Alternative Therapies and Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is now the second leading cause of cancer death in women. Breast cancer is a condition in which cancer (malignant) cells are found in the tissues of the breast. No alternative medicine treatments have been found to cure breast cancer. But complementary and alternative medicine therapies may help you cope with side effects of treatment when combined with your doctor’s care.Yet despite growing interest, the largely unregulated field of alternative medicine has left many women confused about what these therapies actually do and whether they work.

Before getting into specific cancer therapies, it’s important to understand the terminology. The words “alternative,
“complementary,” and “integrative” are often used interchangeably to describe non-traditional breast cancer treatments, but they have very different meanings. With some extreme exceptions, most non-traditional cancer therapies are not alternatives to standard treatments. Choosing alternative care in the case of breast cancer treatment would mean forgoing chemotherapy and radiation. More commonly, cancer patients are introduced to complementary therapies, which do just as the name suggests — they complement such traditional cancer treatments as chemotherapy and radiation, but they are not substitutes.

Women around the world are increasingly drawn to learning about alternative breast cancer treatment. At this time, no one knows the cause of the majority of breast cancers. There are many theories, including an inherited tendency, genetic mutations and environmental exposure; pesticides, and even bras (though many feel it is the metal in the bras and not the bras themselves); however, the cause of breast cancer is the subject of ongoing research. Every woman is at risk for developing breast cancer. Breast cancer is 100 times more common in women than in men. Following skin cancer, breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women.

While many risk factors have been identified, approximately 70 to 80 percent of breast cancer cases occur in women with no readily identifiable risk factors. Factors associated with an increased risk of female breast cancer do include: Increasing age: 75 percent of cases are diagnosed in women greater than 50 years of age; previous history of breast cancer; family history of breast cancer; prolonged estrogen exposure; genetics; and lifestyle behaviors, as well as hormonal therapy used to treat other medical conditions and radiation therapy. The primary risk factor associated with male breast cancer is advancing age.

Each breast has 15 to 20 sections called lobes, which have many smaller sections called lobules. The lobes and lobules are connected by thin tubes called ducts. The most common type of breast cancer is ductal cancer. It is found in the cells of the ducts. Cancer that begins in the lobes or lobules is called lobular cancer. Lobular cancer is more often found in both breasts than other types of breast cancer. Inflammatory breast cancer is an uncommon type of breast cancer. In this disease, the breast is warm, red, and swollen. Hereditary breast cancer makes up approximately 5% to 10% of all breast cancer cases. The genes in cells carry the hereditary information that is received from a person’s parents.

Diet and exercise are also an important part of complementary breast cancer treatment. Women with breast cancer are at increased risk for obesity, especially post-menopausal women who have estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer. For this reason, increased physical activity and proper diet are crucial complements to traditional breast cancer treatments. It has been demonstrated that increased physical activity improves survival among women with breast cancer. Exercise can also improve energy level and help alleviate tension and depression. It is recommended a diet low in animal fats and high in fruits and vegetables, particularly vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and kale. He’s also a fan of seasoning food with garlic, onions, and turmeric and drinking green tea, all thought to have anti-cancer properties.

Celeste Botonakis

On the Nursing Assistant Guides blog, certified medical assistant Celeste Botonakis explores the daily life of a CMA. She'll keep you up-to-date with the latest on what’s happening in the field, and provides tips for those who are interested in becoming a medical or nursing assistant. Celeste has served in the medical field for over six years, and is passionate about helping people. She currently works at CSR Primary Care in Skokie, Illinois. Click here to learn more about Celeste Botonakis and