Breast Health with Alternative Care


One out of eight women get breast cancer as do a smaller number of men. This means that most of us will find that breast cancer directly or indirectly affects us.


There are many things a woman can do to minimize the chance of getting breast cancer. Chief among these is to avoid wearing bras or garments that constrict lymphatic fluid flow so the body can detoxify. (The correlation between bra wearing and breast cancer is fortyfold greater than the correlation between cigarettes and lung cancer according to Singer and Grismaijer’s study published in the book Dressed To Kill.)

I used to have breasts with so much texture that I never would have been able to distinguish a dangerous lump during a manual self-exam, but now without constant bra constriction they are gone. It can ache the first week or two as you are detoxifying, but lump clearing can be dramatic. And Japanese research indicates that the increase in “exercise” is slightly firming (although gravity will eventually take its toll no matter what.)

Acupuncture and exercise can circulate lymph.

Massaging the breasts and lymph nodes near the underarms can also help detoxification. Massage can be a friendlier, more pleasurable method of self-examination. A good, well-illustrated, description of this can be found at: and self exam information is at

While a high -NOT low-fat diet was associated with lower rates of the most important cancers in the Farmington nurses study, the quality of fats is vitally important. Diet should stress Omega 3s (from fish oil or grass-raised meat- vegetarians can use flax or evening primrose oils although they are not properly converted for some genetic lines) and CLA from coconut oil or grass-raised dairy.   Coconut oil degrades less than olive oil or seed oils for cooking.  Carbohydrates (sugars and starches, even whole grain) raise insulin and Insulin Growth Factor which can stimulate the growth of tumors.  So minimize anything with sugars, flour or other starches.  Vegetables, especially those in the mustard family (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, mustard greens) should be the dietary mainstay. Seasonal liver cleanses can help establish hormone balance and detoxify the body.

Vitamin D

Low levels of Vitamin D are a major cause of the body’s inability to resist breast cancer and almost everyone north of Atlanta is deficient.   Vitamin D blood levels over 50 are associated with 83% reductions in breast cancer.  A study that only raised blood levels of 20 Hydroxy D to 40, is associated with 35%  lower relapse rates of all cancers combined.  The 200-400 iu of Vitamin D in a multi-vitamin is based on preventing rickets only, which occurs at fairly low levels.  Cancers, Diabetes, MS, fractures and heart attacks require much higher levels.  See the disease prevention chart at Grassroots Health care.  To get your blood levels above 50 ng/Ml you probably need 5000 to 10,000 iu/day.  You can go much higher but it is a good idea to get tested if you go above 25,000 iu, the level you would pick up at the equator where we evolved.  My cancer clients are on 45,000 iu, but they do get tested regularly.  Toxicity fears are mostly unfounded:  your blood level would have to get over 200ng/Ml which isn’t easy.

Experts already believe Vitamin D protects against breast cancer and in some forms may even be used to shrink existing tumors. According to recent research from Stanford University, optimal amounts of sunlight exposure may reduce your risk of advanced breast cancer by as much as 50 percent.  Sunlight may not be enough to make all you need- you have to be in the noonday sun without sunscreen with 40% of the body exposed, and not wash with soap for 48 hours.  Most people don’t do this, and in the north you could be naked at noon without getting the correct angle of sunlight to make Vitamin D in the winter.

Best bet is to spend some time in the sun and to take Vitamin D too.  The vitamin alone is not a substitute for sun exposure, but few modern people get enough to supply all of our needs.

The Fig Cure

A lesser-known way to maintain breast health is fig poultices. Really! I learned this from an elder who taught me about herbal medicine, the late Inez Culver.  She had come to see me with a breast lump the size of an egg, which was angry and distended. She cut a fresh fig in half and fixed the end over her nipple, changing the fig every 24 hours. By the time she showed up for the biopsy two weeks later, the doctor couldn’t find the lump. She told me that the use derived from the treatment of Hezekiah’s boils in the Biblical book of Isaiah. Since then I’ve discovered that the latex in figs is pharmacologically quite active . This will most probably NOT get rid of cancer, but it does help clear the breast of cysts and other stagnation lumps so that more dangerous lumps can be detected.  I do it preventatively for a week every year and suggest it for others.

Mammograms, Thermograms, and Hormones

Mammograms after 50 may be useful, but take miso soup before and afterwards to help limit the concentrated radiation exposure. While there is controversy about the frequency, it can be a useful technique to find lumps before they are palpable. Thermograms appear to be becoming a superior technology which can identify cancers earlier than a mammogram.  There is a learning curve in identification, and some machines are more sensitive than others (also true of mammography machines).  They identify some kinds of cancers earlier but may miss certain kinds- also true of mammography.  We still don’t have a head to head test comparing them, so I think the case is there to intersperse them, especially since thermograms don’t use radiation.  But there is no single foolproof method of detection so women need to use a multi-pronged methodology- self examination (including indentations of the exterior skin), mammograms and blood tests like the AMAS.

HRT should generally be avoided because hormonal analogues can increase cancer risk. Bio-identical hormones (eg: progesterone instead of progestin, estradriol instead of Premarin) cause fewer problems if hormonal replacement is needed.

A strong spiritual life and social supports like SHARE, which runs cancer support groups not only help prevent cancer, but increase survival rates afterwords.  So if you are diagnosed, find time, make time to join a support group.  It will help you and it will help others.

And acupuncture and herbal therapy can minimize side effects of chemotherapy and radiation.

April 26th 2007, revised September 9, 2009Breast Health with Alternative Care
copyright by Karen S. Vaughan L.Ac., MSTOM

Contact Author:
Acupuncture and Herbs by Karen Vaughan, L.Ac.
253 Garfield Place 1R
Brooklyn, NY 11215 US
(718) 622-6755


Illustration by Hanne Finstad at Communicating Science used by permission

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