Better Off Well
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INSIGHTS

The Real Breast Cancer Awareness

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month. The concept started in 1985, as a partnership between the American Cancer Society and the pharmaceutical division of Imperial Chemical Industries. The aim of the promotion, from the start, has been to champion mammography and has now become a prime fundraising period for breast cancer charities and for-profit retail agencies. Breast cancer research is the most well-funded type of cancer in our country. In an article published in Marie Claire magazine last year, titled "The Big Business of Breast Cancer", writer Lea Goldman reports that the National Institutes of Health- the nation's top agency for health-related research- allocated $763 million for breast cancer research, while the Department of Defense (huh?) handed over $150 million.

While we've made technology and pharmaceutical strides that can almost guarantee the eradication of breast cancer when caught very early, the fact remains we are no closer to a cure than we were two decades ago. Writes Goldman, "In 1991, 119 women in the U.S. died of breast cancer every day. Today, that figure is 110 — a victory no one is bragging about. Breast cancer remains the leading cancer killer among women ages 20 to 59; more than 1.4 million new cases are diagnosed annually worldwide. Roughly 5 percent, or 70,000, breast cancer patients are diagnosed at a late stage, after the cancer has metastasized — that rate hasn't budged since 1975, despite all the medical advances and awareness campaigns."

But there IS good news. We simply don't hear it from the mainstream media (and I'll explain more of that in a bit). We can help to prevent breast cancer- all types of cancers- through our lifestyle. While there are never guarantees, we have far more control over our health than we've been lead to believe. In his book, Breast Cancer: Reduce Your Risk With Foods You Love, Dr. Robert Pendergast explains that no diet can 100% guarantee a woman will not get breast cancer, but there are specific food choices that can reduce a woman's chances of ever acquiring the disease.

By regularly consuming foods like berries, mushrooms, flax, beans, dark leafy greens, and green tea, you fill your body with flavonoids, lignans, and other cancer-fighting phytochemicals that can only be found in plant foods. Reducing or eliminating exposure to alcohol, trans fats (partially hydrogenated oils), processed foods, and refined sugars help to prevent cell-damaging free radicals from entering our bodies. It's those weak and dying cells that become prime targets for carcinogens.

And it's not just our food choices that help increase the quality of our lives. I met a beautiful woman during last week's BOW for the Ladies night. She was recovering from breast cancer treatment. At the end of the night, she told me she'd not been given advice about foods to include and toxins to remove from her home. As she explained, her home was "full of smells", meaning she had chemically-scented candles and air fresheners all around her. She was breathing in those toxins on a daily basis. The body products she used had fragrance as well.

Why don't we hear more about this? Sadly, because there's no money in promoting lifestyle changes. Over the last century, researchers have gone into indigenous cultures and the information they've brought back has always been the same. The Okinawa Centenarian study is one of the most well-known. A centenarian is someone who's lived to be at least 100 years of age. In traditional Okinawa, Japan, there were many. They ate many plants foods, little meat, got plenty of rest, lived simply, and honored each other's company. Cancer was almost non-existent.

Modern day Okinawa is changing. The introduction of fast and processed food, along with a faster-paced and disconnected lifestyle are bringing with it the diseases that plague our own nation, including cancer.

In his book, Healthy at 100, John Robbins reviews this research. He admits that he doesn't advocate going back in time. He enjoys a modern life- and indoor plumbing. But he says we can learn a lot from these people. While modern western medicine can add years to our lives, it won't add life to our years. We are the ones responsible for making that happen.

Information is confusing and conflicting at times, right? It's not so bad once we become critical thinkers, however.

Take this popular mainstream health magazine for women.

This month there was a segment dedicated to Breast Cancer Awareness. In this 12-page spread, 5 of the pages were dedicated to pharmaceuticals.

And one page for a deceptive high-sugar treat: VitaTops. Must be good for us??

So out of the 12 pages, half were dedicated to products that don't exactly promote healthy living.

And what of the advice offered in this piece? "The Top 4 Ways to Avoid Breast Cancer" side bar suggested that women should lose weight, exercise more, drink less, and quit smoking.

That's what I'd call a good start, but no. That was it.

No advice about the kinds of health-promoting foods or toxins to avoid.

Why?

Because you can't upset your advertisers. It's not easy to keep a print mag in circulation these days, and advertising revenue plays a huge part in keeping them afloat. Suggesting changes that might actually reduce a person's need for pharmaceutical drugs or that eliminates sugars and processed foods conflicts with most of the product advertisements.

It's important to be critical thinkers today. Money is tight for everyone, and independent research is almost non-existent now. When we hear of new studies published, I first try to find the source of funding. Corporates who fund research have a vested interest in the outcomes.

This is a long blog, yet so much is left unsaid. Like the admiration I feel for those who've survived breast cancer, and for those who haven't. What a courageous battle it must be to fight. As a cancer survivor myself (cervical, not breast), I know how scary it is to be faced with your own mortality. I was lucky; mine was caught early. I have nothing in my heart but respect for these women- and men- and promise to continue working to spread the message about the real cancer awareness.