“The breast health (& heart) health comes from living a life in which giving and receiving are equally balanced and in which you eat well & move your body joyfully, vigorously and regularly.”
October is Breast Health Awareness Month. A recent BMC Cancer study conducted in Toronto reported that 47% of women with breast cancer seek complementary care in addition to their Western medical treatments. Traditional Chinese medicine offers an array of options that can assist women with everything from chemotherapy side effects to insomnia and anxiety. In addition to the many benefits alternative medicine can have for a woman with breast cancer, there are also a number of natural preventative steps that Chinese medicine health providers can recommend for young women.
Lymphatic Health and Breast Cancer Prevention
The breasts are closely located to the body’s major lymphatic system, which is in part why breast cancer can be so dangerous. If it reaches the lymphatic system, it can spread throughout the body. To help prevent the development or growth of cancer in the breasts, it is paramount that the lymphatic system is healthy and moving. The more movement in the lymphs, the more toxins are flushed out. Movement can be achieved by exercise, but it’s also helpful to massage the breasts and lymph areas regularly to ensure there is no stagnation.
Incorporating Chinese Medicine in Breast Health Practices
Lara Koljonen, LAc, is a PCOM San Diego graduate and acupuncturist practicing in San Diego. In addition to her acupuncture practice, Koljonen started “Essentially Pink” in 2006, a movement to infuse the wisdom of Chinese medicine into mainstream culture and make breast health tips accessible. Koljonen offers a myriad of helpful advice for breast health on her.
As far as self-massage for healthy breasts, Koljenen says “Breast health is movement. Moving your lymph tissue, moving your body’s energy and blood flow. With stress and negative thinking we create energy stagnation and block lymph, energy, and blood flow. The lymphatic system is different than the circulatory system, it does not have a heart to pump it so it only moves when you move it, ex: exercise and breast health techniques such as the Tulip Tap (The tulip refers to the acupressure point pattern around the breast to increase health by increasing movement) and self breast massage (Self breast massage moves the lymph in the breast and the tulip tap moves the lymph around the breast).”
Koljonen has created what she terms “the Tulip Tap” as a self-breast massage that incorporates Chinese medicine acupressure—the specific applied pressure on certain points of the body that enhance wellbeing. Koljonen explains, “The Tulip Tap is an acupressure exercise that moves the energy and lymphatic flow in the acupuncture channels around the breast.”
Nutritional Choices and Their Impact on Breast Health
In addition to moving your lymphatic system and getting your exercise, specific dietary choices can improve women’s health and possibly prevent breast cancer. “Nutrition is fundamental in breast heath. Avoid all phytoestrogens, plant derived estrogens, soy and flax. Also avoid hummus/garbanzo beans, sesame seeds, and multi grain bread due to their high phytoestrogen content,” says Wendy Sellens, L.Ac. WABT-CBI and a Board Certified Thermologist & Interpreter. Nutrition can have a huge impact on a person’s health—for better or worse. Sellens continues, “Reduce risk of breast cancer by reducing use of processed food and sugar or anything that breaks down to sugar including grains, carbohydrates and alcohol. Cancer requires a large amount of sugar to survive.” Also a PCOM alum, Sellens practices Chinese medicine in Solana Beach, San Diego and also specializes in Breast Thermology with Pink Image. You can find out more at her website here.
The Role of Breast Thermology in Early Cancer Detection
Early detection of cancer has saved countless women’s lives. Breast Thermology is a non-invasive technology that can alert women that they may be at risk before the cancer has fully formed. Sellens explains, “Breast thermograms analyze blood flow or vascular pattern in the breasts. Stimulation of breast cells in breast thermography is referred to as vascularity, which is evidence of neoangiogenesis. Dr. Judah Folkman discovered that tumors caused neoangiogenesis (new blood vessels) and that angiogenesis was necessary for neoplasia (abnormal growth of tissue) to move from in situ (inside duct) to an invasive cancer.” So, essentially, Breast Thermography can monitor a women’s breast health by monitoring the growth of her blood vessels, or neoangiogenesis, in the breasts. Breast Thermography can alert a woman who is thermographically at risk due to increased vascularity to make lifestyle changes to correct the risk before it escalates. Sellens offers breast thermography in conjunction with acupuncture treatments and Chinese herbology for breast health.
One benefit of holistic medicine is that a Chinese medicine practitioner is able to determine each patient’s deficiencies and can assist the patient in strengthening the body to function properly. Each patient is given a customized treatment specific to her needs. So, whether she is going through chemotherapy or exploring options to improve a benign breast disease, or simply wants to learn breast self-care and nutrition tips, a practitioner will develop a tailored treatment plan.