For most cancer patients this is common. Dr. Forsythe reports. “Sadly, this is a common occurrence in many cancer patients. There is between a 20 to 50 percent risk that breast cancer can come back. However, with early screening and taking treatment after surgery, we find fewer recurrences from breast cancer.”
Women who have already had breast cancer are 3-4 times as likely to develop a new tumor (in the same breast or the other one) as women who've never had the disease. Women's risk of recurrence is highest in the five years immediately following diagnosis, peaking within the first three years. Yet recurrences can occur many years after the initial treatment of breast cancer.
They are also at risk of having their cancer return in the same breast if they didn't have a mastectomy. Regular mammograms can help find recurrences or new cancers at an early stage, when they are easier to treat. Recurrence does not usually recur in the breast if a complete modified radical mastecomy has been performed. The primary management of breast cancer usually eliminates cancer from the chest wall and from the breast itself. Recurrences usually occur in other areas such as the bones, the lungs, the liver or the brain.
Dr. Forsythe reluctantly admits that there is not a lot a cancer survivor can do to prevent recurrence. “By far, the most important predictive factor of breast cancer recurrence is whether or not there is the spread of tumor or cancer to lymph nodes under the arm. Other risk factors include the size of the tumor and the histologic grade of the tumor (i.e., well-differentiated or poorly-differentiated). Then you have to look at the presence or absence of hormonal receptors on the breast cancer. Tumors that have high levels of either estrogen or progesterone receptors have a decreased chance of recurrence.”
Cancer Survivor Maintenance
However, Dr. Forsythe believes that diet and supplements can help maintain a strong immune system and cleanse the body after chemotherapy and radiation. He recommends the following natural therapies and lifestyle choices to help lead a cancer-free life.
Eat a healthy diet and maintain a normal weight by eating whole grain foods such as whole-wheat flour, oatmeal, whole cornmeal, and brown rice.
Continue to monitor your diet by eliminating non-organic poultry, dairy, and red meat. Non-organic foods may contain residues from pesticides that can increase the strength or activity of hormones in the body. Some studies have shown that increased hormone levels may increase the risk of breast cancer.
Eat more cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and turnips). These improve the ability of your cells to provide energy to your body.
Increase your intake of high-fiber foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain breads, rice, and cereals. Fiber helps your body to eliminate toxins.
Limit the amount of sugar, white flour, refined foods, coffee, tea, chocolate, and colas in your diet. Excess amounts of these are unhealthy, and a healthy diet is an important part of cancer prevention.
Add foods to your diet that support liver function, such as artichokes, beets, carrots, yams, onions, green leafy vegetables, lemons, and apples. Consider taking garlic supplements—studies have shown that garlic may reduce the risk of cancer. Note: garlic should not be consumed at the same time as anticoagulants nor in the 2 to 3 weeks prior to scheduled surgery. Recommended dose is 600 to 900 mg a day of enteric-coated odorless garlic extract. Look for a product that has been standardized to contain 1.0 to 1.4 percent alliin.
Drink green tea. Some researchers believe that the antioxidants in green tea may reduce the risk of breast cancer. A recommended dose for general health is 2 to 3 cups a day (decaffeinated) or 300 to 400 mg in capsule form (look for a product that has been standardized to contain 80 percent total polyphenols and 55 percent epigallocatechin).
Supplements are also an important factor in health maintenance.
“Contrary to conventional medical dogma, antioxidants do not interfere with radiation or chemotherapy.” –Dr. James Forsythe
Take coenzyme Q10 (120 mg three times a day) and/or bromelain (500 mg twice a day, between meals). Researchers believe both may have anti-tumor properties.
Vitamin A (25,000 IU a day), vitamin E (800 IU a day), and vitamin C (3 to 6 grams per day) may help to decrease the side effects of radiation and chemotherapy.
Vitamins C and E are also powerful antioxidants.
Melatonin (10 to 50 mg a day) appears to inhibit cancer growth. In Europe, many people who have cancer include this nutrient in their complete cancer treatment program.
Quality of Life Enhancements
Begin an exercise program, at least three times a week. But be sure to discuss any exercise program with your health care professional before you start.
Examine the stresses in your life and find ways to reduce them if possible by regular exercise and daily meditation and taking a yoga or tai chi class can help with relieving stress.
Learn to care for yourself the way you care for others. Tap into a support network—whatever you are comfortable with, such as friends, family, spouse/partner, spiritual community, online discussion groups, or others. Concentrate on what changes you can make to improve your quality of life.
The information contained in this Health Report is intended for education purposes only. It is intended to complement—not replace—the advice provided by healthcare providers.