Breast Cancer Awareness

Recently, The Canadian Cancer Society announced that it is no longer recommending monthly breast self-examinations as detection for cancer. They say that regular scheduled self-exams give women a false sense of security; increases stress; and can lead to unnecessary treatment. They also say there is no evidence that doing a rigorous, systematic BSE will lower breast cancer death rates. The transition is toward general breast health awareness: being aware of normal breast tissue; detecting changes; then reporting to your doctor who will do structured screening with mammography and clinical breast examinations.

Yet 40% of breast cancers are discovered by women or their partners. Regular self-exams help women learn the landscape of their own bodies so that they notice the slightest change which send women to their doctor. Self-exams can help detect cancer that mammograms miss.

I have heard people tell me that the mammogram worked great for them. I have also heard horror stories where the mammogram was clear, then two or three months later, via self examination, finding a lump which turns out to be aggressive cancer. What would have happened if this person had relied on just the mammograms (next one being one to two years depending on age)? By the time the mammogram generally catches a lump it has been in your body for 6 to 10 years.

Some questions I have concerning the issue of self-examination which is no longer being recommended are: What changed their minds? Who did the studies? What is their goal(s)?

There is still much that is not known about cancer in general, and each expert has their own opinion about what causes cancer (emotional, nutritional deficiencies, viruses, fungus, environmental, accidents, DNA changes, etc) and how we should deal with it once we have it. There are also arguments over how best to detect it. Many breast cancer experts agree that self-exams offer a safe complement to mammography, which exposes women to radiation, a known carcinogen, and fails to detect around 20% of breast cancers in older women and as much as 40% in younger women.

One of the things that was mentioned during the announcement, but not emphasized was the ultimate goal with breast cancer, and all cancers, is to find information on how to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Prevention!

We need to take responsibility for our own health! Women should use all the detection tools at their disposal while we explore safe, reliable alternatives to mammography. But remember that detection does not equal prevention. We must also set our sights on eliminating the preventable causes of the disease, including healthy immune system, proper nutrition, exercise, stress, and the environment. The Cancer Society knows that 50% of all cancers can be prevented through diet and nutrition.

What are you going to do? I know what I am going to do. I will continue to know my body by doing my monthly BSE while improving my nutrition and taking time to smell the roses.

Robin Reid is a holistic nutritional and herbal health coach and educator, as well as a reflexologist and chair massager. 250-754-9250