Breast Cancer - Spiritual and ScienceMay 22, 2023
Breast Cancer (BC) is such a big topic, yes? And the bigness, the scariness, all the different fears around it can keep important conversations quiet - in the hope that the muting may keep it at bay, perhaps. But suppression, denial, ignoring never helps, in my personal and professional experience.
I am bringing some points into the light for many reasons, as a cancer I witnessed change and impact my mum and my aunties in profound ways, and also because at the moment some of my 1:1 clients and circles of acquaintances have had breast cancer (re)surface in their lives in an aggressive way.
In Australia, where I live, there were over 200 male cases and over 20,000 female cases diagnosed in 2022.
In New Zealand, about 25 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, and it affects 1 in 9 women.
In the USA 1 in 8 women are going to develop invasive breast cancer in the course of their life, and in 2022 nearly 288,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer were diagnosed. At the same time, nearly 3,000 men were diagnosed. A man’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is about 1 in 833.
The chance for a female to be diagnosed with breast cancer during her lifetime has significantly increased from 1 in 11 women in 1975 to 1 in ~7 women nowadays. Although the mortality rate from breast cancer has decreased in recent years, it still represents the fifth most common cause of cancer-related deaths globally. It is not a topic to ignore, imo.
You may want to begin here, the live I did recently on this topic and my experience with it
Let's refamiliarise and touch on some key points related to Breast Cancer;
Our breasts and bodies are dynamic. They are always changing and have an innate intelligence toward achieving balance and health. In my perspective, breast cancer risk is influenced by a combination of genetic, epigenetic, environmental, lifestyle, fascia/lymph, microbiome, stress, energetic and emotional factors. While the exact causes of breast cancer are not fully understood, here are some factors I suggest can contribute to an increased risk, plus I've included symptoms down the bottom so you are armed with plenty of info.
If you found this helpful, please share it, and let me know!
1. Breasts are a fundamental form and representation of feminine energy, maternal love and nourishment, both physical and as a representation of the life-giving forces, or the spiritual forces, that nourish us throughout our life. It can be said that Breast Cancer may be connected to a repression, suppression, a 'lock-down' of different emotional expressions, especially centered around betrayal, rejection, sacrificing our own energy and wellbeing to make others happy, a loss or lack of love, nurturing or care, either from oneself or from others. This could be due to a lack of self-love, self-care, self-esteem and self-worth, and feeling unsupported in life. These topics are all related to our lower Chakras and especially our Heart Chakra. Note - My Chakra Course is on sale for another 5 days only.
Divine Feminine, Yin or Shakti, energy is a flowing, non-linear, expressive, creative, intuitive, sensual, visceral, cyclical, rhythmic, death and rebirth force that is at the heart of all life. She is the one who is fertile, ready to give birth to all existence, tend it, and nurture it: I believe there is plenty of collective, ancestral and also individual pain points around this Feminine expression, Feminine power (or disempowered) topic that are part of the global breast cancer epidemic.
2. Age and Gender: The risk of developing breast cancer increases with age, and being a woman is the most significant risk factor. Women have a higher lifetime risk of breast cancer compared to men. Why is this? One concept that has many different emotions involved with it is how our culture, our society, our social media platforms, consider overall physical attributes are seen as far more important than non-physical ones when it comes to beauty. What is our relationship to getting older, particularly as a female? What has been our emotional relationship over our lifetime to bearing or not bearing, raising or not raising, children, pursuing a career and economic independence, while continuing to bear the stress of the majority (or all) of household work?
""I think today we are seeing the very beginning of the acceptance that womanhood is not simply a set of body parts and functions that were never generalisable to all women anyway. That womanhood is much more complex than chromosomes or the ability to carry a baby."—Melody Maia Monet
3. Personal and Family History and Genetics: Having a family history of breast cancer, especially in first-degree relatives (such as mother, sister, or daughter), increases the risk. Inherited gene mutations, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, significantly raise the risk of developing breast cancer. I carry this risk, BTW!
Women who have previously been diagnosed with breast cancer have an increased risk of developing it again in either the same or the opposite breast.
DNA methylation has a key role in early cancer development through a process known as epigenetic reprogramming , potentially leading to silencing and loss of expression of tumor suppressor genes, and genomic instability. Nutrients and stress play key roles in methylation.
4. The complex association between the gut microbiome and cancer development has been an emerging field of study in recent years. The gut microbiome plays a crucial role in the overall maintenance of our health and wellbeing, interacting closely with our immune, nervous and endocrine systems to prevent and fight infection and unmitigated inflammation. A disturbed and dysregulated microbiome is dysfunctional, and modulates risk of BC development via various mechanisms including DNA damage, stimulating cell proliferation, perturbation of immune/nervous system and altering hormonal factors. Breast tumors are rich with diverse microbiome which interact with genes associated with BC, and maintain the inflammation responsible for epigenetic changes, and interfere with treatment. You may have heard me talk before about our "oestrobolome”, where our microbiome communities, their metabolites, combined with bile acids and other factors within our digestive system especially, influences sexual hormonal balance
5. Hormonal Factors: Disrupted hormonal factors can influence breast cancer risk. Oestrogen (there are 4 identified; oestrone (E1), oestradiol (E2, which has two isomers: 17α-E2 and 17β-E2), oestriol (E3), and oestetrol (E4)) are produced by the ovaries, adrenal glands, and fat tissue, and is present in both women and men. In general, the activity of E2 is about 10-fold higher than E1 and about 100-fold higher than E3 and E4l.
Oestrogen is responsible for physical changes experienced by women during puberty, such as breast growth, regulation of the menstrual cycle, maturation of the womb lining, and impacting mood and libido. I feel it is important to note that the relationship between oestrogen and obesity is bidirectional. In Australia, 2 in 3 adults are overweight (36%) or obese (31%) and 1 in 4 children aged 2 to 17 are overweight or obese.
Oestrogen dominance occurs when the level of oestrogen is relatively high compared to the level of progesterone, even if test results come back in the 'normal 'range. Although oestrogen Dominance is not an official allopathic diagnosis, I find it is an incredibly common hormonal imbalance experienced by women due to chronic stress, mainly! Studies have shown that thyroid dysfunction in postmenopausal women is associated with oestrogen dominance.
Oestrogen Dominance is present when:
Oestrogen Levels Are Very High
Commonly caused by oral contraceptive pill, HRT, obesity, impaired liver detoxification of oestrogen, impaired gut function, impaired microbiome, xenoestrogens acquired from the environment, genetics and epigenetics.
Oestrogen Levels Are Normal or High, but Progesterone Is Low
Low progesterone can be caused by chronic stress, extreme exercising, dieting, too little cholesterol present in the body, hypothyroidism, hyperprolactinemia, anovulatory cycles (where ovulation does not occur), PCOS, post pregnancy, or during perimenopause where progesterone is the first hormone to decrease.
Oestrogen Levels and Progesterone Levels Are Low
Menopause officially kicks in when the ovaries produce so little oestrogen that eggs are no longer released and menstruation ceases. However, you can still be oestrogen dominant with low oestrogen. This is because oestrogen levels drop by approximately 40% at menopause while progesterone levels plummet by approximately 90%. When progesterone levels decrease at a faster rate, no matter how little oestrogen you have in your body, you are likely to experience many of the symptoms associated with oestrogen dominance.
Hormonal Factors influencing breast cancer include early onset of menstruation (before age 12), late menopause (after age 55), late or no full-term pregnancies, never breastfeeding, and use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for an extended period, selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) and potentially OCP use. Approximately two-thirds of breast cancers express the 0estrogen receptor, meaning that they are oestrogen driven ... we have a huge amount of exogenous hormones that impact us in 2023, man made substances that are also able to bind and interact with our internal oestrogen receptors . Interestingly long-term exposure to synthetic oestrogen via contraceptive pill is still a debated risk factor for breast cancer development.
Side note - The global oral contraceptive pills market grew from $20.13 billion in 2022 to $21.61 billion in 2023 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.35%. Major players in the contraceptive pills market are Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., Bayer AG, Syzygy Healthcare, Mankind Pharma Ltd., Pfizer Inc., Piramal Enterprises Ltd., Ferring B.V, Merck & Co. I don't know how much you know about these companies, but is fascinating to note the crossover they have between industries that impact human health.
6. Dense Breast Tissue: Breasts are a complex organ rich with white adipose tissue (relationship to obesity), blood and nerve supply and various pathways of lymphatic drainage - our fascia plays a role in all these system, as well as playing a role in disrupted biomechanical interplay.
Researcher has shown that over 60% of women have breast pain (eg tender, achy, throbbing, dull, tender, swollen, sharp) at some point in their lives. The perception, type, severity and impact of pain varies from woman to woman, partly because breast are so responsive to hormones in the menstrual cycle.
Relieving tension through massage and other techniques over our lifespan is SO important as altered fibrous tissue around nerves can lead to entrapments and lesions, and circulation and perfusion can also be compromised! I talk about this in the video link above. Fascia is a vitally important yet often misunderstood tissue in medicine, imo! Essentially, fascia is connective tissue composed of irregularly arranged collagen fibers and pervades every part of us, from head to toe (I have a class on this in My Rewire Your Nervous System Course).
Women with dense breast tissue, as identified through mammography, have a higher risk of breast cancer. Dense breast tissue can make it more challenging to detect abnormalities on mammograms.
7. Lifestyle Factors: Certain lifestyle choices and behaviors can affect breast cancer risk. These include:
- Alcohol Consumption: Regular and/or excessive alcohol consumption increases the risk of BC
- Physical Inactivity: Sedentary behaviours, lack of movement, lack of flexibility, lack of regular physical activity (approx 20mins a day minimum) is associated with a higher risk of BC.
- Obesity: Being overweight or obese, particularly after menopause, is linked to an increased risk of developing breast cancer. Note that Childhood obesity has reached alarming proportions in many countries. Another important point is that BMI is insufficient as the sole means of classifying a person as obese or malnourished. Waist circumference provides both independent and additive information to BMI for predicting morbidity and risk of death (which is why I ask for this detail on my client intake forms!).
"Data from 2015 demonstrates that approximately 108 million children and 604 million adults globally had a BMI of 30 to classify them as obese; signifies an increase in the prevalence of obesity in almost all countries since 1980 and a doubling in prevalence in 70 countries during that period" From Weir, C. B., & Jan, A. (2019). BMI classification percentile and cut off points.
- Smoking: Smoking has been associated with an increased risk of developing various types of cancers, including BC
- Socio economic and health disparities. For example, low socioeconomic status is associated with increased risk of aggressive premenopausal breast cancers as well as late stage of diagnosis and poorer survival. Lack of social support, social isolation, lack of education, neighborhood disadvantage, residential segregation by race, racial discrimination and impaired access to health education.
- Vitamin D deficiency - In general, the protective effect of vitamin D3 against breast cancer is underlined by inhibition of proliferation and migration, stimulation of differentiation and apoptosis, and inhibition of epithelial/mesenchymal transition in breast cells. Vitamin D3 may also inhibit the transformation of normal mammary progenitors into breast cancer stem cells that initiate and sustain the growth of breast tumors.
- Mitochondrial Dysfunction. Mitochondria are essential cellular organelles that are involved in regulating cellular energy, signalling, metabolism, survival, and proliferation.
- Chronic stress, unresolved trauma, emotional dysregulation are is all imminent risk factors
- Sleep disruption (related to all the above)
By no means is this an exhaustive list ;)
It's important to note that having one or more risk factors does not necessarily mean any individual will develop breast cancer, and it is equally as important to recognise that people without any apparent risk factors can still develop the disease.
Yes, regular breast cancer screenings, such as mammograms and clinical breast exams, are important for early detection and improved treatment outcomes.
I believe that many other preventative factors can also be put in place with these options!
This is part of what I support my clients with. Yes, reach out for a free discovery call if you would like to chat.
It is advisable to consult with healthcare professionals for personalised risk assessments and recommendations based on individual circumstances.
SYMPTOMS OF BREAST CANCER:
The first symptoms of breast cancer are usually an area of thickened tissue in the breast, or a lump in the breast or in an armpit (Ye et al., 2002).
Other symptoms include;
A pain in the armpits or breast that does not change with the monthly cycle
Pitting or redness of the skin of the breast, like the skin of an orange
A rash around or on one of the nipples
A discharge from the nipple, possibly containing blood
A sunken or inverted nipple
A change in the size or shape of the breast
Peeling, flaking, or scaling of the skin on the breast or nipple
Most lumps are not cancerous, but please check yourself regularly and always have them checked by a health care professional. Also, if something feels NQR but your treating healthcare professional doesn't seem concerned ALWAYS trust your intuition!
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