When you look at the whole history of cancer treatment, radiation and chemotherapy are relative newcomers on the scene. Whereas surgical removal of cancerous tumors and tissue dates back much further.
Yet, because we haven’t had many notable advancements in the prevention and treatment of real cancers over the past 100 years, doctors in the 21st century still rely heavily on surgery. And sometimes, inappropriately so! Especially when it comes to treating breast cancer…
More and more women get “low value” double mastectomies
For a new, eye-opening study published in JAMA Surgery, researchers evaluated data on surgeries involving nearly 1 million U.S. women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer between 2004 and 2016.
They found that rates of contralateral prophylactic mastectomy (taking off the healthy breast along with the breast with cancer) more than doubled during the study period—despite offering little benefit to women at average risk of breast cancer. And the women most often to receive this major, elective, disfiguring surgery are:
- Higher socioeconomic status
- Likely to have breast reconstruction available to them
In addition, lymph node biopsies among women ages 70 years and older with hormone-responsive tumors increased from 78 percent in 2004 to a whopping 87 percent in 2012…despite findings from a 2013 study showing no survival benefit to this procedure.
Plus, according to this study’s researchers, the overtreatment of early-stage breast cancer, in general, “results in increased morbidity and cost without improving survival.”
So, why do doctors continue to perform these useless, painful, disfiguring, and expensive surgeries?
Well, when it comes to the contralateral prophylactic mastectomies, the researchers said they believe the patients make the decisions. And indeed, women with breast cancer commonly fear they’ll get cancer in the other breast—even without any evidence showing that will happen.
But I disagree they should lay the blame for the increasing rate of these unnecessary, disfiguring, double mastectomies on the patient! The attending physician and surgeon should explain the risks and lack of benefit. Plus, the doctors could prioritize lumpectomies (where they remove only the affected breast tissue) over mastectomies in women with smaller cancers.
As for biopsies, researchers speculated that surgeons either don’t know about the evidence showing that they’re ineffective, or they may feel the procedure adds only minimal time and risk to a patient’s operation. Either way, it still doesn’t encourage me to put a whole lot of faith in what the surgeons have to say!
So, here’s my advice…
If you or someone you love has been recently diagnosed with breast cancer, make sure to ask the doctors and surgeons involved to share the reasoning and scientific evidence behind all of their treatment decisions. You may also want to print out the studies I refer to here and take them with you to your appointment. (I always give you the study citations at the bottom of my Dispatches.)
Four steps to lower your breast cancer risk safely and effectively
Clearly, the U.S. medical establishment has a massive overdiagnosis and overtreatment problem. Plus, we’ve made very little progress in the “war on cancer” in the last 50 years. (Incredibly, the National Cancer Institute [NCI] only just announced that it will finally start tracking breast cancer survivors and recurrences. Thanks to some funding from the Department of Energy.)
So, if you haven’t been diagnosed with breast cancer, count yourself as very fortunate. And take the opportunity, starting today, to reduce your breast cancer risk—and reduce the need for questionable screening and risky treatment methods in the first place!
You can start by adopting these three healthy habits:
1.) Load up on fruits and vegetables. A study of 1,042 women found that carotenoids in foods—alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin—may help prevent breast cancer. (I helped discover the roles of these carotenoids in human nutrition and metabolism, and their nutrient composition in foods, back in the mid-1980s.)
Not only are carotenoids powerful antioxidants that can protect against DNA damage, but the researchers noted that they may even help keep normal cells from mutating into cancerous cells.
Alpha-carotene is found in orange foods like pumpkin and carrots. Beta-carotene is also found in carrots, along with leafy greens and peppers. Lycopene is what makes foods like tomatoes, watermelon, and pink grapefruit. And you can find high doses of lutein and zeaxanthin in leafy greens.
2.) Take your daily vitamins. All of these carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetables are also high in B and C vitamins. But I also recommend taking a high-quality B complex vitamin every day (with at least 55 mg of B6), along with 250 mg of C twice a day.
In addition, a variety of studies have shown that vitamin E can also help prevent breast cancer. I recommend 50 mg per day, together with a healthy, balanced diet.
Last but certainly not least, it’s no surprise that the wonder vitamin, D, has been shown in numerous studies to be protective against breast cancer, too. Plus, if you’re diagnosed with breast cancer, a long-term study involving 4,443 women found that taking higher levels of vitamin D improves quality of life and doubles your chances of survival. As always, I recommend 250 mcg (10,000 IU) of D3 every day.
3.) Eat calcium-rich foods. Research shows that calcium and vitamin D together are protective against breast cancer. However, as I often report, you should only ever get your calcium from your diet, as calcium supplements can cause hardening of the arteries. So, be sure to eat plenty of wild-caught seafood, grass-fed and -finished meat (including lamb), and organic, full-fat dairy. (They’re all staples of the healthy Mediterranean-type diet.)
Of course, there are dozens of other natural approaches to help prevent and combat all types of cancers, including breast cancer. And I’ve outlined them all in great detail in a groundbreaking online learning tool, my Authentic Anti-Cancer Protocol. To learn more, or to enroll today, click here now.
“Variations in Persistent Use of Low-Value Breast Cancer Surgery.” JAMA Surg. 2021 Apr 1;156(4):353-362. doi.org/10.1001/jamasurg.2020.6942.
“Deimplementation of the Choosing Wisely Recommendations for Low-Value Breast Cancer Surgery: A Systematic Review.” JAMA Surg. 2020 Aug 1;155(8):759-770. doi.org/ 10.1001/jamasurg.2020.0322.
“Specific serum carotenoids are inversely associated with breast cancer risk among Chinese women: a case–control study.” Br J Nutr. 2015 Oct 20:1-9. doi.org/10.1017/S000711451500416X.
“Meta-analysis of vitamin D sufficiency for improving survival of patients with breast cancer.” Anticancer Res. 2014 Mar;34(3):1163-6.
“Effects of selenium supplements on cancer prevention: meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.” Nutr Cancer. 2011 Nov;63(8):1185-95. doi.org/10.1080/01635581.2011.607544.