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Cancer Awareness


  • Suggested Nutritional Measures to Keep Breast Cancer at Bay

    Written by Dr Sandra Miranda, ND

    If there was any way to prevent or at least minimize your chances of getting breast cancer, you would of course do all you could to do so. There are many foods that are excellent sources of nutrition generally, but that also have excellent properties for helping to prevent cancer.

    Studies are beginning to show that certain foods contain properties that can keep cancer at bay. If there were even a slight chance of preventing cancer by taking in more of these foods, of course, you would eat more of them.

    Broccoli

    Broccoli seems to be on the top of the list for fighting breast cancer. Similar foods such as kale and bok choy are among the vegetables that also top the list of foods to eat.

    Beans and Legumes

    Beans are a great source of protein and fibre, and more and more studies are showing that eating more of them can help reduce the risk of breast cancer. 

    The Berry Family

    Blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries are among the favourite breast cancer-fighting foods. These yummy fruits added to yogurts or cereal, hot or cold, make a tasty addition to your diet with the added bonus of helping to ward off cancer cells.

    Red and Orange Fruits and Veggies 

    Fruits and veggies high in carotenoids have many health benefits, including reducing risk of breast cancer. Peppers, tomatoes, and cantaloupes are all delicious in their own rights and when added to recipes add flavour and colour as well.

    Fatty Types of Fish

    Fish that is high in omega 3 is an excellent source of protein. Trout, fresh tuna, and salmon are all wonderful additions to your diet. Studies are showing that eating fish that is high in omega 3 (oily types of fish) lowers the chance of developing breast cancer.

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  • Cervical Cancer - What You Need to Know

     

     

    Cervical cancer is one of those cancers that only women get. You will want to be screened to make sure you don't have it.  Here, you will learn about some of those screening methods and what to expect. Learn about what cervical cancer is, ways to help prevent yourself from getting it and what the survival rate of it is if you do get it. 

    What Is Cervical Cancer?

    The cervix is the lower part of the uterus. Most cervical cancers begin in the cells that line the cervix. The normal cells of the cervix slowly develop into precancerous cells. It takes time for the precancerous cells to turn into cancerous cells, and this is why it's so important to get regular screenings.

    Screening for Cervical Cancer

    There are two tests which are performed to screen for cervical cancer - a Pap smear and an HPV test. The Pap smear tests for precancerous cells. The HPV test looks for the human papillomavirus which can lead to cancer.

    The Pap test is recommended for women ages 21-65. It is done right in your doctor or gynecologist's office. A speculum (a metal or plastic instrument) is placed inside the vagina and used to widen it and then a few swabs are taken and tested in a lab to make sure they are not abnormal.

    The HPV test is done similarly, but the lab will test for the human papillomavirus.

    The new recommendations from the American College of Gynecology (ACOG) is to have a Pap smear performed every three years starting at the age of 21. If you are at higher risk, meaning you have had precancerous cells in a prior test, then your doctor will recommend more frequent screenings. The Pap test is the most accurate screening test there is for cervical cancer. It does not detect any other gynecological cancers, though, so for any abnormal symptoms you should see your doctor.

    Aside from regular screenings, you want to make sure you're doing all you can to prevent yourself from getting cervical cancer.

    How to Prevent Cervical Cancer

    Getting screened is the most important thing you can do in preventing cervical cancer. However, beyond that there are some other things you can do as well. Since HPV can cause cervical cancer, practicing safe sex (using condoms) can help you from getting this sexually transmitted disease.

    HPV is a sexually transmitted disease. And while HPV can live on both the male and female genitalia in areas which are not protected by a condom, using a condom has been shown to lower the chances of transmitting HPV and getting cervical cancer. All of these steps will help prevent you from getting cervical cancer.

    Getting Cervical Cancer

    In most instances it takes a few years for precancerous cells to turn into cancer cells, and most times that doesn't even happen. This is why it's important to have regular screenings so you can catch the cancer early, because that's always your best chance.

    There are many factors which will weigh in on your chances of survival with cervical cancer. These include:

    * Type of cancer

    * Stage of cancer

    * Age and overall health

    * If the cancer comes back after treatment

    The further the cancer spreads outside of the cervix, the lower the chances of survival. So again, this is why screening is so very important to catch it early. It is completely reasonable to assume that you will survive five years or more after being diagnosed with cervical cancer.

    By: Dr. Sandra Miranda, ND

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  • Colorectal Cancer - What You Need to Know

     

    For both men and women, colorectal cancer is the third deadliest cancer there is. This is why it's so important to get screened for it. As with all cancers, the earlier it's found, the easier it is to fight off. So you need to know what to look for and what doctors do to screen for colorectal cancer. Here are the common signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer and the screening methods used to determine if you have it.

    Signs and Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer

    If you have any of these symptoms you should see your doctor.

    * Constipation, diarrhea, or any change to the stool that lasts for more than a few days

    * Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool

    * Feeling like you have to have a bowel movement, but when you do go you are not feeling relieved

    * Abdominal pain or cramping that is persistent. Gas or pain of any kind that doesn't go away

    * Weakness and fatigue

    * Weight loss when you weren't trying to lose weight

    These symptoms can generally be explained away as other things such as a virus, infection, hemorrhoids, and inflammatory bowel disease. It's important to see your doctor if these issues persist so these things can be ruled out.

    There are often no early symptoms of colorectal cancer. Signs and symptoms may vary when it develops depending on where in the colon the cancer is located. You should be more concerned if you are over the age of 50 or have a family history.

    Tests for Colorectal Cancer

    If you present with any of the above symptoms, then your doctor will take a complete family history. He or she will feel your belly to see if he feels any masses. He might order some blood tests to see what exactly is going on, like a CBC (Complete Blood Count) to check for anemia, liver enzymes to check your liver function because colorectal cancer can spread to your liver, and tumor markers in someone who already has colorectal cancer or has had it.

    If symptoms or the results of these tests suggests cancer, then further testing is recommended. This is usually a colonoscopy, but sometimes a sigmoidoscopy or an imaging test that uses a barium enema and a lower GI series. This helps doctors screen for polyps.

    During a colonoscopy, if colorectal cancer is suspected the doctor will take a biopsy which is just a small piece of tissue that is removed for further examination under the microscope. In very rare cases, part of the colon may need to be surgically removed (a part less often used) to make the diagnosis.

    Additionally, scans such as a CT scan might be performed. This is used more often to see if colon cancer has spread to other organs like the liver. It gives a detailed image of the soft tissues of the body.

    An ultrasound might be performed to try to see tumors, but really all this would show is tumors in the liver, gallbladder, or pancreas. It cannot detect tumors in the colon. For that your doctor might recommend an endorectal ultrasound where a special transducer is inserted into the rectum. This way the doctor can see deep into the rectal wall to see where the cancer has spread, if at all, and it can look at the lymph nodes and nearby organs.

    If you don't have any symptoms of colorectal cancer but are of a certain age or have a family history, there are screening tests that can be done. Tests that find both colorectal polyps and cancer are perfect. This way if polyps are found they can be removed during the screening to help prevent them from turning into cancer. For less invasive screening, tests that check the stool can be used. However, this doesn't find polyps. 

    The colonoscopy is the most common test performed to screen for polyps and cancer. However, the CT scan and the barium enema are used to screen for polyps and cancer as well.

    To screen just for cancer, tests like the Fecal Occult Blood test is used. Fecal matter is screened for the occult blood which cannot be seen with the naked eye. If there is blood in the stool, a colonoscopy would need to be performed to determine where exactly the bleeding is coming from.

    Check with your doctor to see what he recommends based on your symptoms or lack thereof and your family history. While colorectal cancer is the third leading deadly cancer, the development of tests and screenings has been increasing the survival rate.

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  • Everything You Need to Know about Breast Cancer

     

     

    Wondering about breast cancer? Read on to find out more. Hopefully this helps you know what to expect.

    What Is Breast Cancer

    Breast cancer affects the tissues of the breast. There are two main types of breast cancer. The more common form of breast cancer is one which develops in the lobules where the milk ducts are and are the glands that produce the milk. The less common form develops in the stromal tissue which makes up the more fatty fibrous tissue of the breast.

    Breast cancer is caused by a genetic abnormality. However, only about 5-10% of breast cancer is actually hereditary. The majority of the time the genetic abnormality is due to the aging process. Just general wear and tear of life, metabolic acidosis and systemic inflammation causes the cells to mutate.

    You can actually limit your risk of getting breast cancer just by doing a few things to keep yourself healthy. Things like eating right, not smoking, exercising regularly, and limiting alcohol consumption. This is not to say you definitely will not get breast cancer if you do these things, though - it just helps limit your risk.

    Part of the way you can help in the fight against breast cancer is early detection. Doing monthly self-breast exams is key, but you also want to make sure that you get thermography testing done starting at the age of 40.  Breast Thermography is applicable to all women, especially the group between 40 and 50, and for those who have dense, fibrocystic breasts or implants. It is a completely safe, non-invasive screening method that has been proven to be effective. An abnormal infrared image is the single-most important marker of high risk for developing breast disease.

    You can also get mammograms ideally starting on the age of 50 in order to reduce too much radiation in the breast tissue which can increase your risk for developing breast cancer.

    Mammograms are nothing to be afraid of. It's no worse than any other procedure you have to have done to ensure you're healthy.

    What to Expect out of a Mammogram

    To help ease your fears about mammograms, here's what you can expect when you go for one. This is one of the most important tools doctors have for screening people for breast cancer and helping in determine a diagnosis and treatment plan. So once you're of age you don't want to skip this, especially if you're simply missing it because you're nervous about the unknown.  Here's what they do:

    * You will receive a gown and be asked to remove all jewelry from the waist up as well as clothing from the waist up.

    * You will stand in front of a special x-ray machine that has a plate on it.

    * The technician will place one of your breasts on the plate and raise or lower the platform to match your height.

    * The technician will then have you position your arms, head, and torso in such a way that it will not interfere with the test itself.

    * Your breast is then gently pressed down by a large plastic plate.

    * You will feel pressure for a few seconds as the breast tissue is spread out to take an image of the breast. This might cause some discomfort, but it's not harming you. If it becomes too unbearable, tell the technician. However, this is needed in order to flatten out and even the thickness of the breast tissue to get a better image of the breast.

    * You'll need to hold still and hold your breath for a second.

    * Then the technician will do the same thing with the second breast.

    * You might be asked to wait after it's all done for the technician to review the images to make sure they are clear. If they are not they might have to repeat the process.

    * It usually takes less than 30 minutes to complete the whole process and you are free to resume normal activity once it is complete.

    So that doesn't sound too terrible, does it? It's only once a year and if it will detect breast cancer early, then it could really be a life saver.

    How a Mammogram Is Used to Help Save Your Life

    Mammograms have the ability to check the breast for any sign of disease. A lump can be seen on a mammogram before it can even be felt during a self-exam. And since we know early detection saves lives when it comes to cancer, this is a great early detector that saves lives.

    While mammograms can't actually diagnose cancer, they can alert us to problems with the breast which lead to further testing. That might be simply monitoring more closely to see if the calcifications multiply over time. Or it could tell doctors that a biopsy needs to be done. It will show doctors exactly where they need to do the biopsy as well.

    So mammograms are very important tools in saving the lives of women (and men) when it comes to breast cancer. Even though a mammogram can't say for sure whether you have breast cancer, it does alert the doctors to a possible problem which might require more testing or closer monitoring.

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  • Flax seeds reduces your risk of breast cancer

     

    Flax seed is a wonderful seed that is full of fiber and phytoestrogens (also known as weak and protective estrogens).  Include flaxseed in your diet each day to help reduce the risk of breast cancer. Flaxseed may also reduce tumour growth in women dealing with breast cancer. Dietary flaxseed can help lower estrogen levels in the body.

    How Does it Work?

    Flaxseeds contain two beneficial substances: 1) the fiber contains lignin (up to 800 times the amount as in any tested plant food), which acts as a protective phytoestrogen or AKA natural cancer-protective compounds, binding to estrogen receptors to block the body's strong or potentially harmful estrogens as well as environmental estrogens such as PCBs, pesticides, plastics and toxic metals; 2) flaxseed contains alpha linolenic acid, an Omega 3 oil that has anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.

    Studies on animals with breast cancer have shown that flaxseed can reduce the size of breast tumours by 67 percent, and is effective at preventing cancers induced by chemicals. A Toronto researcher, Lilian Thompson, found that women who used flaxseeds in their diets between the time of diagnosis and the time of surgery to remove a breast tumour were able to decrease their tumour growth before the surgery.

    Your body makes several types of estrogen, some protective, others harmful. In studies on premenopausal women, flaxseed intake increased the good estrogen metabolites and decreased the harmful ones.

    Women whose cancer is driven by estrogen often use the drug Tamoxifen to block estrogen receptors, inactivating the hormone - flaxseed works in a similar way as Tamoxifen and enhances the effectiveness of the drug.

    By: Dr. Sandra Miranda, ND

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