Monday, October 7, 2013

October. Breast Cancer Awareness Month, or.....The Month of Love!

I am so at peace with myself because of my personal involvement with breast cancer awareness. I strive everyday to get the word out about those who have succumbed to this dread as well as those who are currently fighting. But the fight has only begun. I can't believe how much we are hearing, and learning, about the possible breakthroughs in understanding this disease. The more we understand it, the better equipped we are in controlling and, soon, the annihilation of breast cancer.
Our world that we take for granted, I truly believe, holds the key to not only breast cancer, but other types of cancer and sicknesses. Something as simple as going out in the sun and picking a quart of blueberries is a great example. The better you feel about yourself, as well as the stress relieving action of enjoying life, the better equipped you are emotionally to deal with whatever is thrown your way.
If you were to go outside in the sun for just 10 minutes, you would soak up almost 5000 IU of vitamin D. Now I know that by not using sunscreen and getting more than 2-3000 IU per day would be harmful in other ways, high levels of vitamin D and calcium may offer some protection against the most aggressive type of breast cancer, but has shown to only be beneficial to premenopausal women.
Then when you sit down to enjoy natures blueberries, that's when you are rewarded again!(read below under blueberries) Blueberries are on everyone's list of superfoods, cancer-fighting superfoods to be exact. But let me back up just a tad.

When you read the following history and thoughts about breast cancer, it is remarkable that in many ways, breast cancer is treated much as it was many hundreds of years ago. On the other hand, our knowledge, which eventually will lead to a cure, is leaps and bounds more profound when it comes to understanding both friend and foe of this pink ribbon affliction than once was.

The Edwin Smith Papyrus is the oldest known treatise on bodily trauma, including the treatment of breast cancer. It describes 48 traumatic injuries to a human body and how to properly treat them. FYI, did you know that this papyrus is the first manuscript to mention the word 'brain'?
Anyway, some think it may have been written much earlier then the accepted date of 1500 B.C., and "re-scribed" at a later date. With regards to breast cancer, it tells the reader to cauterize the spot where the tumor was "palpable".

A thousand years later, Hippocrates mentions that the excess of black bile in any part of the body would produce cancer. At the time, it was widely accepted that the body was composed of four fluids: blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile. In ancient Egypt, cancer was thought to have been caused by the Gods, which is why their treatment involved magic spells and talismans.

About 200 A.D., Galen describes cancer as an excess of black bile as well, but further states that some cancers are more dangerous than others. He opted to use opium, sulphur, licorice and other ointments for the relief and cure for cancerous tumors.

So in almost 2000 years, advancement of understanding and treating breast cancer was slow and still not completely understood. But this is to be expected without advancements in equipment in which to look at cancer on a genetic or molecular level.

In 1680, a certain French physician by the name of Francois de la Boe Sylvius thought that black bile excess was not the culprit, but that the lymphatic system was to blame, with another French doctor going even further by offering that certain glands and nerves, when mixed with lymph vessels, caused cancerous tumors.

It seems as though cancer research was heading in the right direction until a few other doctors and "learned" men in the early 18th century, began to argue that breast cancer was caused by a lack of sex, while others said it was the severity of the sex act alone, that caused this disease. Curdled milk, mental disorders, childlessness and idleness were also being tossed into the cause and effect arena during this time.
It wasn't until the mid-1750s that Henri Le Dran, another French doctor suggested removing the lymph nodes up into the armpits, along with the tumor, would treat breast cancer. This option, however, was not(as far as this author has determined) utilized during this time because of the lack of proper medicine for sedation, but it was attempted by two other French physicians about 1750.

In the early to mid-19th century, surgery was becoming an option for the removal of tumors and lymph nodes because of the understanding of antiseptics and anesthesia. By 1882, when the first radical mastectomy was performed by William Halstead. But the one downfall to this procedure was that more often than not, both breasts were removed instead of just the diseased one. But this form of treating breast cancer would be barely altered for the next eight or nine decades. Even until my mother dies, she underwent a radical mastectomy in 1978. I remember Mom saying that it was her choice to have it done because many women were choosing not to have such a body disfiguring procedure. The disfigurement involved the chest area as well as swelling and pain even after the mastectomy.

It wasn't until 1976 that radiation or chemotherapy was recognized as an alternative to mastectomy, so that by 1995, less than 10 percent of breast cancer patients opted for a mastectomy.

Now the good news. Did you know that some studies show that a third of all cancers, including breast cancer, are linked to a poor diet? When I mention a poor diet, I don't mean junk food or the obvious snacking done late at night. I mean the intake of cancer-fighting foods were being neglected. Although there may be correlating data linking a high-fat diet to aggressive types of cancer, it is far more important to alter your eating habits to fight this disastrous enemy and antioxidants are the number one line of defense. In addition to their fill of nutrients, antioxidant rich foods are able to kill free radicals that occur as a result of our digestion. These free radicals cause cell damage if not kept under control, so consider the foods listed below as the neighborhood posse.

The Yankee Chef has compiled a list of the top ten super foods that are the highest in the  cancer-fighting army. I am not telling you to overindulge. Simply keep these foods in mind when you are shopping. Regardless if you are a survivor or currently battling this affliction, do what you can to jump on the "love myself" bandwagon!

1. Wild Blueberries. With 1 cup of these berries, you are packing away over 13,500 total antioxidant capacity. Many lists will have you believe that red beans are higher than the blueberry but this is a misnomer. The most prolific red bean, the red kidney bean or pinto bean yields less capacity than does the wild blueberry.
At the Beckman Research Institute in California, researchers applied blueberry extracts to very difficult cancer cells(triple-negative) and found that after six weeks, the mice that received the extract had tumors that were almost three-quarters smaller than the size most often associated with this particular type of cancer.
Ranking the highest of any food to destroy those pesky free radicals, they also contain caffeic acid, catechin, chlorogenic acid, epicatechin, ferulic acid, gallic acid, kaempferol, myricetin, maringenin, p-coumaric acid, p-hydroxybenzoic acid, pterostilbene, resveratrol, quercetin, and ursolic acid, many of which reportedly having anti-cancer properties.

                                    Yankee Red Beans and Rice(courtesy of

2. Red Beans, including kidney and pinto. Having the antioxidant capacity of between 11,000-13,230 for a half-cup, these little gems are a machine when it comes to fighting breast cancer. Red chili bean and the Mexican red bean are the highest of all red beans when it comes to anthocyanins, an antioxidant component. By incorporating these beans in soups, salads and entrees, you are getting the benefit of anthocyanin in the great numbers. If you want a little less of that starchy flavor, try Adzuki and kidney beans. Just remember that not all beans are high in antioxidants. Most of the health benefits of beans(as other fruits and foods) come from their coloring, much the same way beta-carotene which gives the carrot it's orange color or the lycopene in the tomato. The brighter the color or darker the hue, the more valuable its' cancer-fighting nutrients are.

3. Blueberries-cultivated. With a 1-cup serving containing over 9,000 total antioxidant capacity, it was found that out of 10 different berry extracts, the flavonoids of the blueberry decreased the proliferation of breast cancer cells, inhibits mammary caner cell proliferation in mice and also inhibiting cultured cancer cell growth int he laboratory. . Did you know that blueberries also contain a good source of resveratrol? Resveratrol has been shown to increase the effects of radiation, aromatase inhibitors and Taxol, a chemotherapy drug.

                                          Cranberry Kisses(courtesy of

4. Cranberries. At almost 9,000 per one cup of whole cranberries, how can you just enjoy these fruits only at Holiday time?

5. Artichokes. At almost 8,000 per cup of hearts, cooked artichokes have three different cancer-fighting molecules. A phytochemical found in artichokes has been found to interfere with estrogen receptors and also inhibits inflammation of certain cancerous growths. 

Find, below, another list of the best cancer-fighting foods universally recommended for the annihilation of free radicals. Although their numbers will not correspond with the above foods, their fierce fighting style is just what the body needs to overcome free radicals.

Broccoli/Brussel Sprouts. Usually referred to as a super foods when it is mentioned along with breast cancer with the highest amount of isothiocyanates. The isothiocyanates detoxify and fight cancer to the bitter end. Other foods that belong in this category are watercress, white and red cabbage*, kale, kohlrabi, horseradish, cauliflower and bok choi.

Garlic. Garlic is loaded with allyl sulfur, a compound that fights breast cancer by reducing the risk of cancer cells to begin with. Garlic also continas allicin, which is one of the most potent antioxidants found in Mother Nature. Onions also contain these antioxidants, but in a smaller scale. Make sure if you are using fresh garlic cloves, always let it rest a few minutes after peeling and chopping to allow these compounds to fully form.

Beta-Carotene. I know, not a food group but I made this decision based on a food group. Carrots, pumpkin, apricots, peppers, and various bright orange fruits and vegetables contain carotenoids(with beta-carotene being one) which has been shown to neutralize free radicals. Beta-carotene has the strongest muscle when it comes to any carotenoid fighting cancer. It is known that too little beta-carotene has been linked to a higher risk of breast cancer.
Another carotenoid is the fierce lycopene. This is found mainly in tomatoes(lycopene giving the tomato its' distinctive red color) and is known to hunt down and neutralize free radicals. Food for thought, so to speak, though. Fresh tomatoes do not have nearly the lycopene content as do cooked tomatoes, such as in various tomato sauces. So pile on the spaghetti sauce, and other tomato sauces, in order to fully feel the lycopene wrath.
Leafy greens as spinach as well as eggs, corn and some citrus fruits contain lutein and zeaxanthin, two types of carotenoids, that help fight cancer but in lesser form.

Mushrooms. You don't often hear of mushrooms and antioxidants in the same sentence but I will tell you that according to one research that was reported in the International Journal of Cancer, scientists found that by eating at least a third of an ounce of fresh mushrooms every day lowered the likelihood of developing a tumor by up to 64 percent, amazing!! That is because mushrooms contain linoleic acid, which has been shown to slow down the production of estrogen, which is linked to breast cancer.

Grapes, Red to be exact. I have mentioned resveratrol above under blueberries but neglected to mention that red grapes contain this powerful antioxidant as well. Green grapes are sadly lacking in the compound. Pay close attention the grape skins. this is where resveratrol is mostly concentrated, along with the seeds. So when buying grapes, enjoy the crunch and the satisfaction.

White Tea. Catechin, a flavanoid, is a powerful antioxidant. Research is being done as we speak with antioxidant compounds found in tea, but it is speculated that catechin may have an ability to fight cancer at all stages. From inhibiting development of tumors to completely completely blocking carcinogens involved in cell proliferation. Already Staph infection and E coli have been shown to be repressed in their growth when introduced to catechin. Dark chocolate and apples have catechin in much smaller doses as well.

And lastly, but not least, are oils. Taboo you say? Olive oil(as well as olives themselves), along with walnut oil, wheat germ oil and other vegetable oils contain antioxidants. Although very low in antioxidants, you don't think I would add them here unless there was another reason do you? Well, there is! These oils also help you absorb oil-soluble antioxidant vitamins on other foods. These include, but not limited to, Vitamins A, D, E and K.  Vitamin E enhances your body's ability to use Vitamins C and A and other fatty acids and is an antioxidant as well. So when you add 2 and 2, you get a higher number....understand?

* Red cabbage contain glucosinolates. Glucosinolates reduce breast cancer risk by blocking dangerous substances that can cause cell damage and tumor growth, also helping to eliminate carcinogens. Choose red cabbage with the brightest leaves and never NEVER overcook cabbage. You receive the best caner-fighting benefits by eating raw or lightly cooked. Glucosinolates are very water soluble and can be completely lost in cooking. 

                                                         As only Leonardo can paint

It is not only instrumental that we all eat well but feel well eating. As I have always said, when our minds are happy, our bodies laugh with them. Let me give you some great adages about the glory we call women. Some deep and pondering while others just may have you chuckle.

There is no such thing as an ugly woman.  ~Vincent Van Gogh

Women get the last word in every argument.  Anything a man says after that is the beginning of a new argument.  ~Author Unknown

The average woman would rather have beauty than brains, because the average man can see better than he can think.  ~Author Unknown

There is in every true woman's heart, a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity, but which kindles up and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity.  ~Washington Irving, The Sketch Book

Whether they give or refuse, it delights women just the same to have been asked.  ~Ovid

Of all things upon earth that bleed and grow,b A herb most bruised is woman.  ~Euripides, Medea

Under his forming hands a creature grew,
Man-like, but different sex; so lovely fair
That what seemed fair in all the world, seemed now
Mean, or in her summed up, in her contained,
And in her looks; which from that time infus'd
Sweetness into my heart, unfelt before,
And into all things from her air inspir'd
The spirit of love and amorous delight.
She disappear'd, and left me dark; I wak'd
To find her, or for her ever to deplore
Her loss, and other pleasures abjure:
When out of hope, behold her, not far off,
Such as I saw her in my dream, adorn'd
With what all Earth or Heaven could bestow
To make her amiable: On she came,
Led by her Heavenly Maker, though unseen,
And guided by his voice; nor uninform'd
Of nuptial sanctity, and marriage rites:
Grace was in her steps, heaven in her eye,
In every gesture dignity and love
.    ~John Milton, Paradise Lost