The Best Diet Against Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Image Source: morgueFile / adicshun

Image Source: morgueFile / adicshun

The Best Diet Against Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Continuing my series of articles on dietary recommendations for particular types of breast cancer, this one is directed towards those who have been diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer.

What Exactly is Inflammatory Breast Cancer?

Inflammatory breast cancer ( or “IBC”) is a more unusual form of invasive breast cancer that affects the lymphatic vessels in the skin of the breast, causing the breast to become red and inflamed.

Where most breast cancers form a lump (known as the tumor) IBC spreads along and blocks the lymphatic vessels in the skin of the breast.  Lymphatic vessels are responsible for removing excess fluids and waste products from the body to help prevent infections.  When lymphatic vessels become blocked, the breast becomes red and swollen, similar to an infection.  This is what gives IBC its name.

Only about 1-2% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have IBC, so it’s reasonably rare and often misdiagnosed.  The majority of women diagnosed with IBC range in age between 40-59.

Diet and Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Because IBC tends to be a more rare form of breast cancer, few studies on people have investigated the effectiveness of a certain type of diet  for its beneficial effects on IBC.  Having said that, a few studies have demonstrated the impact of food extracts on IBC cells in the laboratory and those studies have indicated these three foods to have benefit for IBC patients:
Reishi mushrooms1
Pomegranate juice2
Green tea3

Despite the lack of studies on humans, it only makes sense that by adopting an anti-inflammatory diet you will be helping to heal IBC.  Cancer is inflammation, after all.  Prof Fran Balkwill of Cancer Research UK states “If genetic damage is the match that lights the fire, inflammation may provide the fuel that feeds the flames.”

Food That You Should Include In Your Diet If You Have Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Wherever possible, try to ensure that the items from the list below are organic, because if you are trying to heal from cancer you need to stay away from conventionally grown produce and meats as much as possible due to pesticide residues in produce and, in the case of meats, growth stimulators and antibiotics.  You really need to keep the toxin load at a minimum to give your body the best chance to heal. If you are unable to obtain organically grown produce, just make sure to wash it extremely well.  Soak produce in a tub or pail of fresh water with a little white vinegar for a few minutes, then rinse well.

Here’s the list of foods and spices (or their components) which have been found to decrease inflammation:

    • Oily fish, like salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines, are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to help reduce inflammation;
    • Freshly ground flaxseed – for the same reason as above – the omega 3 fatty acids and flaxseed’s lignans with their uncanny ability to decrease the growth of breast cancer4;
    • Whole grains – in moderation.  Quinoa, brown rice, steel cut oats, bulgur wheat are good.  Consuming whole grains can be helpful for keeping inflammation at bay.  Avoid refined, white bread, cereal, rice, and pasta.  Whole grains have more fiber, which has been shown to reduce levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation in the blood, and they usually have less sugar;
    • Dark, leafy greens – full of vitamin E which is key for protecting the body from pro-inflammatory molecules called cytokines.  Spinach, kale, broccoli, collard greens, etc are great, they also tend to have higher concentrations of key vitamins and minerals and natural phytochemicals which fight disease than veggies with lighter-colored leaves;
    • Bell peppers contain high quantities of antioxidant vitamins.  Hot chilies are also useful – they are rich in capsaicin, a chemical used in topical creams that reduce pain and inflammation;
    • Beets and their juice (raw of course) have excellent antioxidant properties, vitamins, fiber and plant pigments which have been shown to reduce inflammation, as well as protect against cancer;
    • Fresh basil and peppermint – full of antioxidants, highly anti-inflammatory;
    • Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties.  Studies have linked ginger to lowered post-exercise inflammation and a decrease in joint pain caused by osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. They aren’t sure why this happens, only that it is beneficial for inflammation;
    • Turmeric is potently anti-inflammatory.  Research indicates it is able to turn off a NF-kappa B, a protein that regulates the immune system and triggers the process of inflammation;
    • Garlic shuts off the pathways that lead to inflammation in the body;
    • Onions contain quercetin and allicin, which breaks down to produce free radical-fighting sulfenic acid;
    • Orange food – sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupe, pumpkin, apricots – all high in vitamins C and E and the carotenoids, alpha- and beta-carotene, which are potent anti-inflammatories;
    • Extra virgin olive oil contains oleocanthal (it’s a phytochemical that gives olive oil its taste) and it has been shown to have a similar effect as NSAID painkillers in the body;
    • Coconut oil has been studied for its anti-inflammatory properties 5;
    • Berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, bilberries, etc) are a rich source of anthocyanins, powerful phytochemicals that give the berries their rich colors and are potent anti-inflammatories;
    • Raisins – eating raisins helps to reduce a marker of inflammation known as TNF-alpha;
    • Tart cherries – a 2012 study found that tart cherries have the “highest anti-inflammatory content of any food.”6  The study indicated that tart cherry juice can reduce inflammation in the blood of lab rats by up to 50%.  In humans, tart cherries have been shown to help athletes improve performance and reduce their use of anti-inflammatory pain medications.  They contain high levels of anthocyanins 1 and 2.  A therapeutic dose is 1-1/2 cups of tart cherries per day – or 1 cup of tart cherry juice.  Sweet cherries don’t have the same effects;
    • Cruciferous vegetables such as arugula, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, bok choy, kale and wasabi, because they are rich in sulfur, which helps your liver detox;
    • Vitamin D – research indicates that adequate levels of vitamin D are important for inhibiting the metastasis of IBC 7

This is not an exhaustive list – indeed, there are many other foods which are known to have anti-cancer benefits.   See my page Diet and Cancer for a list of other foods that have anti-cancer activity.

I recommend that breast cancer patients and survivors with IBC include as many as they can of the things on the “good” list above and limit or avoid the “please avoid” things that appear below.

Please Avoid These

No food list is complete without mentioning the things that should be avoided for inflammatory breast cancer because they have been shown to promote breast cancer growth. Those things are:

White and other highly processed breads, cereals, white rice, pasta, sugar in all its forms, most fruit (because of the fruit sugars), most dairy products, alcohol, cigarette smoking.

A Warning About Copper

According to the website, “Circulating copper levels have been shown to correlate with tumor incidence and burden. Inducing copper deficiency reduced tumor growth and angiogenesis in a mouse model of IBC.”  It was recommended to avoid the following high-copper foods:

Calf’s liver or veal liver
Beef liver
Shellfish, especially oysters & lobster
Sesame seeds
Soybean products made with defatted soy flour, soybeans
Chocolate, dark & cocoa powder
Nuts, especially cashews, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, and pistachio nuts
Cooked shiitake mushrooms
Sunflower seeds & pumpkin seeds
Sun dried tomatoes

Special note: kale also contains plenty of copper but the good benefits of kale – its detoxification and anti-cancer properties – I feel outweigh the copper concern.  If you were worried about it, you could take an antacid after eating kale or the foods listed above because the stomach requires an acid environment to properly absorb copper. Antacids interfere with this absorption.

Essential Oils May Play a Role In Anti-Inflammatory Process

One last item – there are also quite a number of essential oils which research has indicated may be helpful for inflammatory conditions. Nearly every single essential oil has anti-inflammatory benefits. I have been writing articles about essential oils for The Truth About Cancer website, so head on over there and put “essential oils” into the search field.

Thanks in part to for some of the dietary recommendations in this article.  Written by Sarah Charles, also a breast cancer survivor and a woman of sharp intellect, Sarah has a mathematics degree from UCLA and is a Harvard graduate.









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. 

The Difference Made By The Breast Cancer Research Foundation Difference Made by the Breast Cancer Research Foundation
By: Guest Writer, Sarah Poland

The Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) is a non-profit organization with a mission to “prevent and cure breast cancer by advancing the world’s most promising research.”  Since their founding in 1993, BCRF has raised over $500 million, and over the next couple of years, they will award nearly $60 million in grants to 200+ scientists from top universities and medical institutions around the world. BCRF provides vital funding for cancer research, focusing on six specific areas: tumor biology, genetics, prevention, treatment, metastasis and survivorship.

1.  Tumor Biology

Logically, one must first understand how cancer works before one can treat and prevent it.  To get to the core of the cancer, which is actually a group of more than 100 diseases, every aspect from the smallest molecule to the largest tumor is examined.  Even when detected at the earliest stage, breast cancer is still unpredictable; doctors do not yet know which cells will be treated successfully and which will grow or spread. (University of California San Francisco Medical Center)

Ultimately, BCRF researchers seek the answer to two important “why” questions: Why does a normal cell become abnormal?  Why do different tumors react different to treatment?

According to Dr Charles Perou, “Understanding the bigger picture of the relationship between cancer stem cells, tumor biology, and their response to therapy has now evolved to be our area of focus”.  Once researchers like Dr Perou determine the “why”, they can focus on the “how”: how to treat and ultimately prevent breast cancer.  As every person is unique, so is every tumor, so there is no such thing as a “one size fits all” treatment.  The question of “why” has many answers and, by providing funding to researchers across the globe, BCRF is helping to simultaneously discover all solutions.

2.  Heredity & Ethnicity

You may be surprised to learn that most breast cancer patients do not have a family history of the disease.  “While breast cancers are known to run in families, they are rarely a direct result of mutated genes inherited from a parent.  In fact, inherited, or hereditary, cases account for only 5 – 10 percent of all breast cancers.” – Christine B Ambrosone, PhD

A person’s heredity and ethnicity are definitely risks, but they are not guarantees.  For this reason, genetic cancer research can be quite complicated.  There are certainly racial similarities when it comes to the manifestation of breast cancer, such as a genetic link to more aggressive tumors in women of African descent.  By focusing on racial differences at the molecular level, BCRF researchers will be able to better understand the course of the disease and therefore tailor treatment plans to specific ethnic groups.

3.  Lifestyle & Prevention

By now you know that there are many factors that lead to breast cancer, and lifestyle can be one of them.  While some of these factors, such as age and gender, are beyond one’s control, there are other ways that people can reduce their risk of developing breast cancer.

One of the major lifestyle risks is obesity, and BCRF researchers have found that maintaining a healthy weight, staying active, and avoiding stress can significantly affect prognosis.  Identifying lifestyle-related risk factors can help to empower people who may otherwise feel helpless when it comes to cancer.

4.  Treatment

Again, every cancer is unique.  Thanks to sophisticated research projects like those funded by BCRF, we know that no two cancers are the same and, subsequently, treatment plans have evolved to accommodate the diverse nature of the disease.

Not only do treatment results vary from person to person, but so do the risks and side effects.  From the patient’s family history to the tumor’s biology, researchers take everything into consideration when determining a treatment plan.  The overall goal is to find the least invasive but most effective option that will produce the best outcome for that particular person.

According to Dawn Hershman, a BCRF researcher, the quality of cancer care is a major national concern. Not all patients receive the most advanced treatment that is available, while others undergo costly treatments that may not help them.  The goal of Dr Hershman’s studies is to “integrate findings from population-based research to improve the quality of cancer care, reduce overuse of expensive drugs and improve quality of life for breast cancer survivors.”  Such patient-oriented approaches will surely lead to more successful results.

5.  Survivorship

Breast cancer research is clearly making a difference when it comes to survival rates.  There are nearly 3 million cancer survivors in the United States alone!  However, once a cancer patient enters remission, their journey is not over.  Survivors face a variety of physical and emotional challenges, from pain and fatigue to depression and insomnia.  By focusing on life after cancer, researchers have been able to identify treatment plans for ongoing care.  For example, research conducted by Patricia Ganz focuses on memory loss after breast cancer treatment.  Her work has provided insight into the causes of and ways to recover from this loss.

While complete breast cancer prevention may be an extremely long-term goal, survivorship is very relevant.  Cure rates have increased dramatically over the last 15 years and, according to Dr Ian Smith, death from breast cancer may become uncommon in the next decade.  Therefore, research focusing on life post-treatment is incredibly important.

6.  Metastasis

Metastasis refers to the spread of cancer to other parts of the body.  Early detection of breast cancer is certainly associated with higher survival rates but when the disease metastasizes, it often turns deadly. To many researchers, stopping the spread of breast cancer to other areas of the body is the single most important task at hand.

The BCRF has pledged $27 million to an international collaboration focusing on metastasis.  This will help researchers to uncover the reason why some breast cancers spread versus others.  The BCRF recently joined the American Association of Cancer Research and the American Society for Clinical Oncology to sponsor a workshop aimed at developing new drugs to treat metastatic breast cancer.

By fostering a community approach and providing easily-accessible grants and funding, BCRF is leading the fight against breast cancer.  With a talented array of researchers at the helm, this foundation is providing hope for everyone who is affected by the disease.  Dr Ian Smith said it well: “BCRF brings all the top people involved in breast cancer research together, physically once a year and in spirit over the rest of the year.  That leads to better exchange of ideas, and that is the way progress is made–not by people sitting and working in isolation, but by bringing large groups of people together.  This is what makes BCRF so important and so valuable.”

Thanks to Sarah Poland for letting us know how BCRF is helping people with breast cancer, and thanks to BCRF for the crucially important work they do.  I would encourage my readers to go over to the BCRF website and make a donation to this worthy cause.

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 ( 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.  

Facing Mastectomy? The Merits Of Having A “Breast Wake”

Image Source: rgbstock / sundesigns

Image Source: rgbstock / sundesigns

Facing a life-altering surgery such as mastectomy is never going to be easy, let’s face it.

Regardless of your age, your breasts have been a big part of your sexual identity, nurtured your children, and/or given your partner much delight (and hopefully you as well).  If  you are facing mastectomy because of breast cancer, the thought of losing one or both breasts is no doubt a huge shock.

There are many resources out there for you to help you make your decision – and more than a few on this website – but the purpose of today’s article is to share with you the merits of having a “breast wake” should you decide to go forward with mastectomy.

What is a Breast Wake?

The traditional wake, held when someone died, involved family members or friends who stayed awake with the body of the deceased to watch or guard it and/or have a prayer vigil until it was time for the church funeral and/or burial.

According to Wikipedia, a wake is often a social rite which highlights the idea that the loss is one of a social group and affects that group as a whole.

Why should the loss of a breast be any different?  I have a friend who held a wake for a much-beloved dog.  I really think that this kind of loss should be noted, either before or after the event, but preferable before and here’s why.

Why Have A Breast Wake?

When you have gathered your family and friends together to mourn the loss of your breast(s), this is an exceptional time to ask each of them to help you with that process, in some small way while you are recovering and even possibly after treatments begin (if any).

Whether it be cooking you a healthy meal and bringing it over, or just taking out your garbage, or occasionally scrubbing the sink, you will be surprised to discover how many people actually want to help you and are willing to do just that.  And you will need their help at some point, I promise you.

Helpful Hints

Mourning the loss of a breast doesn’t have to be a solemn occasion.  Put someone else in charge of all of this – your best friend, for example – if you don’t up to it.  Pull the carpets back and dance if you want to.  Have some great, healthy food with your friends and family.  Cry and laugh with them.  Propose a toast to your breast(s) and have others do the same.  Serve cupcakes that look like breasts.

Instead of having a guest book where people list their names, have a blank book for people to write in – a few of their favorite inspirational quotes (ask them to bring them along when you invite them) because at some point during this journey you will feel overwhelmed, scared and depressed.  Having a book like this to delve into can help you through these difficult times.

With regard to the people who offer to help you, either you or a friend with good handwriting can write down the name and phone number of each person who offers help, along with what it was they offered to do.  Don’t be afraid to call them either!

Please do mark the occasion because it will help you in so many ways.  It will help your friends too.

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 ( I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond. 

The Benefits of Massage Therapy for Breast Cancer

Image Source: morgueFile / Yoel

Image Source: morgueFile / Yoel

The Benefits of Massage Therapy for Breast Cancer

One of the things that you might not know about me is that I am a massage therapist, so the subject of the benefits of massage therapy for breast cancer is near and dear to my heart.

As a breast cancer survivor myself, I can give firsthand testimony that massage therapy is a wonderful and beneficial thing when you’ve been told those awful words “I am sorry but you have breast cancer.”  Nurturing touch can mean so much at a time like this, and it truly does have many benefits as you progress through the gamut of treatments and uncertainties.

Some doctors and even some massage schools will tell you that massage therapy is contraindicated (not to be performed) with cancer patients, and I would very much like to dispel that myth.  There are many benefits of massage therapy for many types of cancer, but today I’m going to focus on its benefits for those going through breast cancer.

Massage Through The Ages

Massage has been used as a therapy for centuries, the earliest known reference to it being portrayed on Egyptian tombs.  It was also mentioned as early as the 700 BC in the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, an ancient Chinese medical text.  Massage therapy has been used traditionally in many different cultures including China, India, Japan, Korea, Egypt, Rome, Greece, Mesopotamia and Thailand, for various ailments, pain relief, stress relief, but also for beauty.

In modern times, massage therapy has had a rather odious connection to overcome, just think of the words “massage parlour” and you’ll know what I mean by that.  That connection in people’s minds has taken YEARS to overcome and it still annoys me when I am in cities that advertise massage when it is blatantly obvious that’s not what they are selling at all.  But I digress…

Is Massage Safe For People With Breast Cancer?

The answer is a resounding YES.   Massage can safely be given to people at all stages of breast cancer, but it should be performed by a trained massage therapist who has had additional training in oncology massage, or at the very least by a skilled therapist who is knowledgeable about lymphedema, lymphedema risk, bone metastases, risk of deep vein thrombosis, and suppressed blood cell populations.

An old myth warned that massage could, by increasing circulation, spread cancer cells and promote metastasis since tumor cells travel through the body via the lymphatic system, which is a network of vessels, organs and nodes through which lymphatic fluid, or lymph, flows.   We now know that movement and exercise increase circulation much more than a brief massage can, and that routine increases in circulation occur many times daily in response to the metabolic demands of our tissues.  In fact, physical activity is normally encouraged in people with cancer and there is NO reason to discourage massage or some form of skilled touch because it offers so very many wonderful benefits.

The Specific Benefits of Massage Therapy for Breast Cancer

These are the things that we know for sure about the benefits of massage therapy:

  • relieves pain
  • reduces fatigue
  • helps to alleviate nausea
  • reduces stress, anxiety and depression
  • improves sleep
  • helps nerve damage
  • improves mental clarity and alertness
  • boosts immune system
  • reduces discomfort of lymphedema

The great thing about massage therapy is that it treats the whole person, not just the symptoms of disease.  While massage doesn’t treat the cancer itself, it does help reduce the side effects caused by conventional treatments such as chemotherapy, surgery and radiation and improves quality of life in ways we are only beginning to understand.

I Utilize Massage Therapy Daily For Continued Breast Health

I actually also use massage therapy daily on my own breasts, combined with certain essential oils because of their research-backed spectrum of pro-health activities (we aren’t allowed to say anti-cancer!).  For more information on which oils I use, see my page Essential Oils for Overall Health and Specific Health Problems.

The Research

I know my readers like to have evidence based medicine – we want PROOF, don’t we?  So here it is, and there is a lot of it:

A 2008 study done by the National Institutes of Health evaluated the efficacy of massage versus simple touch for decreasing pain and symptom distress and improving quality of life among persons with advanced cancer.  It was found that both groups experienced significant improvement in pain relief, physical and emotional distress, as well as quality of life, however, the immediate improvement in pain and mood was greater in the group receiving massage. 1

A 2004 study found that massage and aromatherapy consistently reduced anxiety and depression in cancer patients and that massage also helped decrease nausea and pain. 2

A 2014 Iranian study found that massage therapy greatly assisted patients with breast cancer with quality of sleep. 3

A 2008 study looked at the safety and effectiveness of massage in reducing stress hormone levels in patients with blood cancer and concluded that massage significantly reduced the levels of stress hormones in these patients. 4

A 2001 study indicated that massage improved immunity for adolescents with HIV and, more recently, a 2010 study showed massage had very positive effects on immune function for normal healthy individuals. 6   By the way, this does not mean that you have to be normal and healthy to enjoy an immunity boost from massage therapy.   I employed massage therapy all during chemotherapy (and I still do) and I know that it was one of the things that helped me to stay very well, despite a practically non-existent immune system.

A 2013 study showed that ovarian cancer patients receiving massage felt significantly less hopeless and enjoyed a better quality of life.7

A 2002 study of the effects of massage on hospitalized cancer patients showed that for those receiving therapeutic massage there were improvements in pain, sleep quality, symptom distress, and anxiety. 8

My advice?  If you are going through breast cancer, go and get a massage from a qualified massage therapist – you have nothing to lose and much to gain!










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 ( I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond. 


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