WHAT IS BREAST CANCER ?
Breast cancer in simple terms can be explained as abnormal growth of breast cells due to rapid rate of division than the healthy cells. Breast apparatus in women consist of milk ducts located on the inner inning of breast tissue and lobules which supply milk to these ducts. The ones occurring at the ducts are known as Ductal cancers [most common] while those at lobules known as lobular cancers.
WHY DOES IT OCCUR ?
Our body sustains itself by continuously growing new cells and expending old ones. Cancers occurs in cells when their life-process undergoes mutations or in simple words untoward changes which disrupt their ability to grow, reproduce or die. Normal cells divide and replicate as many times as needed and stop.
Every cell contains a DNA [we can compare this to cells Prakruti or dosha constitution] which is copied into the new cell but with mistakes. The higher the organism [more complex the life form], more the mistakes. There are error-correcting proteins which prevent these mistakes and render an exact copy. When mutations occur in these error-correcting proteins they cause cancers which may cause enhanced multiplication [Vata and Pitta Dosha aggravation]. These mutations can be enzymes or specific markers like p53, BRCA1, BRCA2 in case of Breast cancers and likewise others in other forms of cancers. Mutations can be inherited or acquired after birth depending on various factors which we may discuss ahead. Cancerous cells do not die but go on replicating as opposed to normal cells which die [apoptosis or programmed cell death, in simple terms cells commit suicide] after their purpose is served. To ensure that the cell completes its life span there are protective pathways [this can be co-related to Kapha dosha] like P13K/AKT or RAS/MEK/ERK pathway. Mutations may also occur along this pathways [like the PTEN protein which turns the pathway “off” for each cell may be mutated] which may prevent this pathways from turning off when the cell is required to die.
HOW IS IT DIAGNOSED ?
Breast examination can be done by self or by a trained medical practitioner.
Mammogram, which uses a series of X-rays to show images of your breast tissue, is currently the best imaging technique for detecting tumors.
Biopsy where a small amount of the lump material or fluid is excised with the help of a needle and examined under the microscope. The type of biopsy depends upon the conformity of diagnosis. Procedures include
- FNAC[Fine-needle aspiration and cytology], which is the most common form where a thin, hollow needle is used to withdraw cells from the lump and is sent to the lab for analysis.
- Core needle biopsy is a another procedure where a hollow needle is used to collect tissue samples from the breast. As many as 15 samples may be taken.
- Stereotactic biopsy and Wire localization biopsy are similar to above procedures but assisted with Mammograms
- Surgical biopsy which is the most accurate method for confirming cancer. The surgeon removes a part [incisional biopsy] or whole[excisional biopsy] of the breast lump depending on the size [if the lump is large only a part is removed]and sent to the lab for check up.
- Estrogen and progesterone receptor tests is done if the biopsy confirms the cancer. The patient is evaluated on the basis of these hormones and if the influence the growth. This test also helps determine the treatment protocol.
WHAT IS METASTASIS ?
Metastasis is a process when the cancer cells spread through the blood stream and get localized at other organs and cause secondary tumors. Common sites include bone, liver, lung and brain. The manifestation can be known by bone or joint pain, unexplained weight loss, jaundice, neurological symptoms etc. Cancers are graded from stage 0 to stage 4 depending upon its spread, Stage 0 is localized but as metastasis sets in the stage increases.
WHAT ARE THE TREATMENTS AVAILABLE ?
Breast cancers that are influenced by hormones estrogen and progesterone [if the cancer cells have these hormone receptors] are treated with HRT [Hormone replacement therapy] and radiation .
Surgery is performed where the tumors are devoid of hormone receptors. Surgical procedure can vary from simple Lumpectomy [removal of lump] to partial or complete removal of the breasts [simple mastectomy , partial or segmental mastectomy, modified radical masectomy]. Breast reconstructive surgery is offered for women after radical mastectomy. Surgery is generally followed by chemotherapy and Radiation.
Chemotherapy drugs [cyclophosphamide, doxyrubicin and Taxane] damage the cancerous DNA . These drugs do not have selectivity for cancer cells and equally damage the normal healthy cells too causing immunity problems and opening the patients body to host of other disorders. Drugs are also decided as per mutational proteins [Herceptin for HER2 mutation].
Radiation is also initiated to kill cancer cells which may have escaped chemotherapy. Radiation runs the risk of cardiovascular [heart] damage.
WHAT SIGNS SHOULD I LOOK OUT FOR ?
Lump that feels different from the breast tissue. Also lumps in the armpits are a warning sign. This lumps can be confirmed with mammogram to be cancerous or not. This is the most early and definitive sign
Change in the breast shape or size sometimes associated with pain [mastodynia, though pain is very unreliable sign]. Pain in breast cancer may only occur if the cancer cells invade the lymphatic drainage if the skin causing inflammation. The condition is then called Inflamatory Breast Cancer [IBC]
Skin dimpling [reddish coloration of the areola or nipple, wrinkling] . Sometimes skin could develop a rash, eczema and sometimes mild flaking. This could be signs of associative diseases like Paget’s. It is also important to know that 50% of women diagnosed with Paget’s disease may have a lump in the breast which is non cancerous.
Spontaneous single nipple discharge
ARE ALL LUMPS CANCEROUS ?
No all lumps in the breast are not cancerous. However Breast Lump is still the most prominent sign for breast cancers. Breast lumps may also occur due to following reasons.
Fibrocystic changes. This condition can cause your breasts to feel ropy or granular. Fibrocystic changes are extremely common, occurring in at least half of all women.
Cysts. These are fluid-filled sacs that frequently occur in the breasts of women ages 35 to 50.
Fibroadenomas are solid, noncancerous tumors that often occur in women during their reproductive years. A fibroadenoma is a firm, smooth, rubbery lump with a well-defined shape. It will move under your skin when touched and is usually painless.
Sometimes a blow to your breast or a bruise also can cause a lump.
Calcium deposits (microcalcifications).
AM I AT RISK ?
Females are no doubt 100 times at the greater danger as compared to males.
It has been seen that females who have crossed 40 years of their age have greater tendencies to develop breast cancer as compared to young females. The disease rarely affects women under 25 years of age.
Lack of child bearing or breast feeding
Late pregnancy [over 35 years].
Caucasian women are more likely to develop breast cancer than are black or Hispanic women.
Higher hormonal levels and irregular lifestyle that may cause Hormonal fluctuations [shiftwork, day time sleeping]
High fat diet, alcohol intake, tobacco use, exposure to radiation
Genetic susceptibility [BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations] and parental history
Over use of contraceptive pills
Hormone replacement therapy. [Exposure to estrogen in particular, though studies about the exact hormone are still in nascent stages]
Exposure to certain carcinogens like Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) which are chemicals found mainly in cigarette smoke and charred red meat.
Unusual sleep patterns especially those women who work late nights. This occurs due to the disrupted secretion of a sleep-regulating Hormone called Melatonin. The hormone secretion is highest between 1am and 3pm and women who do not sleep at this time are supposed to be at higher risk. It is postulated that Melatonin suppression leads to high level of estrogen.
WHATS THE AYURVEDA PERSPECTIVE ?
Breast cancer is loosely correlated to the reference of “Stana – Arbuda” mentioned in Ayurveda texts. [Stan == Breast, Arbud == hard lump ] by certain scholars. Stan Arbud is categorized as per the Dosha as Vata type, Pitta type, Kapha type, Vata, pitta and kapha type or Tridoshaj.
From a logical point of view as described earlier the different stages that lead to cancer must be evaluated from an Ayurveda point of view and its principles. The Tridosha theory about the origin , transformation and destruction phases of entities and how the go about in an harmonious ways to sustain the universe, cancer can be accepted as the imbalance of these states at different levels.
- The process of origin greater than the process of destruction can be termed as cancer [uncontrolled growth of cells, Vata type].
- The process of cells transforming into mutated ones like a bad copy of itself can be termed as cancer [Pitta].
- The inability of the cells to complete its life span and die or go on without perishing can be termed as cancer [Kapha type].
These all stages can occur individually or mutually [Tridoshaj] and must be evaluated by the Ayurveda physician.
Breast cancers or for that reason any cancers do occur because of the disrupting enzymes and mutations in the body. Certain mutations may be Karmic [genetic dispositions] but most of them are acquired due to our ignorance and lack of knowledge about food and lifestyles. I have strongly mentioned in my previous posts about the importance of menstrual cycle and how the body emphasizes primarily on formation of a fertile egg. [Read posts about PCOS and Menstrual cycles for more information].
Hormones and enzymes of human body are time adaptive. If a person eats regularly at 8 am and 12 am then the body channelizes its digestive resources to be fully functional at these times as per the biological clock. Erratic eating habits disrupt this and cause enzymatic changes.
During menstruation maximum amount of blood pressure is required at the uterus to have good flow. Any physical activity [that includes bathing], over eating etc causes circulation disruptions and hence hormonal imbalance. In ancient times it was recommended in most cultures to be at ease and refrain from any physical work for first 3 days of menstrual cycles for the same reason.
Having sex at the right age releases certain enzymes in your body that promote health. [I would be posting a separate article discussing just that]. In Yogic literature it is mentioned very explicitly that sexual intercourse activates the chakras [on a successful and fulfilling orgasms] which helps promote health. Hence having penetrative sex with knowledge of Tantra is a great preventive measure to hormonal disorders
Creating fertile eggs every month puts lots of strain on the body. If pregnancy is delayed the body slowly refrains from producing them causing hormonal shift. Having late pregnancy or indulging very late in sexual activity causes hormonal shifts.
Diet factors erratic eating habits etc ere known factors
All this reasons cause Dosha imbalance at micro and macro levels causing various disorders and unfortunately breast cancers in some.
WHAT DOES AYURVEDA RECOMMEND ?
Ayurveda recommends three-fold approach to treatment of any disease ; Aaahar [good diet], Vihaar [good lifestyle] and Aushadhi [medicines]. Every thing mentioned in Ayurveda texts is precise and has importance about the way it is written. Aushadhi always precedes Aahar and Vihara and it indicates Ayurveda’s strong recommendation to control any disease through healthy food and lifestyles and depend very less on medicines. A lecture on general dinacharya has been uploaded on the youtube channel. I am embedding it here.
WHICH AYURVEDA MEDICINES ARE EFFECTIVE ?
Ayurveda medicines are very helpful in all stages of this disease. Certain stages it can provide complete cure while at certain stages it can drastically help improve quality of life. Many a times as I have noticed in my clinical practice is that patients do approach me after surgery. Once the surgery is performed very less can be salvaged. The reason is that after surgical excision , the surgeon can block only those vessels which are visible to the naked eye, he cannot patch each and every capillary [the most micro form of fluid transfusion] and hence if even one cancer cell escapes into the blood stream it may cause metastasis. Procedures of radiation and chemotherapy are followed after surgery to counter that but most of the patients hardly are left with any strength to complete the recommended cycles as these procedures attack normal healthy cells rendering the patients weak and opening their body to host of immunological disorders.
Ayurveda can help a great deal pre and post surgery, but post surgery generally a cure is impossible and one can only strive to improve the quality of life. Once the cancer is detected certain Ayurveda herbs and medicines may help improve condition drastically and prevent surgery and help in complete reversal. These herbs or medicines primarily act to purify blood [in pathological sense strengthen the hormones and enzymes ensuring correct secretion and disposal of waste products]
1>Pierce an apple with two cloves and simmer it in water just to the point its outer skin turns soft. Remove the cloves and consume the apple. You can have 2 -3 apples like this everyday as a breakfast. This simple method helps clean the lymphatics. The lymphatics are very important as the accumulate dead cells giving rise to cancerous growths. This can be used as adjuvant therapy
2>Juice extracted from Black Grapes [Concord Grapes] in a quantity of 60 ml three times day is an excellent purifier in such cases. The grapes must be sweet and ripe. Even one sour grape and the medicine must not be taken.
3> Garlic is excellent in breast cancers. Soak entire garlic covering must be removed, do not peel the garlic into individual petals] [the outer papery in curd [yoghurt] overnight. Next morning wash the garlic and peel it. If the garlic has a reddish protrusion them remove it. Store this petals in a glass bottle. Each day roast 2 petals in cow’s ghee [clarified butter from cow’s milk] till golden brown and pop in as pills 10 ins before lunch and dinner. This over a period of time helps immensely in cancers especially breast cancer
4>Kanchanaar [Bauhinia sp., bark] 10gms, Mundi [Sphaeranthus indices, fruits] 10gms, Guduchi 10gms [Tinospora glare, stem], Daruharidra 10gms [Berberis aristata, roots], Lodhra [Symplocos racemes, bark] 10gms. The decoction prepared from these herbs is very effective to treat breast cancers. Certain herbs like Nothopodytes nimmonia and Aegle marmelos are sometimes added by me as per the patient. The medication is very safe to use. The decoction must be taken empty stomach.
5>Andrographis paniculata also known as Kalmegh is a very beneficial herb in treatment of Breast cancers. The herb 40gms must be soaked overnight in 100ml of boiling water in a ceramic vessel. Next morning the mixture must be filterd and consumed. This should be done as close to sunrise or just minutes before sunrise. The procedure must again be repeated in the evening at sunset. One should not eat an thing for 4 hours over the medicine. This is very effective
6>Semecarpus anacardium [marking nut] is a good remedy in cancers. The wild nut [ not the purified sweet one] must be procured. Pierce it with an iron rod and heat on flame. Some oil will drip. Make a paste of milk cream and drip 5 drops of oil on it and consume empty stomach. One can also take this with cup of warm A2 milk. This is a potent medicine but use with supervision. The oil and nut are caustic and cause blisters on your hand. Hence a strict salt sugar spice free diet comprising of rice and milk must be followed. Take no more than 45 days and check your reports. Preferable do this under supervision of an Ayurveda physician. I have enlisted this method as many people use this and get into trouble
9>The patients also benefits from certain classical Ayurveda preparations like Kanchanaar Guggul, Khadirarishta, Aabha guggull, Amrita Guggul help a lot. Metal preparations like Vang Bhasma, Naag Bhasma, Suvarna Bhasma, Vajra Bhasma, Abrakh Bhasma, Kant Loh Bhasma have been used with great effects.
10>Gemstone preparations from emerald, blue sapphire have given miraculous results in hopeless of cases. However these preparations must be judiciously prepared and used under the guidance of an expert physician.
Many people fear Ayurveda medicine as of being toxic, having high levels of mercury and heavy metals . If they are prepared properly they do not cause any toxicity and certainly no where close to the toxicity of chemotherapy. Metal preparations or Rasaushadis are like nano medicines and unique weapon of Ayurveda to give quick and effective results. However the patients must follow a strict lifestyle and diet to get beneficial effects. These medicines cannot and must not be taken without prescription and any over the counter Ayurveda medicine that contains any metal preparation must not be used without expert opinion even if it is considered safe. [see NLAM for more information on Bhasma and other metal preparation; http://www.nlam.in]
HOW ABOUT PANCHAKARMA ?
Panchakarma is a great tool to eliminate toxins from the body. Procedures such as Rakta Mokshana (blood-letting), and Vamana (induced vomiting), though effective [subjective] can lead to serious medical complications. Unsupervised Langhana (Fasting) and Virechana (purging) can speed up degenerative processes in cancer patients. The use of certain medicated ghee for the process Vaman[emesis], Virechana[purgation] is beneficial. Panchagavya Ghrita, Mahatikta Ghrita have been found to purify blood with great effect.Panchakarma requires strict medical supervision. Interestingly Snehana, i.e., intake of various medicated oil preparations in a classical way a week or 10 days prior to the start of chemotherapy or radiotherapy, has been found to reduce the toxic effects of such therapies.
DOES YOGA HELP ?
Yoga breath practices may help but use under supervision, One must not accept Yoga as an holy grail in complex disorders. Wring postures etc can cause dislodge of cells & hasten metastasis. Restrict all exercises or use under supervision
As project of NLAM, elite Hatha Yog sequences of therapeutic nature are being taught under the Marma Yog cluster. Yog Teachers who wish to gain the knowledge can know more about it at [www.marmayog.in] or watch the collective playlist on
I HAVE HEARD ABOUT MARMA TREATMENT. HOW IS IT HELPFUL ?
Marmas are vital points in the body through which life energy flows. We can associate them to electricity hubs of each settlements which provide power to a group of colonies. These points if damaged can cause permanent disability, disorders and even death. There are 108 marmas and they are classified into different groups depending upon their severity. Pertaining to breast cancers certain Marma points are very important and if massaged properly can help a long way in prevention as well as relief. These points are Karna marma
- Apalapa marma
- Hriday marma
- Adasthamba marma
- Kukundar Marma.
Activation of this point by massage with herbal oils, Medicated Ghrita [Ghee, clarified butter] in a gentle manner with discrete motion [clockwise / anti clockwise] is highly beneficial. This process must be done under the strict supervision of an expert.
However as mentioned with Yoga, wrong massage or not done under supervision of expert can hasten metastasis. So be very careful
HOW CAN WE EVALUATE FROM THE POINT OF VEDIC ASTROLOGY AND GEMSTONES ?
All disorders in Ayurveda have been correlated to karmic influences. Hence chanting Mantras with appropriate gestures is very helpful. The selection of Mantras and time to chant depends on the natal chart and its interpretation by the astrologer. Mantras influence the vibratory functions of cells and help them work in specific synchronization with the brain. Over a period of time it helps normalize hormonal secretions & synchronizations. I would mention that these therapies must be followed with strict guidelines of diet and lifestyle. Better to consult an expert.
Gemstone therapy has been very useful in cancers. I have found the blue sapphire to be most useful. Blue sapphire and 1 piece of 8 Mukhi Rudraksha kept in a copper vessel overnight. The water is filtered and consumed empty stomach. This method is very effective in many cancers due to their electric potential. However strict diet must be followed. I would not recommend this procedure without medical supervision.
The information mentioned here is for educational puposes only. Do not try and use all in conjunction. Follow proper diet , timings, pick a safe remedy and employ. Observe over 20-45 days & if found relief consult a good Ayurveda physician for long term gain. Do not self-medicate. Do not pass on remedies through social media irresponsibly. It causes more harm than good
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