Mamas On Bedrest: Help Stop Breast Cancer in Its Tracks

October 23rd, 2010

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. While many women give little thought to breast health while pregnant, I have known several women who were actually diagnosed with breast cancer while pregnant. I have shared some of their stories and resources for treatment in our resources section under Breast Cancer in Young Women.

Dr. Al Sears wrote a very informative and useful article called, Help Stop Breast Cancer in its Tracks,  on natural ways to help prevent breast cancer which appeared on Working Moms Only. I am reprinting the entire article here, but if you want more great information for working moms, Check out WorkingMomsOnly.com, a website by Mary Ellen Tribby and subscribe to her newsletter.

Help Stop Breast Cancer In Its Tracks

By Al Sears, MD

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so I want to give you some natural ways to get the right nutrients to help stop breast cancer before it starts.

Better Than a Mammogram

Mammograms are the most common way to detect breast cancer. But, there’s been some controversy about how effective this prevention method really is.

In 2006, doctors in Boston introduced a new test for the detection of breast cancer. Rather than using radiation like in a mammogram, they take a urine sample.

Dr. Pories of Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston shared the results of her latest study at a recent breast cancer symposium. Her team found that urinary levels of two biomarkers (MMP-9 and ADAM12) are reliable predictors of increased risk of breast cancer.

In her study, she compared levels of these markers in both women with breast cancer and women without. One hundred percent of the urine samples that tested positive for MMP-9 and ADAM12 belonged to women with breast cancer. This simple test may offer a safe, non-invasive way to accurately assess a woman’s risk of breast cancer.

Women are Saying “No” to Drugs

When Tamoxifen was first introduced, many people thought it was the answer to preventing breast cancer. But, unofficial polls suggest that women don’t want the toxic and potentially dangerous drug to prevent breast cancer.

Why?

Well, this drug is known to have very dangerous side effects. This includes deadly blood clots and other types of cancer.

So when given the option, most women want to choose safer, more natural alternatives to help avoid breast cancer. Changing eating habits, exercising and other alternative therapies were common choices.

Exercise: The Best Way to Beat Breast Cancer

It’s a fact that exercise helps prevent cancer. And women who exercise consistently throughout their lives have a 20-30 percent lower risk of breast cancer than women who don’t.

This is true for all women, regardless of race or ethnicity.

Forget Carbs

Sugar feeds cancer cells … and makes them grow like wildfire. Cancer loves sugar.

And carbs turn into sugar in your body.

A 2004 study in Cancer Epidemiology followed the eating habits of a large group of women in Mexico. The risk of breast cancer was 220 percent higher in the women who ate the most carbs.1

So when you go to the grocery store, you’ll want to avoid:

  • Grains, including corn
  • Potatoes and other white foods, like white rice, sugar and salt
  • Processed foods
  • Drinks and foods that contain High Fructose Corn Syrup

Banish Breast Cancer with This Super Food

When I was growing up in Kentucky, my grandparents had a grove of walnut trees. So … I ate a lot of walnuts. My grandmother cooked with them, baked with them, and we ate them by the handful for snacks. She always said they were good for you. How right she was.

A study shows that eating walnuts could reduce your risk of breast cancer. With just a handful of nuts (2 ounces) a day, mice delayed the onset of cancerous tumors.2

You see, walnuts contain a trio of cancer fighters – phytosterols, omega-3s and flavonoids.

Phytosterols. Studies show that these nutrient compounds can inhibit tumors from forming in the breast and shrink them if they are already there.3

In addition to walnuts, you can find phytosterols in:

  • Legumes
  • Flax seed oil
  • Peanut butter
  • Pistachios
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Almonds
  • Brussels sprouts

Omega-3s. Omega-3s have a unique ability. They are able to get absorbed into cell membranes where they help cancer cells self-destruct. They reduce a inflammatory enzyme called COX 2, which promotes breast cancer.

Plus, they keep your body’s breast cancer genes healthy. When these genes function normally, they help repair DNA and prevent cancer from developing.4

You can get omega-3s in these foods:

  • Wild-caught salmon, anchovies, sardines
  • Flax seeds
  • Grass-fed beef
  • Almonds, pecans
  • Avocado
  • Sacha inchi oil
  • Olives/olive oil

Flavonoids. Walnuts also contain a flavonoid called ellagic acid. This powerful flavonoid inhibits the growth of cancer cells.5

Ellagic acid not only protects your healthy cells from free radical damage, but it also helps to detox would-be cancer-causing cells and helps prevent cancer cells from reproducing.

Other ellagic acid-rich foods are:

  • Berries (blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, strawberries)
  • Pecans
  • Pomegranates

Working all of these foods into your diet will help you protect your body from the dreaded “C” word. Still, walnuts are the only super food that offers all these cancer-fighting compounds in one.

To get the freshest, most nutritious walnuts, follow these tips:

  • If you’re buying walnuts in the shell, make sure the shells don’t have any defects – look for little wormholes. Give the shells a little shake. If they rattle when you shake them, they are probably old and over-dried.
  • Store shelled walnuts in an airtight package. You can store them up to about 6 months if you keep them in the refrigerator. Up to a year in the freezer.
  • If you prefer unshelled walnuts, look for a freshness date on the package. The high oil content makes them highly perishable. Heat and humidity will speed up the process. As with the shelled walnuts, keep them in an airtight container in the refrigerator and they will last for several months too. Longer in the freezer.

Aside from popping a handful of walnuts in your mouth, there are many ways to enjoy them. Sprinkle a handful on your salad or yogurt, or experiment with your favorite recipes. I like to add them to chicken salad or sauteed vegetables.

***

Dr. Al Sears, MD is a board-certified clinical nutrition specialist. His practice, Dr. Sears’ Health & Wellness Center in Royal Palm Beach, Fla., specializes in alternative medicine. He is the author of seven books in the fields of alternative medicine, anti-aging, and nutritional supplementation, including The Doctor’s Heart Cure. His proven anti-aging strategies for building a vibrant, disease-free life can be found at www.alsearsmd.com. You’ll learn how to stop Father Time without giving up the foods you love.

——————–
(1)Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention August 2004; Vol. 13, 1283-1289
(2)Fox, Maggie and Simao, Paul, “Want to reduce breast cancer risk? Eat walnuts,” Reuters.com 4/21/09
(3)Awad, A.B. et al, “ß-Sitosterol activates Fas signaling in human breast cancer cells,” Phytomedicine
(4)”Research Shows How Omega-3 Fats Prevent Breast Cancer,” The World’s Healthiest Foods
(5)Walnuts, WholehealthMND.com, LLC 2000

Help Understanding The Affordable Care Act: The Health Care Reform Law

October 21st, 2010

I’ve had to put myself on a “news diet” of late. With all of the election shenanigans; The ‘he said she said’ and the flurry of accusations going back and forth between candidates and political parties, I was growing increasingly vocal and somewhat hostile towards my TV.

Print news provided me no comfort either. My most recent tantrum came after I read a news report that some 20 states had filed a lawsuit against the Federal Government in order to have the new health care law repealed. The chief complaint is that the mandate forcing people buy health insurance or be fined is unconstitutional and the entire law should be repealed-despite the fact that millions of Americans stand to benefit from the new health care law.  Some legal scholars have intimated that the entire law could be struck down if this mandate issue is found unconstitutional.  Others believe that the mandate portion of the law would be removed and the other parts of the law would remain. As for this particular case being argued in Florida, we won’t have any more answers until December.

What I have found most frustrating about the new health care law is its design. Could the drafters of the law have made it any more complicated? And what is up with all the sequential benefits? Why not just draw up the law and once it’s signed, all parts of it go into effect? As written, parts of the law won’t go into effect for another 3-4 years. And with the national contention, it could happen that parts of the law never become enacted at all!

I think that the much of the contention-at least as it related to the average citizen-is the fact that it’s really hard to know just what the health care law will mean to the individual. Yes, websites have been erected and the US Department of Health and Human Services swears it will be ever present to answer questions and to guide citizens through the transition and to answer specific questions.

But what if you don’t know what you don’t know?

The actual law is nearly 1000 pages long. Will the average American citizen take the time to access the law (either in print or on the web) and then actually read it? I’ve taken a look at the law and its written with so much legal jargon that it really is kind of difficult to understand. So how are we as consumers to know to what we are entitled? How are any of us to get a clear understanding of the law and what it entails so that we can make informed health care decisions?

Thankfully, there are many individuals and organizations that have taken the initiative to educate the public about the new health care law,  The Affordable Care Act. Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, wrote an informative and insightful editorial on The Huffington Post about the new health care law means for women. MomsRising.org had a blog carnival in September where they posted blogs written by a variety of writers (mamasonbedrest included!) outlining what the new health care law means for US citizen.

Despite being one of the most controversial pieces of legislation in American History,  The Affordable Care Act will usher in a new era of health care in the United States. Many Americans, especially women, stand to greatly benefit from many of its provisions and protections. It’s a tough law to read in its entirety, but it can be done. Yet if the prospect of reading such a cumbersome legal document completely overwhelms you, take a look at some of these blog posts, as well as some of the dissenting blogs and really learn what the law is all about.

Don’t take anyone’s word at face value. Take the time to learn what the law means for you and then decide if you are for it or against it.

Mamas on Bedrest, How long will you wait to be seen?

October 18th, 2010

Out of the mouths of Babes!

Recently, my 4 year old son had the nerve and self assurance to do what makes most adults only think of doing: he told his physician at his recent office visit that he had been waiting a long time and he didn’t like it. This is how the interaction went.

“Where have you been,” asked my son. “We’ve been waiting a really long time.” (We had actually been waiting over an hour in the exam room to be seen. This after I had rushed to pick up both my children from school, fought traffic, crossed town and hurried from the parking lot-for which we were paying by the 1/2 hour for parking- to be on time for our appointment! And no, our parking ticket was not validated!)

The pediatric orthopedic surgeon was a bit surprised at my son’s direct statement and he tried to make light of the situation.”I got lost in the hallways,” he said chuckling. “I was looking for you!”

“You should have asked for help,” said my son with a very serious expression on his face. “It’s not nice to make your friends wait.”

Out of the mouths of babes!

I sat there watching this interaction, surprised and proud at the same time. My son has yet to be indoctrinated into the ways of our health care system. He doesn’t yet know and/or believe that doctors are supposed to be “revered”, that they are busy and important people and that we patients are to wait for them and accept whatever time they are able to give to us and be grateful for their help. Nope, my son had no such illusions. I had told him that we had a 3:30 appointment with the doctor. We had made special arrangements and allowances to be on time for that appointment. When we arrived, on time,  he expected to be seen at his right away-not one hour later! And when the doctor finally entered our exam room, my son looked him in the eyes, stood his full 41 inches and told the doctor that his tardiness was unacceptable, that he should be sorry that he kept us waiting and that he wanted to go home. In my son’s eyes, he had held up his end of the bargain. The pediatric orthopedic surgeon had not and as far as my son was concerned, the surgeon had missed his opportunity to see him and my son wanted to go home.

Worth the Wait?

We should all have the self assurance of my son. I have heard countless women tell stories of how they have waited as long as 3 hours for a routine OB visit-some lasting as little as 10 minutes. Why do we do this? Why do we put up with such blatant disrespect of ourselves and our time?

When I was pregnant with my son and had an appointment with the perinatologist for a Level  II.  My husband and I arrived on time (actually early) for our 10 am appointment only to find that the perinatologist was 2 1/2 hours behind! My husband and I had both rearranged our schedules, leaving our offices to arrive on time for our appointment. Yet, no one in that office had the forethought to call us and say that the perinatologist had had an emergency and was running late; this despite the fact that between us, the office had 5 phone numbers at which to contact us and that just the day before, we had received a message on our home phone machine reminding us of our appointment and clearly stating that if we were more than 15 minutes late, we would not be seen and would have to reschedule.

My husband and I in our ire approached the receptionist and voiced our frustration. My husband went so far as to say that he was going to bill the perinatologist for his time, approximately $150 an hour. While much of our indignation was leveled on a person powerless to effect any change, it did drive home to everyone in that reception area that the level of service we were receiving was unacceptable.

System in Crisis

Our current health care system is broken to say the least. Reimbursement from insurance companies is so poor that many doctors feel compelled to see far more patients in a day than is really feasible. In her blog post, “Does Your Doctor Practice Conveyor Belt Medicine” Dr. Linda Burke-Galloway voices her concern over learning that some physicians admit to seeing 50-100 patients a day just to make ends meet. A physician herself and now a malpractice expert, Dr. Burke-Galloway knows that when a doctor exceeds 30 patients in a day, quality patient care and safety have gone out the window. Dr. Burke-Galloway has very simple advice for women when choosing providers-Ask how many patients the doctor sees daily. Along with that question, when selecting a provider, Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond suggests that women pose the following questions:

  1. How many patients does the doctor see daily?
  2. What is the average wait time to be seen?
  3. How often is the doctor called away on emergencies?
  4. What type of office coverage (physician assistant, nurse practitioner or partner) does he/she have for emergencies?
  5. I am automatically rescheduled if I am more than 15 minutes late. Does the doctor hold him/herself to this same standard of punctuality?
  6. Will the office call and contact me if the doctor is running behind? Will I have the option to reschedule?

I think that most of us have experienced an excessive wait time at a doctor’s office only to have a “drive by” interaction once the physician actually comes in the room to see us. This is not good health care. This is a recipe for errors, untoward events (i.e. bad outcomes), malpractice, litigation and generally bad feelings all around. Interestingly, we would never put up with such treatment from an auto mechanic, restaurant, or even lawn maintenance companies. So why are physicians treated differently? If we are truly consumers of health care, physicians work for us! If we would not accept such service from other providers why do we do it when it comes to our most important assest, our health?

Many people proclaim that the United States has some of the best health care in the world and it’s very likely that we do. But what good is our highly advanced, technological health care system  if a large portion of our population doesn’t have access to these latest technologies and treatments? What does it matter if we have brilliant doctors if they don’t have the time to actually practice the art of medicine, but must be more concerned about reimbursement from insurance companies so that they can stay afloat and have a practice at all?

I agree with Dr. Burke-Galloway that we patient-consumers are going to have to be the driving force behind health care reform. We are going to have to ask questions of our providers, demand that common courtesies be met and demand that we are treated with respect compassion at each interaction. We must hold insurance companies accountable to reimburse our health care providers in line with the skill and expertise they use to treat patients,  and in a timely fashion. In this way health care providers can not only provide safe and effective health care, but also be able to  maintain a  medical practice and  earning a comfortable living.

Like many areas of our culture, health care is in dynamic flux. The Affordable Care Act has usherd in a new era of health care reform, but unless we consumers voice our need and demands, we are unlikely to see any real reform at the doctor-patient level.

Have you waited an excessive amount of time to see your health care provider only to be given a “drive by” exam? Share your story with us in the comments section. If enough people voice their discontent, surely we’ll be able to effect change.  Thanks! MBB

Photo Courtesy of Todd Bigelow Photography