Archive for November, 2009

Mammography guidelines

November 25, 2009

Article re mammography guidelines in today’s Guelph Mercury newspaper by Vik Kirsch:
Long-term breast cancer survivor Lynn Roodbol couldn’t disagree more with a new panel’s conclusion that women don’t need mammograms in their 40s.

While living in British Columbia in the mid-1980s, Guelphite Roodbol, 64, found a lump.

“My doctor refused to give me a mammogram. He said I was too young to have breast cancer.” But her persistence paid off: she was ultimately diagnosed as having breast cancer — despite being only 41 at the time.

“That’s why I believe in mammography starting at 40,” said Roodbol, a member of the Guelph Wellington Breast Cancer Support Group who is — ironically — a Guelph and Kitchener mammographer by profession, recently retired.

There’s increasing public debate about a U.S. Preventive Services Task Force panel of experts concluding routine mammograms aren’t needed for women in their 40s. They found little evidence survival rates are better than for women tested in their 50s. Current American guidelines recommend screening every year or two for women in their 40s. But the task force noted a high number of false positive results for women in their 40s leading to unnecessary removal and sampling of tissue.

In the face of concern in the U.S. that the task force is attempting to cut costs for health care providers, President Barack Obama’s administration is assuring the public the government would continue to fund mammograms for women 40 and older, the New York Times reported last week.

The task force recommendations dovetail with what’s the norm in Canada: routine testing of women starting in their 50s.

Canadian Cancer Society senior manager of prevention Gillian Bromfield said periodic testing of women 50 to 69 years of age and of average risk “has been shown to save lives.”

Evidence it would benefit women in their 40s “hasn’t come to light.”

The exceptions include women in elevated risks, such as those in families with histories of breast cancer or those who have had previous exposure to radiation. Such women should have discussions with their doctors about when it’s appropriate to begin mammogram testing.

“They should start those discussions early,” Bromfield said, adding that could begin even before they’re in their 40s in some circumstances.

But Bromfield acknowledged there’s ongoing debate in the public about what’s best. Some people assume that if regular testing is beneficial to people in their 50s, it should be helpful at an earlier age. But among the issues is the fact women younger than 50 have denser breasts, so mammograms may not be as revealing. There are also more false positive test results in younger women.

But Roodbol says she’s living proof women can get breast cancer in their 40s and should be proactive.

By the time her cancer was confirmed, it was in the second stage of development, had grown to a significant size and spread to her lymph nodes. She underwent surgery, received whole-body chemotherapy and made lifestyle changes in exercise and diet.

Roodbol urged women in their 40s to have a healthy respect for the threat of breast cancer. If they have legitimate concerns, they should see their doctors about having mammograms as a precaution.

They shouldn’t wait until they’re 50, Roodbol concluded.

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New guidelines for breast cancer detection

November 19, 2009

The new mammography guidelines are shocking because they cloud the issue of breast cancer, and move us backwards rather than forwards to a cure.
If we want to discover breast cancer early, we need to practice early detection.
If we follow the new guidelines, more women under 50 will have advanced breast cancer before it’s treated.
It seems the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force has a mission to increase the incidence of breast cancer in young women where the impact on women and their families is greater, and more expensive treatments are required after diagnosis.
It seems to me like a plot to ramp up big business, and to create more money for companies with an interest in chemotherapy drugs, cancer treatments, etc.
You can read more about the guidelines at: http://breastcancer.about.com/b/2009/11/16/mammo-guidelines.htm?nl=1
In light of the new recommendations, we need a grass roots movement to protect ourselves from the curse of cancer. Here is a good article with advice on what individuals can do to prevent breast cancer:
Integrative Medicine Approaches to Reducing Breast Cancer Risk
-Practice monthly self-breast exams.
-Eat 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day, preferably raw
-Limit your intake of animal fats, particularly red meat.
-Eat lots of fiber
-Avoid drinking two or more glasses of alcohol per day
-Increase your intake of superfoods high in antioxidants, such as kale, beets, carrots, beans, collard greens, brussel sprouts, and broccoli. If you’re not good about eating your veggies, try Sun Chlorella.
-Drink green juice. It’s a great way to alkalinize your body, and cancer likes acid, not alkalinity.
-Avoid dairy or use organic butter, cheese, and milk, as they are less likely to be contaminated with human growth hormone or estrogen, which is sometimes used to stimulate milk production in cows.
-Use extra-virgin olive oil, raw flaxseed oil, and cod liver oil.
-Expose yourself to the sun. High levels of Vitamin D help fight cancer.
-Exercise. It helps detoxify the body and decreases the amount of estrogen that reaches the breasts. Women who exercise regularly have a 30% lower risk of breast cancer.
-Apply loving energy to your breasts with daily massage. Massage your breast tissue and the area under your arms while you’re soaping yourself in the shower. Close your eyes and visualize healthy breast tissue. Release all fear of breast cancer through a release valve at your root chakra. Dump the toxic energy of fear into the earth’s core and allow the golden light and radiant healing of the Universe to enter through the top of your head. Close your eyes and imagine healing energy extending from your heart, through your arms, to your hands.
-Talk to your doctor about when you should begin mammography and/or breast thermography.
-Be aware of your family history. If you have a first degree family member who was diagnosed with breast cancer before menopause, consider talking to a genetic counselor.
-Limit alcohol intake, and if you do drink alcohol, make sure you’re getting enough folic acid in your diet. If not, take a supplement that includes folic acid.
-If you are at higher risk for breast cancer, talk to your doctor about supplements you can use to reduce your risk.
You can find the whole article at: http://www.owningpink.com/2009/11/17/owning-our-boobs-thoughts-on-the-new-mammography-recommendations/
Women need to unite and fight back against the new guidelines.
We need to stand up for ourselves, and protect our health so we stay well rather than raise our risk of getting cancer.
Cancer is a despicable disease – my breast cancer advanced to Stage II because I hadn’t done screening mammography or Breast Self Examination (BSE). My doctor was doing cursory Clinical Breast Exams on a yearly basis, but breast cancer can grow rapidly, between visits, in young women. Women who are taught how to do proper BSE on a monthly basis do not increase the number of false positives.
Breast Self Examination helps women to take charge of their health.
This website will show you how to do BSE: http://www.cancer.org/docroot/CRI/content/CRI_2_6x_How_to_perform_a_breast_self_exam_5.asp?sitearea=
I used to do mammography, so I support annual mammograms and I think it is good advice to do BSE consistently and well:
Keep a journal of what you find – each month, when you do BSE, draw a picture of your breasts and date it. Draw in any lumps, ridges, thickening, skin changes, etc. Measure areas you want to watch and record the size; you can equate the size to a grain of rice, pea, grape, walnut, etc. In this way you have a record which you can show your doctor. It will increase your confidence if you practice BSE properly. If you have a controlled record of what you find, there is less chance of worry over lumps that are not changing. New changes and visible changes such as dimpling and thickened skin should be reported immediately.

Cancer treatment decisions

November 11, 2009

One of the toughest decisions that people with cancer have to face is whether or not to take drug or other treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation. The amount of information and misinformation takes a lot of work to sort through and be able to make a conscious decision. It’s a daunting task for even the most seasoned researchers, and unfortunately many people get lost in the shuffle due to overwhelm and confusion.

People with cancer and their loved ones can research the internet, read books, and hear stories from others which may be helpful or not. Some people have good advice from doctors and they’re comfortable with what they hear so it’s easier to proceed. I’ve heard a number of people say they are not comfortable with their doctor’s recommendations, and would like to do things differently, but they’re afraid to make the wrong decision when their life is in the balance.

When coping with cancer in 1987, I took advantage of everything I was offered except one treatment that my gut instinct told me to refuse. Fortunately for me, when I asked my doctors, they told me the results would give me a 50/50 chance of improving my outcome so it wasn’t too big a risk. It can be much more difficult decision when people are given higher percentages on the benefits of a certain treatment.

There are always personal factors which enter in to the decisions people face with cancer treatment. I remember the fear I had when making decisions in case I chose something which would create side effects I couldn’t live with, or chose not to take something which was supposed to make me well. I didn’t want to do anything which would increase my risk of recurrence.

I will always be grateful to my health care team for guiding me and supporting me to make my own decisions. I believe that whatever treatment we take has to feel right for us as an individual.

For example, it’s common to feel some fear and concern when starting a course of chemotherapy. The important thing is to take a look at the risks and benefits and to work with your head and your heart to get to the point where you’re reasonably sure you’re making the right decision for you. This way you will get maximum benefit from the treatment.

If something is screaming at you to take another direction, then you need to pay attention and explore other options until you find something you can tolerate. The mind body connection will guide you to the right place if you allow it to take place.

My health care team encouraged me to use visualization and guided imagery to engage the mind-body connection; this helped me to make decisions, promote healing, and get my thoughts working for me rather than against me. These new ideas added to the steep learning curve of living with cancer; however, I’m convinced my recovery was a combination of Western medicine and complementary therapies which is now referred to as integrated medicine.

It’s not an easy task to overcome cancer. It takes energy and effort to pull in all the tools and skills we can gather so the decisions we make will help us on the road to recovery. People can tell us what they think, but we are our own best experts and the decisions we make are ours alone.