WHAT YOUR DOCTOR MAY NOT TELL YOU ABOUT BREAST CANCER
How Hormone Balance Can Help Save Your Life
By John R. Lee, M.D., David Zava Ph.D., and Virginia Hopkins
Your risk of surviving malignant breast cancer is just about the same as it was 50 years ago when the only treatment was mastectomy: about one in three. In other words, in spite of billions of dollars in research, and hugely expensive and risky treatments, the conventional medical approach to breast cancer isn’t working, and talk of prevention is virtually non-existent.
Our focus in this book is on what causes breast cancer, and how to help prevent it. We believe that the prevention strategies are useful both for helping to prevent breast cancer altogether, and also for helping to prevent a recurrence in women who have already had breast cancer. We’ll start by exploring the politics of the breast cancer industry, and what we do know in a general way about what causes cancer, otherwise known as “risk factors.”
We wrote this book because it’s time for conventional medical doctors to admit that breast cancer treatments aren’t working, and to have the courage to step forward and try new approaches. It’s time for them to stop getting their medical education from drug company reps and journals funded by drug companies; to start revisiting their biochemistry textbooks; to spend regular time on Medline keeping up with current research; and to at least be open to discussing and exploring alternative methods of treatment with their patients who want to choose that path. It’s time for physicians to work in cooperation with alternative health care professionals (and vice versa), and for both types of healer to take advantage of the strengths and skills of the other.
It’s time for oncologists look beyond radiation and chemotherapy, and for research facilities to take risks, think outside the dots, and make healing more important than the financial bottom line. It’s time for those giving the money to find scientists and physicians who will work outside of the influences of drug companies, because the majority of current breast cancer research is about making money selling drugs, and that is not where the cure for breast cancer lies.
It’s also time for women to become aware that conventional medical cancer treatments aren’t working, and to avoid slipping passively into the cancer industry machinery, only to be spit out at the other end, permanently damaged and still with no reasonable assurance of survival. Women with breast cancer need to be supported in demanding their right to be fully informed about the treatments they receive, and to be able to refuse treatment if they – through education or intuition – feel it’s wrong for them, without being “disowned” by the medical system.
And, it’s long past time for the media to stop blindly spouting press releases from big drug companies touting new “cures” for breast cancer which are poorly researched and do more harm than good in the end. It’s long past time for journalists to have the integrity to do independent research, and to check out obviously biased information to see if it’s accurate and truthful.
By the time you finish the chapters on the nature of cancer and breast cancer, you’ll understand why breast cancer is rarely caused by one single factor or event, and likewise why there is no one drug that will turn it off. We do have a mountain of good research showing that an excess of the female hormone estrogen in one form or another is a central condition in the cause of breast cancer, and that avoiding excess estrogen can prevent breast cancer, and we’ll explain that to you in plain English. Dr. Lee has coined the term “estrogen dominance” to describe this condition.
Having said this about estrogen, we want to say right up front that we’re not “bashing” estrogens. They are essential for health, and the protective hormone, progesterone, doesn’t work without some estrogen accompanying it. Estrogens do not cause breast cancer by themselves – our complex biochemistry always operates in an inter-related, web-like fashion.
We will explain how, when estrogens go down the wrong metabolic pathways in your body, they can damage your DNA and cause cancer. We will explain what causes this to happen, and give you many down-to-earth, commonsense, easy-to-implement, low cost options for stopping this damage in its tracks. And don’t worry; we’re not just going to scare you about breast cancer and sign off, we’re going to give you real solutions for staying healthy.
Although we would dearly love to see more large, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies proving our points, this book is very well-referenced and backed up by science and by the experience of many clinicians who have patients with breast cancer. You can find references divided by chapter at the end of the book. Every month that goes by, another major study is published that supports the premises of this book, so it’s helpful to keep up with the current research if you have breast cancer. (The Resources section at the end of the book will give you ways to do this.)
A good portion of this book will focus on the conditions under which estrogens can cause cancer, and how progesterone can help you prevent it, but we don’t want you to skip over all the diet and exercise advice and go straight to the progesterone as if it is a cure-all. It’s an amazing substance, but it’s not a magic pill; it’s one chemical among thousands in your body.
Estrogen, although pretty much cast as the villain in this story, is just as necessary to life and health in a woman as progesterone is. It just so happens that our reliance on petrochemical (petroleum oil-based) products has created a world that is awash in an excess of environmental or “exogenous” estrogen, from the air you breathe to the food you eat, and the furniture you sit on. Progesterone is what opposes, or balances estrogen in your body, and thus it gets to play the role of the hero. Inherently, neither of these substances are good or bad, they’re just part of the complex orchestra of biochemistry that keeps your body going.
Balancing your estrogen and progesterone levels is not even a cure-all – especially if you’re still spraying your roses with pesticides, microwaving your food in plastic wrap, bingeing on French fries and snack chips, and regularly stressing yourself out to the point of exhaustion. If that describes you, you need to take better care of yourself and change your lifestyle, starting now. We will provide you with information on how to do this. The good news is that in the process of taking steps to prevent breast cancer, you’ll also be preventing other types of cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, allergies, and many other chronic diseases.
The information in this book about hormones and cancer is very controversial, and you’ll clearly understand why within the first few chapters. Women can opt for alternative treatments to radiation, chemotherapy and tamoxifen, but should be prepared to take these treatments very seriously, to make dramatic lifestyle changes, and to devote a lot of time and energy to maintaining these changes. Treating any kind of cancer is a life-and-death battle that demands focused attention and the willingness to change the conditions that created the disease in the first place.
There’s a bizarre, almost surreal refusal in American medicine to admit that we pretty much know what causes cancer and how to prevent it. Cancer specialists, called oncologists, continue to “slash, poison and burn” (as breast surgeon and author Susan Love, M.D. so aptly coined surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments for breast cancer), even though they know that, in the end, the treatments are unlikely to make much positive difference in the lives of their patients.
Perhaps this blindness has to do with the fact that a physician can lose his or her medical license by deviating from the so-called “standard of care” in medicine. This is particularly true in the area of cancer. Physicians who try unapproved treatments for cancer face swift and decisive action from local medical boards, and are labeled “quacks” by their colleagues.
Other than the possibility of healing a patient facing expensive and harmful medical treatments, there’s no advantage or benefit for a physician to go outside the established norms in treating cancer of any kind. In fact, punishment is severe and could mean lawsuits, the permanent loss of a job and/or a license. No wonder physicians are afraid of new approaches to healing cancer. There is legislation pending in California giving patients and doctors the legal right to try “alternative” approaches to treating cancer. Isn’t is a little frightening that in the United States of America we have to fight the medical establishment by making laws that give us the freedom to get the medical treatment we feel is best for us? Shouldn’t that automatically be our right in a democracy?
Women who opt not to have radiation and chemotherapy to treat their breast cancer will often face intense resistance from their medical community, who will tell them that if they don’t do what the doctor tells them to, they will die. Knowing what we do about how powerful the mind-body connection is, and how strong the power of suggestion is (especially coming from a physician) this type of mistreatment should be considered malpractice. There’s no excuse for that kind of behavior coming from any health care professional. We have received many heart-breaking letters with that type of story, and they only serve to underscore how desperately conventional medicine needs to make fundamental changes in how patients are perceived and treated. You will hear more about this throughout the book.
We are also frequently told of doctors who threaten to “disown” women who don’t do as they say. Dr. Lee had a call from a woman who just wanted a lumpectomy, but her doctor told her that if she didn’t also agree ahead of time to chemotherapy and radiation that he wouldn’t do the surgery and would no longer be her doctor. Again, this type of behavior is inexcusable, and is a testimonial to how far conventional medicine has drifted from being a healing profession. We’ll talk later about why many physicians behave this way, and we hope that it will make it easier to work with your doctor. Breast cancer is scary, and the prospect of losing the support of one’s doctor can make it even scarier.
This book is about the prevention and treatment of breast cancer. It is not about conventional medical treatments for breast cancer such as radiation and chemotherapy. (We will cover the topic of tamoxifen.) It will not contain an in-depth look at all the various types of breast cancer, their multiple diagnostic stages, and the considerable controversy and variety of treatment approaches that surrounds each one. Conventional medicine is already in a state of confusion and disagreement about these subjects, and there’s no reason to add anything to the discussion except to say that the approach is definitely not working, and there is no cohesive or unified theory of breast cancer at this time.
Dr. Lee often says in his talks that doctors seem to think that M.D. stands for “Minor Deity,” and the usual audience response is loud applause. Patients are to do as they are told and not question the physician’s decision. If a woman follows the doctor’s orders and then complains that she doesn’t feel well as a result, she is made to feel as if it is her fault, or that it’s all in her head, and she gets a prescription for a sedative or an antidepressant.
Women are rebelling against this kind of treatment. Their mothers were told that DDT and DES were safe, and that valium was not addictive. They watched as their older female relatives died of endometrial cancer in the 1960s because they were given unopposed estrogen – promised as the fountain of youth. New studies are coming out every day showing that conventional hormone replacement therapy (HRT), despite earlier promises and assurances, does increase your risk of developing breast cancer and does not help with heart disease. Women aren’t dumping tea into Boston harbor, they’re dumping their HRT down the toilet!
It’s essential that if you have breast cancer, you work with a health care professional who listens and genuinely cares. This is much more challenging and time-consuming than passively accepting whatever comes along, but the long-term rewards are clearly better health and a longer life!
Once you’ve read the first two chapters of this book, you’ll understand why your doctor is unlikely to understand or appreciate the information we’re going to give you about breast cancer, and why we want you to have compassion and understanding for the difficult position physicians are in these days. If he or she at least has an open mind, you are blessed. Hang in there and offer him or her a copy of this book! If every woman who read this book gave a copy to her physician, HRT and breast cancer treatments would shift dramatically within a few years. What we’re proposing here is not the least bit radical, unreasonable or complex, although it is radical in its simplicity and in its appeal to common sense. What we are proposing is simply outside of the paradigm of conventional medicine. We’ve never met a physician who wasn’t grateful and relieved to be practicing medicine with these concepts, which get back to some very solid medical basics and create much happier, healthier patients.
We would much prefer that women work with their health care professionals, in cooperation, mutual respect, and trust. It can be very difficult and daunting to hold your ground when you’re faced with an impatient, irritated physician in a white coat who is waiting to see the next patient – but a life-threatening disease is even more daunting. Think of it this way: every time you stand your ground and insist on your right to have your doctor listen to what you’re saying, or on your right to try something different with his or her support, the after-effect could be that you’re helping yourself and thousands of other women who come after you, including your sisters, daughters and great-granddaughters. The ripple effect of just one individual act of courage can last for generations.
To read Chapter One of What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Breast Cancer, click on the "excerpt" link below.
© Copyright, Warner Books 1999. This material may not be reproduced in any form without written permission of the author.