thing is, don’t panic. DCIS is not life threatening and you are in a very good position to manage this using a very natural approach. Here are the things that I would recommend for you:
Step 1. Build Up Your Immune System – Since we rely upon our immune system to be our first line of defense against disease and cancer, making it as strong as it can be is the most important step toward wellness. See my page 8 Ways to Build a Super Strong Immune System.
Step 2. Get the Toxic Chemicals Out Of Your Life – Please immediately stop using grocery store body products and household cleaners. They are full of hormone disrupting chemicals and these are putting us at a higher risk for breast cancer. Become a label reader and an empowered consumer. Let me know if you need help with products or resources to find out whether the ones you are using are safe.
Step 3. Know Which Supplements Make The Biggest Difference To Your Daily Health – There are many research-backed supplements that will make a big difference to your breast health (and indeed your overall health). See my “must-have” list of supplements.
Step 4. Get Your Estrogen Levels Checked – Most doctors don’t do this, but I believe that before we are prescribed hormone blocking drugs, we should be in possession of all the facts. We might not even need them! Read this article to decide which test is best for you: http://www.townsendletter.com/Jan2014/hormone0114.html
Step 5. Get Your Vitamin D Levels Checked – Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to breast cancer. The test to ask for is 25(OH)D, also called 25-hydroxyvitamin D. If you are low, take vitamin D3. The best, most therapeutic dose is 5,000 iu per day.
Step 6. Get Your Thyroid Checked – There is almost always an issue with the thyroid after breast cancer treatments end, and sometimes even before diagnosis, so as long as you’re in the doctor’s office getting your vitamin D levels checked for step 5, get your thyroid checked out as well.
Step 7. Eat Plenty of Super Foods Daily – Please include several servings of super foods daily, see my page Diet and Cancer for some ideas. Know which foods help you and which ones don’t. How important is the role of nutrition? Every bite of food is either feeding cancer or starving it. I’m not saying you can never enjoy a piece of chocolate cake again, but know which foods will help you counteract the “naughty days” and strive to do the right thing most of the time.
Step 8. Exercise Daily – Or at least 5 times per week. Make sure to incorporate at least 30 minutes of walking, dancing, running, yoga, Pilates, cycling – whatever your passion, move your body! It reduces your recurrence risk by a huge degree, especially when combined with Step 7 (and we have research to back that up).
Step 9. Keep Stress Out Of Your Life – Whether you choose meditation, counseling, massage, Reiki, or acupuncture, keep those toxic stress levels away for good. Most women tell me that in the lead-up to their breast cancer diagnosis, poorly managed stress was the key factor that they feel undermined their immune system and let cancer in the door. Keeping stress away and dealing with toxic emotions is truly important.
Step 10. Get Good Quality Sleep – If you don’t have it, take steps to repair it, sleep is that important. See my article Want to Sleep Better?
Step 11. Cleanse Your Bowel and Liver Regularly – It is good to do this every 6 months or so. Please don’t ignore this step, it’s key for keeping you healthy. There are many ways to do this. If you require help, work with me, with your naturopath or integrative oncologist.
Oh and that controversy I was talking about – overdiagnosis and overtreatment of DCIS? Have a look at this video on the Breast Cancer Action website.
As you can see, this is a sensible and holistic approach. If you would like more tips from me, sign up for my free e-books and newsletters on the right side of this page, and/or “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach). I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.