Why is the ‘cure’ a drug?

molehilllComing to us from San Antonio Texas,  this story:

“Women at high risk of developing breast cancer because of family history or bad genes have a new option to help prevent the disease.

A study of 4,000 women found that a daily hormone-blocking pill cut the risk of developing breast cancer by more than half after five years of use.

The drug is anastrozole (uh-NASS’-truh-zole), sold as Arimidex (uh-RIM’-uh-dex) and in generic form. It can cause hot flashes, joint pain and other side effects, but these were nearly as common among women given dummy pills and are often due to menopause and aging.

Results were reported Thursday at a cancer conference in San Antonio”

Is this a surprise?  Not terribly.  My fear in this is much like vitamin crazes or drugs that the pharmaceutical companies profit by… marketing something that alters your body genetically always always has repercussions….    In this case, the fear is that women will buy and consume this drug and years later discover that it has a harmful ‘side effect’ – in essence, trying to ‘fix’ something and break something else in the body.

Before we chase after drugs, let’s identify the why is cancer among us and how do we eliminate it!

BRAC1 & BRAC2 Testing

breast cancer brac1 gene o-NEW-YORK-TIMES-570So there is a lot of commotion – a topic known to those who go through breast cancer and were born of the  jewish faith, but not widely known… thank you NYT for making it public!

Please read the following articles, and take action.  It is your life.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/27/health/in-israel-a-push-to-screen-for-cancer-gene-leaves-many-conflicted.html?_r=1&

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/27/new-york-times-front-page-israel-cancer_n_4349525.html?utm_hp_ref=media

Blood Test Shows Promise for Cancer Detection

blood-drop“Researchers say they’ve developed a blood test that can detect some cases of early stage lung and prostate cancer.

Although the test has limited accuracy and only a small number of people have tried it, it potentially could provide doctors more information when they suspect a patient has a tumor.

“[This is] one more tool doctors can use to help guide clinical decisions,” said study co-author Dr. Daniel Sessler, professor and chairman of the department of outcomes research at the Cleveland Clinic. “It is also potentially important because the only current routine diagnostic method for lung cancer is CT scanning, which is both expensive and requires radiation exposure.”

Researchers have spent a decade or more trying to develop a blood test to detect cancer, said Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society. Tests would be especially useful if they detect cancer in its early stages when treatment is most effective. Some scientists dream of a test people could take at home using drops of blood from a finger prick, he said.

The prostate specific androgen, or PSA, test can detect signs of prostate cancer, but its usefulness is the subject of much debate because it is sometimes inaccurate, leading to unnecessary treatment. A blood test like the one developed for this study could be a useful addition to prostate cancer screenings, the researchers said.

For now, studies into cancer tests continue, Lichtenfeld said, but they remain challenging to develop because signs of cancer in the blood can be minuscule. “We’re getting closer to the possibility but we’re there not there yet,” he said.

In the new study, which Lichtenfeld described as “very early” research, the authors examined blood samples from 95 cancer patients and compared them to samples from healthy people. They also examined blood samples from 24 patients before and after they had surgery for lung cancer.

The researchers found that the cancer patients had up to six times the level of serum-free fatty acids and their metabolites (which are produced during metabolism) as the cancer-free participants. Also, within a day after lung cancer surgery, the levels of fatty acids decreased by between three and 10 times.”

Perhaps someday, this will include ALL types of cancer, including Breast Cancer.

 Read the full article or watch the video.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

pink-ribbonThis year I will lead my 2nd annual Paddle Breast Cancer kayak trip in Charleston, SC, sponsored by Sea kayak Carolina.  My heart goes to all the friends and families who have had to deal with this terrible illness, and my heart soars with all those who are able to join me on this paddle to celebrate life, survival and our indominable spirit.  We honor those who lost their lives to breast cancer as well.

If you have not been involved in your own testing, here is a link for a screening survey.

We strive not just to survive, not just to endure, but to obliterate this disease so it should never claim another life.

The local Charleston newspaper ran a video clip – click here to view the segment.

Namaste to all my friends – may health be yours.

Skin Cancer risk

pillsLadies… are you taking vitamin D supplements to assist with calcium absorption to prevent osteoporosis?  Well, so am I…  and guess what a new study reveals – Higher levels of vitamin D, still within the normal range, are associated with an increased risk of non-melanoma skin cancer.

Does this mean I will stop?  Probably not, but I see a blinking yellow light now….

Here’s the full article.  The study is not conclusive, and even contradictory to others.

Balance is key.  Don’t overdose on D, just like you wouldn’t on any other vitamin.

A woman’s story

mastectomy-scars

Here is a story that was presented online.  This woman had profolactic double mastectomy because she had the BRAC-1 genetic predisposition (much like Angelina Jolie).  However, every surgeon and plastic surgeon is different.

I also had a bi-lateral mastectomy, but my scars are only on the side, and we did perform the nipple-sparing techniques after testing the nipple tissue and determining it was free of cancer.  Had I not done so, the techniques used these days are actually tattoos of nipples which look similar.

I too do not regret my choices, and especially my choice of surgeon and plastic surgeon, and no, I don’t hide my body.  I wear my scars like my breast cancer necklace.  My warrior trophy… afterall, I’m still here and enjoying life.

 

Here’s another woman’s story:

“Before my surgery, I spoke openly about my decision to undergo a prophylactic bi-lateral mastectomy in the wake of a BRCA-1 diagnosis. I’m now about six weeks post-surgery, the (proud?) owner of two brand spanking new “foobs” (fake boobs), and I’ve had some time to process the new additions.

First, I believe there’s a huge misconception among the general populous about what it means to have one’s breasts removed and replaced with artificial ones (if they are replaced at all). When speaking about my upcoming surgery, I had many well-meaning people say things like, “Well at least you get new boobs!” and, “Your husband must be so excited… has he picked ‘em out yet?”

Yeah, well, it’s not quite like that. Not at all, in fact.

It seems that those not in the know tend to equate post-mastectomy reconstructed breasts with augmented breasts or “boob jobs.” Nothing could be further from the truth. You see, augmented breasts are actually real live breasts with nipples and healthy breast tissue behind which silicone or saline implants have been placed, either under or above the muscle, thereby pushing them up and out. We all know what augmented breasts look like; some of them look very real, and many of them look stunningly beautiful. If augmented breasts didn’t look damn good, breast augmentation surgeries would not be so, ahem, popular.

So even though augmented boobs are often called “fake boobs,” they’re really not. I, on the other hand, do have fake boobs (or “foobs,” as I have become prone to calling them).

What is attached to my chest right now are a pair of silicone implants with no breast tissue in front of them. I am essentially sporting implants covered with skin. There are no real breasts there to hide the fact that my “breasts” are just implants — man-made, silicone-filled implants which feel like gel-filled bags and ripple when I move certain ways.

And right now, I have no nipples either. Because leaving enough breast tissue behind the nipple to spare it can create more risk, in that cancer can still occur in the tissue left behind. Also, if the surgeon failed to leave enough tissue attached to the nipple, the nipple could become necrotic and die. As in, turn black and fall off.

No thank you. I wasn’t that attached to my nipples.

So I opted against nipple-sparing surgery, and currently have long incisions where my nipples used to be. To put it graphically — but not so graphically that it would require a “warning” tag when published — I went from looking like this:

2013-09-07-photo1.PNG.jpeg
To looking like this:

 

2013-09-07-photo2.PNG.jpeg(Hopefully you get the idea, despite my crude pencil sketches.)

And the view from above right now is even weirder for me. I went from seeing this:

2013-09-07-photo3.jpgTo this:

2013-09-07-photo4.jpgNow, don’t get me wrong. I have no regrets about my decision to have preventative surgery. None, whatsoever. I sleep better knowing that I just shaved about 77 percent off of my 87 percent risk of contracting breast cancer in my lifetime. Nor am I unhappy with my results. I had excellent surgeons and my reconstructed breasts look just like they’re supposed to look at this stage. I will have skin-grafted, man-made nipples attached in the next few months, and later have color tattooed on them for good measure. The new nipples (“fips”) will hide some of the existing scars, and hopefully will be nice and round and perky. But they’ll have no feeling. They’ll just be there as accessories. Like earrings.

And while I still look cute in a sexy bra, I no longer walk around topless, and now tend to sleep in camisoles rather than in the buff. I’m also somewhat shy around my husband, and am still shocked at times when I look in the mirror. It’s an adjustment, for all of us, even my toddler who gently pats the boo-boos she now sees on my chest.

For me, the psychological impact of losing my breasts was much greater than the physical impact. I am healing rapidly and know that the physical scars will fade. I also know that I made the right decision for me and my family. But those of us who either opted to have mastectomies as a preventative measure, or had mastectomies as a life-saving measure, aren’t excited about our “new boobs.” In truth, we’ll never be the same. We see ourselves differently now when we look in the mirror, because we are different, inside as well as outside.

But at least we’re here, stronger and wiser for the experience.”

 

 

Scar Project

scar-projectBy now, most everyone has seen some of these startling and poignant photos…if you have not, please watch this video on the Scar Project.

One out of 8 women…. far too many… no closer to a cure or prevention… please be fastidious about having your mammograms and checking your body.  Even I was complacent and didn’t even ask for my records until AFTER a diagnosis.  Had I done so, I would have seen that they had noted some lesions or lumps they were following for 2 years prior.  I could have taken care of things that much sooner!

The Scar Project.

Image

What’s in a Name?

namesIn a new article published by the New York Times, it is revealed that a general feeling by the scientific community to downplay a diagnosis will be a good thing – in this case, some forms of pre-cancer conditions, such as my own DCIS, would no longer be tagged with the word ‘carcinoma’ in the name, but something that sounds like lesions.  A physician felt this would be a positive because as it  was”reclassified as a low-grade lesion rather than a malignancy, women were more willing to submit to observation rather than demanding treatment”.

Read the article here

So how do YOU feel about this?  Would you rather watch and wait or seek treatment for something that is not at a malignant state as of yet?

The medical community stands behind this thought because, as cited in the article, “The impetus behind the call for change is a growing concern among doctors, scientists and patient advocates that hundreds of thousands of men and women are undergoing needless and sometimes disfiguring and harmful treatments for premalignant and cancerous lesions that are so slow growing they are unlikely to ever cause harm.”  It goes on to say “The issue is often referred to as overdiagnosis, and the resulting unnecessary procedures to which patients are subjected are called overtreatment.”

Would I have preferred to watch and wait for my DCIS to turn malignant and then require removal of all my lymph nodes plus chemo and radiation?  I think not!

Until science and medicine can detect the growth patterns connected with a specific cell structure from a biopsy to predict how it will behave, I for one would not play Russian roulette with my health.

There are so many mixed messages with all types of cancer – so much to learn.  “Another National Cancer Institute program, the Barrett’s Esophagus Translational Research Network, or Betrnet, is focused on changes in the esophageal lining that for years have been viewed as a precursor to esophageal cancer. Although patients with Barrett’s are regularly screened and sometimes treated by burning off the esophageal lining, data now increasingly suggest that most of the time, Barrett’s is benign and probably does not need to be treated at all. Researchers from various academic centers are now working together and pooling tissue samples to spur research that will determine when Barrett’s is most likely to become cancerous.”

Until that time, what would you prefer to hear?

 

Very Fishy

fish

Omega-3 Fish Oils… we hear it frequently… salmon, sardines, mackerel… fish oil is good for you.  There is some discussion as to whether we get enough.

Most of us look toward supplements to augment what foods may not provide…the question is, are we poisoning ourselves by trying to do something positive?

I just learned that there is a great website that tests the level of contaminants in various brands of fish oil.  We can be  ingesting mercury, PCBs, and other toxins…. fish oil may be the ‘sewage of the sea’ unless it is well processed.

So, please check your supplements.  It isn’t a bargain if you are not getting pure and clean supplements!

 

 

Walking the Tightrope

tight-rope-walker-stickman-md High Blood Pressure and High Cholesterol linked together?  Probably….. in the hopes of better managing my last high cholesterol reading, I altered my diet immensely, ingesting more easily digestable foods like oatmeal, as well as nuts and seeds.  What I’ve found (I haven’t gotten re-tested yet) is that my blood pressure has dropped dramatically.  So much so that I’m splitting my 20mg pill and still have very attractive levels (6 days into this).

Besides foods like oatmeal, rice, quinoa, and including sea vegetables for the iodine (remember some foods compete and reduce the absorption of others), I’m including lots of legumes, such as a medley of pinto beans, edamame, and corn kernels (for niacin too)… actually enjoyable.

What I’ve also found in my research, is that some foods are high in plant stanols which naturally lower cholesterol (at least thats what they say)… My new list of foods to include in my diet are:

  • Green Lettuce
  • Capers
  • Rice bran (included in some foods)
  • Sesame seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Raw Cauliflower
  • Wheat Germ
  • Raw radishes
  • Figs
  • Spinach raw
  • Pistachio Nuts
  • Onions (raw)
  • Beets (raw)

There are other foods, but these have the highest levels of plant stanols.  Keep in mind that it has been established or estimated that the daily requirement is 2000mg….far more than we can consume through foods.  To come a little closer, I am now using Benecol butter spread as well.  For some reason, England is far more advanced in supplying their population with foods fortified with plant stanols, but they are not available here in the US….hmmm.. this sounds similar to the bone density supplement that is not available here either…. think the pharma and medical industry has a hand in this since the UK is more socialized?

Oh, and there are ‘good’ desserts like brownies and muffin tops that also add plant stanols too…. who says you can’t have your cake and eat it too?

I’m working up the nerve to get re-tested soon… I need to give this food time to alter the system sufficiently to get ‘real results…. hopefully my lowered blood pressure is a good indicator!  I wouldn’t mind eliminating that drug either!

Bon Apetit!

 

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