What is Breast Cancer Awareness Month?
Breast Cancer Awareness Month is celebrated worldwide every October to raise awareness and support people affected.
According to The World Health Organization, cancer is the second leading cause of death after cardiovascular diseases and a growing health issue globally, and breast cancer is the most common cancer among women worldwide. In the United States, 1 in 8 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year.
Designating a whole month to breast cancer awareness for women and men to learn the importance of education about the signs and symptoms, how to perform breast self-exams monthly, and annually receive a clinical breast exam. Of course, prevention is always preferable, and according to The American Cancer Society, early detection has been shown to have a 99% 5-year relative survival rate.
Educate yourself and others because you can save a life. Take this month to become informed, spread awareness, and share hope, as we celebrate the survivors, pray for the fighters, and remember the ones who lost their lives.
Prevention + Treatment in Ayurveda
Ayurveda, the science of life, focuses on preventing and maintaining one's health through personalized lifestyle and diet, and Ayurvedic Practitioners offer a wide range of treatments to help patients manage symptoms and side effects of traditional therapy, that may also include many healing techniques to create balance in our lives.
Ayurveda defines health as one with a balanced constitution (doshas), who's waste products eliminate properly, tissues are well formed, and having a bright and shining soul or energy through experiencing one’s natural and true selves.
It identifies 3 root causes of disease as stemming from not living according to one’s constitution and their true nature, along with circadian rhythms, natures rhythms and laws and disconnection or wrong relationships or misuse of people and things, through wrong thoughts, ideas and beliefs, causing us to make choices that will adversely affect the free flow of energy through our body and mind, toxins to accumulate, causing aggravation to the health of our tissues and organs, resulting in a variety of health issues, including cancer.
Studies on the effects of circadian rhythms have shown a 30% increase in cancer in night shift workers, along with the "circadian fog" that results when we are awake at night rather than sleeping, and coinciding with the fact that light is coming into the eyes and affects brain chemistry and inhibits melatonin production.
In addition to traditional medical treatments, Ayurveda and Yoga Therapy are complementary interventions that can decrease the side effects and negative impacts of chemotherapy and radiation that are often prescribed. Ayurveda can help restore the bodies' natural healing mechanisms by removing accumulated toxins, improving diet, implementing healthy daily activities, and offering a wide range of treatment options such as massage therapy and body treatments, yoga therapy, yoga nidra, deep relaxation and herbal therapies, to improve all the systems of the body as well as supporting the mental and emotional stress associated with cancer and helping women be mentally and physically healthier and stronger.
Someone living with breast cancer or recovering from treatment can benefit from a diet rich in easily digestible foods, according to their constitution. Cold foods should be avoided as they tend to be hard to digest and can weaken the body's ability to transform food into energy, causing accumulation of ama or toxins. Sugar, along with processed foods should be avoided and a diet rich in plant-based foods, that are cooked well to help the body digest and assimilate them.
Choosing the right foods can aid digestion, build strength, and improve the immune system. According to Ayurveda, one of the causes of disease is improper food and an Ayurvedic Practitioner can create a diet plan that will restore balance.
In addition, estrogens play a major role in promoting the proliferation of normal breast cells as well as neoplastic breast epithelium. Hence, blocking the estrogen receptor for the treatment and chemoprevention of breast cancer is one of the significant approaches. Plant-based estrogen-like compounds or phytoestrogens were originally proposed as cancer-protective agents.
Soybean and soy products are a rich source of isoflavones. Other phytoestrogen classes are legumes and lignans found in seeds, nuts, whole grains, fruit, and vegetables. Historically, the rate of breast cancer occurrence in the United States is 4–7 times higher than that of the Asian population where the consumption of dietary isoflavones is comparatively as high as 20 to 80 mg/d. In addition, epidemiological observations also revealed a modest 30% reduction in breast cancer risk for women with a higher percentage of dietary lignan intake. Therefore, consumption of phytoestrogen-rich diet is one of the many potential protective lifestyles against breast cancer.
Such foods as flax seeds, sesame seeds, soy beans and their products like tofu, edamame and tempe, dried fruits such as apricots, dates and prunes, garlic, peaches, berries, cruciferous vegetables and wheat bran contain phytoestrogens, which may reduce the risk of breast cancer, though Ayurveda’s personalized approach would need to adjust these recommendations according to one’s constitution and current imbalance.
A healthy diet and lifestyle are vital to prevention, treatment and a recovery plan. It is shown that yoga can help improve breast cancer patients' quality of life by boosting their self-esteem and motivation throughout treatment, enhancing their coping strategies and capacity to heal, and engaging them in physical activity as well as deep relaxation, where the body and mind can rebalance and reduce the production of harmful inflammatory stress chemicals that affect hormones and all of the organs and tissues. For more information on the benefits of yoga and breast cancer, check out the studies linked below or contact us for a yoga therapy program.
Ayurvedic Massage and Bodywork treatments can address lymphatic drainage, which is helpful at some stages of treatment, and is used as both prevention as well as rejuvenation. Combined with shirodhara treatment that works with the brain and the nervous system, one can reduce harmful stress hormones that contribute to disease. (We also offer courses to learn these modalities).
Lastly, Herbal therapy has been shown to boost the immune system, relieve pain, fatigue, and remove toxins.
Traditional herbal medicines are popular because of their cost-effectiveness, abundancy, and less or no side effects. In recent years, global emphasis on plant research has increased to find drug-like substances from traditionally used medicinal plants. Moreover, several naturally occurring plant-based compounds like curcumin, resveratrol, quercetin, and many more showed promising anticancerous effects and are gaining interest as an adjuvant chemotherapeutic agent. Besides, naturally occurring compounds cause less toxicity to healthy cells and in certain cases show selective toxicity against abnormal or diseased cells. This might be the reason that today a large number of drugs being marketed are structurally similar to the structure of naturally occurring compounds, and some are actually being used in chemotherapy treatments (see the chart on page 9 in Herbal Remedies for Breast Cancer Prevention and Treatment, in the resources below).
Herbal compounds show a variety of anticancer activity mainly antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimutagenic, and apoptosis-inducing activity that may help prevent cancer development in the early stage. Dietary consumption of adequate quantity of these herbal products may help in prevention and treatment of breast cancer by cell cycle arrest, induction of apoptosis, regulating carcinogen metabolism and oncogenic expression, inhibiting cell adhesion, proliferation and migration, and blocking signaling pathways that are essential for cancer progression. To read more about herbal therapy, and the link between herbal remedies and cancer prevention and treatment, check out the research study below.