The most common form of cancer among women in the United States (other than skin cancer), breast cancer typically begins as a malignant tumor in the breast ducts or in the glands responsible for producing milk. In some cases, breast cancer spreads to distant areas of the body.
Breast cancer affects one in eight women during the course of their lives. The disease may also occur in men, but incidences of male breast cancer are fairly rare.
Causes of Breast Cancer
Although no one knows what causes breast cancer, these factors may increase your risk for the disease:
Breast cancer risk increases as you age, and most cases occur in women over 60. The disease is more common among white women than Latina, Asian, or African-American women.
Breast Cancer Symptoms
Performing self-exams of your breasts each month can help you detect any changes that may signal breast cancer. These changes may include:
Nipple discharge may also be a sign of breast cancer.
In addition to performing monthly self-exams, you should visit your doctor regularly for clinical breast exams. Women who are over age 40 (or who have certain risk factors for breast cancer) should also receive mammograms every one or two years.
Breast Cancer Treatment
Treatment options for breast cancer are based on a number of factors, including type of breast cancer, breast cancer stage, the cancer cells' sensitivity to hormones, and the patient's overall health. Treatments may include breast cancer surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, targeted drugs, or a combination or therapies.
Alternative Medicine for Breast Cancer
A number of natural therapies may help relieve side effects of conventional cancer treatments, ease stress, and enhance quality of life for people coping with breast cancer. Talk to your doctor about using the following:
Breast Cancer Prevention
Although there's no surefire way to prevent breast cancer, the following may reduce your risk:
Preliminary research suggests that these natural substances may also aid in the prevention of breast cancer:
An animal-based study published in 2009 shows that curcumin (a compound found in the curry spice turmeric and available in supplement form) may help reduce breast cancer risk for women undergoing hormone replacement therapy during menopause. The study's authors suggest that women receiving a combined estrogen and progestin hormone replacement therapy could potentially take curcumin to protect against the development of progestin-accelerated tumors. However, it's important to talk to your doctor about using any natural remedies in combination with hormone replacement therapy.
In a test-tube study published in 2008, researchers found that resveratrol (an antioxidant found in the skin of grapes) helped suppress breast-cancer progression in its earliest stages. Available in supplement form, resveratrol appeared to stop estrogen from reacting with DNA molecules and forming compounds that mark the start of cancer cell formation.
3) Green Tea
While clinical trials on green tea's cancer-fighting effects have yielded mixed results, lab tests suggest that a combination of green tea and ganoderma (a medicinal mushroom, also known as reishi) may help slow the growth of breast cancer cells.
Carroll CE, Benakanakere I, Besch-Williford C, Ellersieck MR, Hyder SM. "Curcumin delays development of medroxyprogesterone acetate-accelerated 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene-induced mammary tumors." Menopause. 2009 Jul 22.
Lu F, Zahid M, Wang C, Saeed M, Cavalieri EL, Rogan EG. "Resveratrol prevents estrogen-DNA adduct formation and neoplastic transformation in MCF-10F cells." Cancer Prevention Research 2008 1(2):135-45.
Thyagarajan A, Zhu J, Sliva D. "Combined effect of green tea and Ganoderma lucidum on invasive behavior of breast cancer cells." International Journal of Oncology 2007 30(4):963-9.