My Thoughts On Angelina Jolie, Prophylactic Mastectomy and Genetic Predisposition
Angelina Jolie’s heart-rending choice to have a double mastectomy has certainly created a storm of controversy this week among breast cancer circles and my friends and subscribers have asked my opinion on the whole matter, hence today’s post.
There are those who applaud her decision and her courage for making it (because it had to be a tough one to make), while others believe it was incredibly stupid because she didn’t have breast cancer, just a strong family history. I’m hovering somewhere in between those two lines of thought. Mostly I just feel incredibly sad for her, because it’s apparent that Ms Jolie fell prey to fear, to overzealous medical providers who must have played a rather large part in that fear, and to the cancer industry as a whole.
Please allow me to share some of my thoughts on the matter.
Surgery Has Risks
In explaining her own choice to have this surgery, Ms Jolie does not mention the many side effects and risks of this type of surgery. Surgery always comes with risks and side effects. To complicate matters, breast implants are considered “high risk” by the FDA (not that I concern myself overmuch with what the FDA thinks). The current statistics indicate that 4 out of 10 women who have had a mastectomy and implants will require additional surgery within 3 years of getting their implants.
More than a few of my subscribers have shared with me that had they known reconstruction surgery (whether flap reconstruction or implant reconstruction) was going to be so painful, so bothersome and such a disruption to their lives they would never have chosen it. I truly feel for them.
Genetic Predisposition Vs Epigenetic Factors
As far as the genetic predisposition part of the story, an excellent article has been written by Sayer Ji, the founder of greenmedinfo.com, a website resource that I trust and often refer to because it always contains well-researched and well-written information on all sorts of health issues. The article is titled Did Angelina Jolie Make a Mistake By Acting On The ‘Breast Cancer Gene’ Theory? Do yourself a favor and click on the link and read that article.
I particularly appreciated the author’s assertion that “even in those in which a BRCA mutation is identified, the genes, in and of themselves, do not alone make the disease.” I have been endeavoring to teach that particular line of thinking via my posts on this site. In June, 2012 I wrote an article Cancer Genetics: BRCA1 and BRCA2 Are NO Cause For Concern!wherein I shared some information from the book “The Biology of Belief”, by Dr Bruce Lipton, a cell biologist, whose research and studies clearly indicate that many other factors are at play in health and disease than merely genetics.
To quote again from the greenmedinfo article, “…we must now accept that factors beyond the control of the gene, known as epigenetic factors, and largely determined by a combination of nutrition, psychospiritual states that feed back into our physiology, lifestyle factors, and environmental exposures, constitute as high as 95% of what determines any disease risk.“
Did you get that? Epigenetic factors (factors beyond the control of our genes) constitute as high as 95% of what determines disease risk. Our bodies are incredibly smart. They have the ability to prevent and heal all disease if they are given the right conditions!
Human Genes Should NOT be Patented
The thing that bugs me the most about all of this is that Ms Jolie’s decision is going to persuade thousands of other young women to do the same – to needlessly lose a valued part of their anatomy. Not every woman with a mutation will develop breast cancer! And Myriad Genetics, the patent-holders of the BRCA1/BRCA2 genes, are profiting. According to a Yahoo Finance report dated May 14, 2013, Myriad Genetics’ shares rose 4% after Angelina Jolie announced her mastectomy surgery.
I support an activist group called Breast Cancer Action, who in 2009 joined researchers, genetic counselors and cancer patients in a lawsuit to overturn Myriad Genetics’ patent on BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. The case is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court and a ruling is expected this summer. Please visit this page on the Breast Cancer Action website for more information.
My best advice is to do three things:
1. Sign up for my free newsletters to find out how best to reduce your risk of breast cancer;
2. Sign up for the free newsletters offered by greenmedinfo.com (use this link);
3. Donate funds to Breast Cancer Action (use this link), help them to continue their good work, compelling the changes necessary to end the breast cancer epidemic.
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and jscreationzs
I’ve been reading a lot lately about a new class of drugs called PARP inhibitors, particularly from the City of Hope, one of the cancer centers I like to follow because they are doing such interesting research on treatments for cancer, both pharmaceutical and natural.
PARP Inhibitors – What They Are
Here is the whole skinny (well, at least what I was able to find and make sense of) on PARP Inhibitors.
PARP stands for “poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase”. PARP is an enzyme that researchers say is over-expressed in a variety of cancers, and its expression has been associated with overall prognosis in cancer, especially breast cancer.
PARP is important for repairing single-strand breaks in DNA, termed “nicks”. If the nicks in the DNA are not repaired, then when the cells divide and replicate themselves the new cells can cause double-strand breaks to form.
Drugs which inhibit PARP1 cause multiple double-strand breaks to form. The reason that this is a good thing is because in tumors with BRCA1, BRCA2 or PALB2 mutations, the double-strand breaks cannot be efficiently repaired and that leads to the death of those cells. Research is showing that cancer cells that are low in oxygen (which is the case in fast growing tumors) are sensitive to PARP inhibitors.
I wondered what that meant for normal cells – how they would be affected. The research shows, however, that normal cells (which don’t duplicate their DNA as often as cancer cells) still have repair mechanisms operating and that allows them to survive the PARP inhibition.
PARP Inhibitors and Chemotherapy
Research is showing that by adding a PARP inhibitor to chemotherapy, the chances that the cancer cells will become resistant to the chemotherapy decrease. When cancer cells become resistant to chemotherapy, the chemotherapy is no longer able to fight the cancer cells. By lowering the chances of resistance, a PARP inhibitor may increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy.
City of Hope Research
In September 2012, The City of Hope released an article titled Triple Negative Breast Cancer Treatment Gets a Boost. The article explains a little about PARP inhibitors and states “Scientists think the drugs may work especially well in cancers with BRCA mutations or triple negative breast cancers”. Triple negative breast cancer accounts for only 14-20% of breast cancers and is not driven by hormones like the bulk of breast tumors are.
Dr George Somlo, a researcher at the City of Hope in Duarte, CA, felt that this new class of drugs showed a lot of promise “because the drugs seem to be a little easier on healthy tissue, which helps reduce side effects, and they may make chemotherapy more effective“.
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.
I would like to recommend that you support a breast cancer advocacy group called Breast Cancer Action, a national organization founded in 1990 by a group of women who understood that together we can effect much change.
Breast Cancer Action was born (according to their website) “from a need for a grassroots organization with a unique understanding of the political, economic, and social context of breast cancer.”
BCA’s Mission Statement
“Breast Cancer Action carries the voices of people affected by breast cancer to inspire and compel the changes necessary to end the breast cancer epidemic.”
What I Love About Breast Cancer Action
Their strict contributions policy allows them to be an independent voice for women who are either at risk of breast cancer or are living with it. They do not take money from anyone who profits from or contributes to the breast cancer epidemic. I believe that’s important.
They advocate for more effective treatments for breast cancer (and less toxic – which is what I’m all about too).
They are committed to raising the public awareness of environmental exposures to harmful chemicals that put people at risk for breast cancer (one of my favorite topics as well).
They have a Think Before You Pink Campaign which you should find out about. It’s gotten so that I hate the month of October for all the pink ribbons everywhere and the companies who CLAIM to be supporting the fight against breast cancer but continue marketing their toxic chemical-laden body products and cosmetics to unsuspecting women. GRRR!
Most importantly, BCA is actively opposing gene patenting because the patents give one company the exclusive rights to all testing and research on BRCA genes. This monopoly effectively prevents anyone else from so much as examining the genes, and creates barriers to scientific research and medical care relating to breast and ovarian cancer.
Sign Up For Their Webinars
Yesterday I attended one of BCA’s webinars titled “Reducing Inequities in Breast Cancer – Why Experience Matters”. So they are also advocates for communities where inequalities exist in getting the proper treatment for breast cancer – whether due to language or cultural barriers, racial inequities, financial barriers, or geographical location).
This webinar was well presented and made me aware that just because we live in the United States, we are not all treated equally with regard to being able to get the proper information and treatment for breast cancer.
Please support Breast Cancer Action with your contributions.
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.
Prophylactic Mastectomy, Thoughts Shared By A Cancer Coach
In my last article, I promised to share some information about prophylactic mastectomy, which is the removal of a single breast or both breasts, disease-free, to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. My own personal opinion (which may or may not count with anyone) is that this sort of surgery is happening far too frequently these days, especially in younger women. While there are certainly situations when prophylactic mastectomy might make sense, they are few and far between. If your doctor has suggested prophylactic mastectomy for you, please read this article.
While the following is not an exhaustive list, these 7 situations are most frequently the basis for a recommendation of prophylactic mastectomy.
The 7 Situations When Your Doctor May Recommend Prophylactic Mastectomy:
When you have a strong family history of breast cancer.
When you have a personal history of breast cancer – the thinking here is that this your likelihood of developing a new cancer in the opposite breast than someone who has never had breast cancer.
When you’ve tested positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations, which some feel increases the risk of breast cancer.
When you have been diagnosed with lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS), which has been shown to increase the risk of developing invasive breast cancer.
When you’ve had radiation therapy to the chest before age 30, which appears to increase the risk of breast cancer throughout your life.
When you have widely spread breast microcalcifications (very tiny deposits of calcium in the breast tissue) sometimes this means cancer can be present, certainly not always.
Some doctors are even recommending prophylactic mastectomy for women with dense breasts. The thinking here is that it can be difficult for doctors to diagnose breast abnormalities which sometimes requires the removal of tissue samples to study under a microscope (biopsy). If this happens too many times, the scar tissue that is created can cause problems for mammography screening.
My Answers To Those 7 Situations
Using the above numbering system, I would like to go out on a limb and offer a new way of thinking. Again I remind you that this is simply my opinion (and everyone, as you know, has one!) I have years of mind-body research, a background in natural medicine, years of experience as a breast cancer coach, I fought the disease myself, and I am continually reading the latest research.
1. If your doctor recommends prophylactic mastectomy because you have a strong family history, get a new doctor. That is practicing fear-based medicine at its worst. I had a strong family history – both my mother and her mother died from breast cancer. And even though I did get it as well, I learned that there are many causes of breast cancer, it is a multi-factorial disease. I learned what those causes are and limited my exposure, I learned not to be afraid of cancer and how to take my healing into my own hands, and now I teach these things to others.
2. If you have a personal history of breast cancer, it doesn’t mean that just because you got it in one breast, you will get it in the other. It’s not too late to change your life by taking some positive steps towards health and wellness. If you need more information about this, sign up for my free newsletters on the right side of this page and you’ll get my two free e-books as well.
3. Ah, the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Would you be interested in knowing that the ONE single company that tests for these genes (and charges thousands of dollars for doing so, thank you very much) is presently trying to take out a PATENT on the genes? Would they be doing this if there weren’t a lot of money involved here? Read my article on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Read also the web page of Breast Cancer Action, an organization that opposes gene patenting.
4. If you have had LCIS then you might have an increased risk of developing invasive breast cancer. But as I said in paragraph 2, it’s not too late to change your prospects by being very proactive with body and mind and immune system. Find out what things will take you back to a state of extreme good health.
5. If you have had radiation therapy before the age of 30 but you still have healthy breasts, there are things you can do to minimize whatever damage that might exist. Don’t undergo needless mastectomy if you have healthy breasts.
6. Microcalcifications in the breast do not mean that cancer is present. Again, there are things you can do to minimize any possible problems.
7. On Aug 20, 2012, in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, researchers reported that high breast density does not increase the risk of death among breast cancer patients. If you have dense breasts and your doctor recommends prophylactic mastectomy, get a new doctor.
Here’s what I recommend if you’re on the fence about prophylactic mastectomy. If you have healthy breasts, you have time to make your decision. Subscribe to my newsletter series because I’m all about being proactive with your health, both body and mind. I have lots of top quality information based on actual research in my newsletters, and they won’t cost you a thing.
Prophylactic Mastectomy: No Guarantee
Although prophylactic mastectomy is shown to greatly reduce your chances of developing breast cancer, it is not a guarantee. For one thing, it is almost impossible to remove all the breast tissue. Cancer can still develop in the tissue that is left on the chest wall or underarm area.
The latest paleoanthropological research shows that cancer was virtually nonexistent before pollution and poor diet became the norm.
Science is still no closer to finding out what causes cancer because I think they’re looking in the wrong place. Cancer is a man-made disease. It’s going to require us getting VERY proactive with our food and nutrition, our environment, our body products, and our minds to rid ourselves of cancer.
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.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or other health care professional. You should not use the information on this site for diagnosis or treatment of any health problem and please be sure to consult your health care professional when making decisions about your health.
Photo of DNA strand courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and ddpavumba
Today’s topic is going to be really controversial. But I will repeat myself here: the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are NO cause for concern.
Yes, scientists have spent a lot of time researching mutations in these genes and how they can play a role in breast cancer. But quantum physics is giving us some new answers and the fact that scientific researchers are ignoring what quantum physics has turned up is alarming and tantamount to sticking their heads in the sand like a bunch of ostriches, to say the least. For hundreds of years, Western medicine has been ignoring the reality that our bodies and our minds are connected. The mind (energy) arises from the physical body (matter). Our new understanding of the way things actually work is that the physical body can be affected by the immaterial mind.
Dr Bruce Lipton and the Biology of Belief
In his book, “The Biology of Belief”, Dr Bruce Lipton states, “Thoughts, the mind’s energy, directly influence how the physical brain controls the body’s physiology. Thought ‘energy’ can activate or inhibit the cell’s function-producing proteins…” He goes on to say, “The fact is that harnessing the power of your mind can be more effective than the drugs you have been programmed to believe you need… energy is a more efficient means of affecting matter than chemicals.” Dr Lipton discusses several documented instances where beliefs quite obviously overcame supposed biology – one man who doesn’t believe in germs wolfs down a glass of cholera bacteria and never gets sick, firewalkers who walk across beds of hot coals but never get burned.
You Do Need More Than Just Positive Thinking
Dr Lipton makes it clear in his book that you need more than just positive thinking. There are times when it’s just not enough and the reason that sometimes people who do all the positive thinking they can muster and still fail is because of a battle between the conscious mind and the subconscious mind. They are not separate subdivisions of the mind, they are interdependent.
Dr Lipton explains, “The conscious mind is the creative one, the one that can conjure up ‘positive thoughts’. In contrast, the subconscious mind is a repository of stimulus-response tapes derived from instincts and learned experiences. The subconscious mind is strictly habitual; it will play the same behavioral responses to life’s signals over and over again, much to our chagrin.”
For instance, you find the toothpaste tube with the cap off and fly into a rage. Why? Because you were taught from a child to NEVER leave the cap off. That pushes your hot button and you automatically get angry. Dr Lipton states, “When it comes to sheer neurological processing abilities, the subconscious mind is millions of times more powerful than the conscious mind.”
Think of your subconscious mind as a programmable “hard drive” into which our experiences are downloaded. It’s like our “autopilot”, while the conscious mind is our manual control. You can be thinking about a fight you had with your spouse (conscious mind) at the same time as mowing the grass and not cutting your foot off or running over the cat (subconscious mind). Or you can be driving along and having an engaging conversation with someone and suddenly you realize you haven’t paid any attention to where you’re going, but everything is still fine. You didn’t hit anything, you weren’t speeding. Your subconscious mind was in control. Your conscious mind can think forward and backward in time, while the subconscious mind is always operating in the present moment.
Mind Over Matter
Okay, I can hear you asking “What does all this have to do with the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes?” If you BELIEVE you are genetically predisposed to having breast cancer, you will probably, at some time in your life, get it.
For instance, I was always told I had a higher risk of having breast cancer because my mother and grandmother had it. So what happened? I got it too, despite the fact that I resolved (via my conscious mind) to be the woman in our family who didn’t get it. Nobody told my subconscious mind that bit of information apparently.
What about those who are diagnosed with breast cancer and had no genetic predisposition? Or did have the BRCA1 and 2 genes but didn’t know about it and had no family history? It’s hard to say but cancer is a multi-factorial disease. There are so many other factors involved – a toxic environment, toxic thoughts and emotions, high stress levels (just to name a few).
I would definitely urge you to read “The Biology of Belief” and look at the piles of research that the author has included and upon which I have relied to write this article.
Our Beliefs Can Limit Who We Are
Early in life (research suggests it is even happening prior to conception) we acquire beliefs and behaviors from other people, such as parents, friends, teachers, doctors. Have you ever tried to use positive affirmations to change some aspect of your life but failed miserably?
I certainly have. It’s most probable that somewhere along the way, those beliefs you acquired from other people are limiting you – keeping you from being the healthiest, wealthiest, happiest person you would like to be. A person could consciously believe they are quite healthy but at some point in their past may have heard a parent describe them as being “sickly” or “weak”. Quantum theory suggests that the cells of our bodies are listening to our subconscious minds every second of the day, and doing the bidding of that mind.
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PLEASE BE AWARE THAT THIS ARTICLE PROVIDES 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.
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About Marnie Clark
Hi I'm Marnie Clark, breast cancer survivor, and breast cancer coach. I have 20+ years of experience in natural medicine. In 2004/05 I battled breast cancer myself. You can see more about my journey on my page Breast Cancer Diary.
I've been healthy and recurrence-free since 2004 and in 2012 I became a Breast Cancer Coach because I became aware of the fact that whilst there is now a wealth of information on the Internet, much of it is confusing, conflicting, and sometimes just wrong!
Why should you work with me? Because:
(1) You don't want to go through this journey alone, feeling unempowered, frightened or just plain
clueless about what to do to help yourself.
(2) You will have someone working tirelessly on your behalf, putting together a healing plan for
you so you don’t have to lose your precious energy researching what food you should eat,
what supplements you should take, and what other things you can do that will give you the
best chances for survival. Instead you can spend that time resting, meditating, healing.
(3) You will learn what questions to ask your doctor (and have someone to turn to for the
questions they can't or won't answer).
(4) You will be armed with the tools and strategies you will need to get through the therapies you
choose so you can make your body hostile terrain for cancer.
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.