Coenzyme Q10 – Beneficial for Breast Cancer or Not?

viamins in handIs Coenzyme Q10 Beneficial for Breast Cancer or Not?

Back in 1996 when my mother was going through breast cancer that had moved into her bones, I encouraged her to see a naturopath.  I knew that she needed additional nutritional support – my father had just passed away and I knew she wasn’t eating as well as she could be.

The naturopath made a big list of vitamins she should take, among them was Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10).  Though I had been studying naturopathy myself at the time, I hadn’t learned about CoQ10 yet.

He said that preliminary studies had indicated CoQ10 had cardioprotective properties for breast cancer patients and that it helped the immune system.  His concern for my mother was that CoQ10 helped to protect the hearts of study animals that were given the anticancer drug doxorubicin (Adriamycin) which can cause damage to the heart muscle.  It turned out that she was given another chemotherapy drug, but that’s another topic for another day.

What Exactly is CoQ10?

CoQ10 is a compound that is made naturally in the body, however it has been found to be lacking in those whose immune function is under attack, typically cancer patients and HIV/AIDS patients, and also the elderly because as we age, our bodies appear to make less CoQ10.

A coenzyme helps an enzyme do its job. An enzyme is a protein that speeds up the rate at which natural chemical reactions take place in cells of the body.  The body’s cells use CoQ10 to make energy needed for the cells to grow and stay healthy. The body also uses CoQ10 as an antioxidant.  An antioxidant is a substance that protects cells from chemicals called free radicals.  Free radicals can damage DNA.  I apologize if I got too basic there, but I wanted everyone to understand the importance of this nutrient.

I was interested and wondered since CoQ10 occurs naturally in the body, what is the supplement made from?  Further research found that it is made using fermentation with special strains of yeast.

Does It Actually Work?

The problem is the studies have thus far been too small to show definitive answers.  Animal studies found that CoQ10 boosts the immune system and helps the body fight certain infections and types of cancer, however, there have been no well-designed clinical trials involving large numbers of patients to study the use of CoQ10 in cancer treatment.

There have been some clinical trials with small numbers of people, but the way the studies were done and the amount of information reported made it unclear whether benefits were caused by CoQ10 or by something else.

The Studies on CoQ10 and Cardioprotection

Recent studies on CoQ10’s cardioprotective properties during administration of the chemo drug doxorubicin (Adriamycin) have been conflicting, which surprised the heck out of me.

One very recent study (April 2012) concluded that although CoQ10 does not alter the ability of doxorubicin to prevent the growth of cancer cells (good news), further studies would be “reassuring before a large-scale clinical testing of CoQ10 [could be recommended] as a cardioprotective drug” (Lack of Effect of Coenzyme Q10 on Doxorubicin Cytotoxicity in Breast Cancer Cell Cultures, Greenlee H, Shaw J, Lau YK, Naini A, Maurer M, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA).

The Good News

Despite the lack of scientific studies and actual PROOF positive that CoQ10 can be of assistance to cancer patients (and why would “big pharma” spend the money on such studies when CoQ10 is easily obtainable from any health food store), what we DO know about CoQ10 makes me a believer that it should be included in our daily arsenal against disease and most natural therapists I’ve consulted agree.

The good benefits of CoQ10 (the things we do know) are:

  • CoQ10 is required for your cells to produce energy, and is an integral part of helping cells take fat and other substances and convert them into usable energy
  • CoQ10 can help protect your body from free radical damage
  • CoQ10 offers powerful antioxidant protection
  • CoQ10 can boost your heart health
  • CoQ10 can help you reduce the signs of normal aging
  • CoQ10 supports your nervous system (which takes a beating during chemotherapy)

I take CoQ10 daily for my health regimen and I feel good about doing so (despite the lack of scientific research!).  I know it’s working and doing its job.  If you need a good, reputable source for CoQ10, contact me.


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Okay, So You’ve Found a Breast Lump – Here’s What to Do

hand on chest2It’s every woman’s secret fear – finding a breast lump.

The first important thing to do is DON’T PANIC.  Studies have shown that 80% of all breast lumps are harmless.

There are many things that can cause a breast lump

Cysts – fluid-filled sacs that can feel like over-ripe grapes. A cyst can sometimes be tender, especially just before your menstrual period.

Fibrocystic changes – lumps that are often painful.  Contrary to popular belief, fibrocystic breast changes do not increase your risk of breast cancer.  You might find that symptoms are usually worse right before your menstrual period, and then improve after your period starts.

Fibroadenomas – noncancerous lumps that feel rubbery and move easily inside the breast tissue. Like fibrocystic changes, they occur most often during your reproductive years. They are usually not tender and except in rare cases, they do not become cancerous.  A doctor can tell during an exam whether a lump is a fibroadenoma. Some doctors will still recommend a lump biopsy just to be sure.

Lipoma – a collection of fatty tissue, a lipoma moves easily with very little finger pressure. Sometimes they are tender to the touch but are usually not associated with any other symptoms. Lipomas rarely become malignant.

Milk cysts – sacs filled with milk and infections (known as mastitis), which may turn into an abscess.  These typically only occur if you are breastfeeding or have recently given birth.  They are painful!

Other causes of breast lumps

There are other conditions which can cause breast lumps:

  • Injury — sometimes if your breast is badly bruised, there will be a collection of blood that feels like a lump. These lumps tend to heal themselves in a few days or weeks but if they do not improve, see your doctor.
  • Breast cancer — if you suspect this, see your doctor

Other breast changes to look for

  • Bruising on your breast, but you did not experience any injury;
  • Any discharge from your nipple, especially if it is bloody or pinkish
  • The skin on your breast appears dimpled or wrinkled, like the peel of an orange
  • A new breast lump during your monthly self-exam
  • Your nipple is inverted (turned inward) but normally is not inverted

Do this first!

Make a call to your primary care doctor and go get it checked out.  Don’t delay, because if it is breast cancer, the earlier you find it and get treatment, the better your chances for survival.

Your doctor will most likely order an ultrasound exam; it’s a painless, radiation-free way of determining if the lump is a mass or a harmless, fluid-filled cyst.  You might also have a core needle biopsy where, with the assistance of the ultrasound equipment, they insert a very slender needle into the breast (it’s not as bad as it sounds) and suck out a small sampling of cells which they test for cancer.

In the event that the lump can’t be seen during your ultrasound exam (which apparently does happen about a third of the time)  a similar procedure known as a “stereotactic needle biopsy” uses a mammogram to guide the procedure.  They use the mammography equipment when they insert the needle and then scan the breast to ensure accuracy.

I know all this sounds very scary, but go and get yourself checked anyway.  If it turns out to be nothing, at least you’ll know and NO ONE will think you are over-reacting.


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Do I Get a Mammogram This Year?

mammogramI’m really on the fence about getting a mammogram this year.

I’ve done so much research for this blog and the more I read, the more I question whether it’s really an advantage to me.

8 years ago when I first found the lump that later tests would reveal was breast cancer, I’d had a mammogram a scant 5 months prior and it didn’t show a thing.  How did it get from not showing up on a mammogram screening to a 2.5 cm lump in 5 months?  Why didn’t the mammogram pick it up?  Or did it really just “blow up” during those intervening (and stressful) months?

I really believe we need a test that detects the early signs of malignancy, ie what makes the cancer grow and become lethal.  THAT’S what we really need.

Mammography leaves a lot to be desired, I think, especially when you consider the dose of radiation you get when having one.  Plus there’s the problem of false positive tests needlessly traumatizing millions of women who are sent for unnecessary biopsies and other follow-up testing.

Fran Visco of the National Breast Cancer Coalition doesn’t think that pink ribbons and mammograms are the answer to ending breast cancer and I agree.  She recently stated, “Mammography, or any imaging modality, will never be the answer to breast cancer. It has inherent limitations that cannot be overcome. It simply finds some cancers that already exist.” Which of course, we do want – early detection seems to be an important factor in surviving this disease.  But they don’t necessarily save you.

The problem is that research shows that while the number of mammograms has dramatically increased in America, death rates have not dramatically decreased. The percentage of women aged 40 and older who reported having a mammogram rose from 29% in 1987 to 65% in 2008, according to the National Health Interview Survey.  The mortality rate from breast cancer has decreased by an average of 2.2% per year from 1990 to 2008, according to the National Cancer Institute. That’s just not good enough!

There’s a very interesting article over at the New York Times entitled “Mammogram’s Role as Savior Is Tested“.  Check it out.

For myself, I much prefer thermal imaging (see my article “Breast Screening Without the Squish” on the subject).

I don’t have health insurance though, and even if I did, it wouldn’t be covered.  I believe thermal imaging is a much better diagnostic tool, but it’s not cheap, costing around $300.  The reason I like it is that it is much safer (no radiation) and it can indicate where a problem area could be occurring long before a tumor develops due to the heat signature of developing blood vessels (called angiogenesis).

Still haven’t decided what to do.  Your comments are invited.

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The Healing Power of The Kiss

The Healing Power of the Kiss

I came across an interesting statistic today that fired up my imagination: I read that a kiss stimulates 34 muscles and lots of hormones and chemicals known as neurotransmitters.

So I decided to investigate.  According to researcher Dr Andrew Scholey (wouldn’t you love to be a kiss researcher?  what fun!) senior lecturer in psychology at Northumbria University, the reason kissing feels so nice is because of the disproportionately large area of the brain dedicated to lip and tongue movements. He stated that “Only finger or hand movements occupy as much brain space.”

Apparently, a multitude of changes is going on in our bodies when we kiss – here’s the breakdown.

The Electric Moment

The moment your lips meet is often described as electric, and apparently that’s exactly what it is.  Studies using electrodes on people’s lips during a kiss showed electric currents flowing along the nerves from the brain to all of the 34 facial muscles. Hence, those tingly sensations!

A Flood of Hormones and Neurotransmitters

Kissing stimulates the primitive part of the brain involved in automated functions (the four Fs: feeding, fighting, flight and, um, mating).  “As you kiss, signals received by nerve endings in the lips are sent to the limbic system, which releases hormones that tell the pituitary glands to produce gonadotrophin.  This hormone attaches itself to the ovaries, causing the release of estrogen and testosterone, which increase sexual excitement,” says Dr Scholey.

Another hormone released at this point is oxytocin (which is also secreted during breastfeeding and orgasm, and promotes caring feelings towards your partner or baby – sometimes referred to as the “bonding” hormone).

Your growing excitement causes a rise in the hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline and adrenaline causes blood to switch from the stomach to the limbs, ready for fight or flight and turning off digestion.  As your heart rate increases, blood rushes to the surface, making your body warmer and creating a rosy glow!  It also causes your whole body to receive more oxygen than it does when you’re just standing around.  At rest, your heart beats about 60 to 80 times a minute, but mid-kiss this accelerates to over 100 (unless of course you’re kissing your mother…).

As adrenaline increases, levels of the feel-good chemical serotonin fall – this keeps you focused and less likely to want to break off to go feed the cat.  As serotonin drops, so do your inhibitions, making you more impulsive.

Once your kiss reaches its peak, your body is working overtime – it makes you feel nice by releasing the neurotransmitter dopamine into the brain, which intensifies your desire.

That light-headed feeling is from the release of endorphins, the brain’s natural opium-like substances.  Endorphins produce the euphoria most people feel during a good kiss – they make us go all gooey.  Do you ever wonder why you feel better after a long run, a good laugh or a great kiss? It comes from a release of endorphins.

So – wow!  More oxygen (always a good thing), dopamine and endorphins that make you feel good.  I think we should incorporate kissing into our healing plan – what do you think, girls?

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

8 Important Things to Reduce The Risk Of Breast Cancer

8 Important Things to Reduce The Risk Of Breast Cancer

Image source: / Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot

After years of studying breast cancer, going through it myself, and talking to doctors and natural therapists, I’m pleased to share my list of 8 Important Things To Reduce The Risk Of Breast Cancer.

Please, ladies (and men, because men can get breast cancer too) – be proactive here.  Your breast health is in your hands (and your life may very well be).

1.  Limit Alcohol Intake

Many studies have been done and all of the research indicates that drinking alcohol frequently increases your risk of breast cancer.  Apparently, it’s only regular, repeated use that increases the chance of breast cancer. For most women, having a glass of wine or beer on occasion is not a problem.

2. Exercise At Least 3 times Per Week

More exercise is apparently better.  Research shows a decreasing risk of breast cancer as the frequency and duration of physical activity increase. Most studies suggest that 30 to 60 minutes per day of moderate- to high-intensity physical activity is associated with a reduction in breast cancer risk

3.  Deal With Stress Before It Overwhelms You

For me, stress was the underlying factor – the evil Blue Meanie – that I believe was responsible for my breast cancer.  My doctors didn’t agree but I know for myself that if I had dealt with the stressors in my life in a much better fashion, I doubt very much that I would have had to deal with breast cancer.

Most of the women in my support group agreed that in the lead-up to their breast cancer diagnosis, way too much stress was in their lives.  Seek out the calming influence of meditation, you will thank yourself for it!

4.  If You’re Overweight, Do Your Best To Lose It

One of the single biggest risk factors for breast cancer is steady weight gain over the decades of your life.  A recent study done by the National Cancer Institute found that women who gained about a pound a year after age 20 had nearly double the risk of postmenopausal breast cancer.

The average American diet is full of way too many carbohydrates and many experts believe this is the key to our weight gain.  Cut the carbs, and reduce the risk.

5.  Do a Monthly Self-Exam

It’s important to do a monthly self exam, and if you’re menstruating, it’s better to do this one week after your period finishes to eliminate breast tenderness.  If you’re not sure how to do it, CLICK HERE for directions.

6.  Diagnostic Tests After Age 40

Most authorities mandate mammograms after the age of 40, particularly if there’s a family history of breast cancer.  I am not a fan of mammography, mainly because it subjects the breast to possible damage by pressing and by radiation. I prefer a much less invasive diagnostic exam called thermal imaging, or thermography.  See my article Breast Screening Without The Squish!.

7.  Switch to Organics

I believe our environment is way too toxic.  We need to actively stay away from all of the toxic chemicals being put into our body products, makeup, food, household cleaners, etc.  We now have access to beautiful organic cosmetics and skin care products that are safe and effective.  Click here for  information on why to choose organic.

8.  Use Pure Essential Oils Every Day

I’m not allowed to tell you exactly why I use essential oils on my breasts every single day.  Certain government agencies will not allow us to make specific health claims.  But read between the lines here, folks.  I recommend essential oils for a very good reason.  See my page Essential Oils For Overall Health and Specific Health Problems to see which oils are the best.

I hope you found this list informative and useful!  I will keep you informed as other items come to light.

If you would like my help with reducing your risk of 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 (Marnie Clark Breast Health Coach) and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.

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