Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the March 2017 edition of TTAC’s Insiders member newsletter. The availability of the tests mentioned in this article may be limited based on your location and FDA approval.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, which every year means sweeping campaigns from organizations such as the Susan G. Komen Foundation encouraging women to practice prevention with the focus mostly on getting regular mammograms.
The focus on breast cancer this month is a wonderful opportunity for education in general, including knowing about the alternatives to mammograms for early detection.
In fact, this information is being sought after by more and more women. Statistics from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reveal that close to 40% of all adults in the U.S. utilize complementary and alternative medicine – and more than likely you’re one of them.
Now the time has come to add alternative and complementary testing procedures to your cancer prevention and healing toolbox.
The Scary Truth About Mammograms
Mammograms are the go-to mode of breast cancer detection that is promoted by the established medical industry. The choice as to whether or not to get a mammogram is an individual one.
In order to make an informed decision, however, it is important to know the cold, hard facts. And the most glaring fact is that within the last year and a half, major organizations like the American Cancer Society (ACS) have changed their tune about their mammogram testing recommendations.
As of October 2015, the ACS recommends that American women get tested annually starting at 45 years of age (it was 40 previously) and that women aged 55 and older cut back to one test every two years. This change was prompted by a 2013 report published by the U.S. Preventative Task Force which recommended delaying mammograms for healthy women in order “to reduce the harms of mammography screening by nearly half.”
The specifics of these harms have remained somewhat vague; the mainstream media has mostly focused on the high number of “false positives” that mammograms produce. Indeed, approximately 20% of all initial breast cancer diagnoses wind up being “false positives,” which often lead to unnecessary biopsies and even rounds of chemo and radiation – not to mention a lot of unnecessary emotional stress.
There is more to the dangers of mammograms than what is regularly being discussed, however. Mammograms expose very sensitive tissue to low-level radiation which accumulates in the body with each visit.
In fact, according to a 2006 study conducted by the University Hospital in Birmingham, U.K., “Recent radiobiological studies have provided compelling evidence that the low energy X-rays as used in mammography are approximately four times – but possibly as much as six times – more effective in causing mutational damage than higher energy X-rays.” In addition, the extreme manipulation of the breast tissue that typically happens during a mammogram may in fact cause tumors to spread.
Perhaps the most startling fact about mammograms is that in reality they do not detect breast cancer any more than a regular self-exam can.
In fact, in the most comprehensive and sweeping study on mammograms to date, researchers from the University of Toronto monitored 90,000 women over the course of 25 years. The study, which was published by the British Medical Journal in 2014 found that mortality rates from breast cancer (and from all other causes) was the same both for women who got mammograms and those who did not. It also discovered that one in five cancers “discovered” through mammograms was in reality not a health threat.
“It will make women uncomfortable, and they should be uncomfortable,” Dr. Russell P. Harris, a professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill who specializes in screenings, told the New York Times at the time, in reference to the study’s findings. “The decision to have a mammogram should not be a slam dunk.”
No modality is going to be 100% accurate when it comes to spotting breast cancer. However, there is technology out there now which can now safely and effectively detect these cancers, sometimes years before a lump or bump appears.
7 Tests for Breast Cancer Your Doctor May Not Even Know About
#1 – Thermography
If you’re looking for a non-invasive and safe diagnostic tool as an alternative or a complement to mammograms, then getting a thermography screening may be the right option for you. Thermography, also known as Digital Infrared Thermographic Imaging (DITI), detects areas of heat in the body which can point to areas where inflammation may be occurring.
Because of this, thermography may be able to detect physiological breast cancers even when they are just the size of a pinhead.
In fact, a 2008 study published in The American Journal of Surgery found that breast thermography in particular has a 97% “sensitivity rating” for discovering malignancies, sometimes years before a visible tumor has been formed.
Thermography can be especially effective for women who have been diagnosed as having “Dense Breast Syndrome,” where mammary tissue is denser and more fibrous than normal. While thermography is covered by health insurance in many countries outside the U.S., it has yet to be covered by most American providers.
More and more alternative health clinics are offering the service at affordable prices, however, including integrative health centers, Ayurvedic centers, acupuncturists, and chiropractors.
To find a certified thermography technician in your area, I recommend contacting the American College of Clinical Thermography.
#2 – IvyGene Test
The IvyGene Test is truly unique in the testing world. This is because instead of looking for DNA mutations or circulating tumor cells, it measures the rate of DNA methylation at specific places in the body to determine if a person is at risk for breast cancer. It can also let a person know about specific disease types.
The seasoned researchers at IvyGene Labs use advanced DNA sequencing to analyze methylation patterns in blood samples to make their determinations. Cancer cells typically have distinctly abnormal methylation patterns.
DNA methylation is a somewhat complicated biochemical process which catalyzes the conversion of chemicals to assist in literally hundreds of functions in the body. Detoxification, immune system function, gene expression and hormone expression are just some of the mechanisms that rely on methylation in the body.
By measuring methylation, the IvyGene test provides powerful information for breast cancer presence as well as for the general health of the whole body.
#3 – The Greece Test (aka The Greek Test)
The “Greece” Test is named after the Greek researcher who created the test – medical geneticist Dr. Ioannis Papasotiriou – who also established the Research Genetic Cancer Center (RGCC) that originally performed the test.
There are currently seven labs across the globe that process Greece tests and service patients worldwide. The purpose of the Greece Test is two-fold – to check for significant numbers of “circulating tumor cells” (CTCs) as well as cancer stem cells (CSCs), which can determine the aggressiveness of the cancer. Once these cells are discovered, scientists in the lab can then determine which particular treatment protocols work best for that individual.
What makes Greece a one-of-a-kind testing mechanism is that it tests the effectiveness of 50 different natural therapies as well as 49 different chemotherapy drugs for a person’s particular cancer situation. Cancer cells and stem cells are first isolated from the patient’s blood and are grown in a petri dish. They are then dosed with the various pharmaceutical and natural substances. After two days, each petri dish assay is measured for effectiveness based on cancer and stem cell die-off rates.
This is a highly personalized way of approaching the cancer journey which is quite different than the “cookie cutter chemo” model used by most oncologists. For breast cancer, the Greece test can also determine multi-drug resistance and protein coating resistance of the cancer cells as well as specific genetic markers. In other words, the Greece test offers you a very targeted approach to your healing journey.
Examples of natural substances that Greece tests contain include enzyme therapy, vitamin D3, vitamin C, quercetin, Haelan (fermented soy beverage), Laetrile (vitamin B17), artemisinin (wormwood extract), Sanguinaria (blood root or blood wort), Agaricus mushrooms, resveratrol, and many others.
The Greece Test can also be used to determine if cancer cells are sensitive to hyperthermia (heat). This is very beneficial since daily use of far-infrared saunas or the use of a “bio mat” can help increase core body temperature and increase the numbers of natural killer cells. Natural killer cells are specialized immune cells that can recognize and bind to certain tumor cells and virus-infected cells and kill them.
Admittedly, the Greece test is not accepted by most traditional oncologists as a valid diagnostic device, so the costs of testing and treatment are out-of pocket. For many patients who wish to streamline their healing process and use substances they know their body will respond to, it is a price they are willing to pay.
Dr. Papsotirou puts it in perspective: “We are at a crossroads and we need to take a different way to approach cancer patients.”
With the Greece test, a patient’s cancer cells are studied to determine which cancer treatments will work best for that individual.
#4 – Cancer Profile
Unlike the ONCOblot and Greece tests, a typical Cancer Profile is not considered a “cancer diagnostic” tool since many of the mechanisms and substances it will test, such as inflammatory markers, are not specific to cancer. The results of this comprehensive test may give you a very solid indication if cancer is affecting your health, however.
Most cancer profiles will test for the PHI (Phosphohexose Isomerase) enzyme and variants of the HCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin) hormone, which are unique to cancer cells.
PHI activity is a sign that anaerobic activity exists in the system. Cancer cells thrive in an anaerobic environment. The PHI enzyme is also the main cause of cancer cell migration to other areas of the body as it channels cancer cells into a state of fermentation.
The HCG hormone is a tumor marker that will be elevated in about 80% of all malignancies.
Other substances that may be tested in a typical cancer profile include:
- Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA), a cancer antigen
- Gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase (GGTP), an enzyme that monitors liver and bile function
- Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), related to thyroid function
- Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), an adrenal substance often called the “anti-stress, pro-immunity, longevity” hormone
- C-Reactive Protein (CRP), a powerful inflammatory marker
- Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1), an overexpression of which could be an indication of cancer malignancy
#5 – Genomic (DNA) Testing
Like the Cancer Profile, genomic testing mechanisms are not “diagnostic.” They cannot diagnose cancer per se, but they can determine what your genetic weaknesses are on many levels, which may be an indication of cancer risk.
Genomic testing is a good course of action for healthy individuals who wish to prevent breast cancer as well as those who are on a breast cancer healing journey. The findings can help you and your health provider tailor a lifestyle, supplementation, and dietary regime that will work for you.
New findings in the field of epigenetics are discovering just how much our environment, both internal and external, can affect our genetics. In some cases, these factors can actually affect the blueprint of our DNA. But for most people, environmental factors (whether we eat a standard American diet or a healthy one, for example) affect even more how this blueprint is expressed.
There are exceptions to the rule, but for the most part a person’s genetic blueprint does not change much over the course of their lifetime. Some key elements of a quality, full-spectrum genomic test may include inflammatory markers, lipids metabolism, essential vitamin and mineral assimilation, methylation, oxidative stress, stress responses, sleep responses, liver detoxification pathways, and caffeine assimilation, among others.
#6 – New Technologies for Breast Cancer Prevention
It is always exciting when a new modality comes to the market that may be able to provide women more options for safe, effective breast cancer detection. One modality that shows promise is the SureTouch Breast Self-Exam testing device.
SureTouch is a radiation-free clinical breast examination tool developed by Harvard scientists that uses “proprietary tactile sensor technology” and a cloud-based networking system to produce a digital surface map of the breast, where abnormalities may be spotted. SureTouch is FDA-cleared for breast surface mapping and to serve as an aid during a clinical breast exam.
Another new technology is the Breast Cytological Evaluation Test (or Breast “PAP” test) which has the ability to detect abnormal cells “years before a larger, potentially cancerous lesion might develop.” The test is designed and produced by a company called Halo and the device is FDA-cleared for the “collection of nipple aspirate fluid for cytological evaluation.”
According to the Halo website, “over twenty years of scientific literature supports data that shows the presence of atypical cells from nipple aspirate fluid increases a woman’s lifetime risk of developing breast cancer.”
Since these technologies are new, it is important to ask a trusted healthcare provider about them first to determine if they are right for you and if your provider has access to them.
8 “Red Flag” Health Tests Every Woman Should Consider
While the tests above can help you determine what is happening with actual cancer cells in your body and your specific cancer risks, the results of the tests below can provide basic information about your hormonal and immune system health, which may be able to provide important clues about your breast cancer risk overall.
#1 – Tests to Determine Your “Estrogen Quotient” (EQ)
The concept of the “Estrogen Quotient” was developed by Dr. Henry Lemon, who studied the estrogen substance estriol as it related to breast cancer risk. The EQ test itself looks at the relationship between the three types of estrogen: estriol, estrone, and highly-aggressive estradiol (which toxic xenoestrogens have the ability to mimic).
A comprehensive EQ test is best analyzed with saliva testing. Some of the other substances that are tested in a saliva test include progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, and cortisol levels. This test is especially helpful for those who are considering hormone replacement or those who have reproductive issues, such as fibroid tumors or menstrual cycle irregularities. These are conditions which often arise during a woman’s peri-menopause and menopausal years. The EQ test is vital for those who want to take a preventive and active role in their breast health.
#2 – Estrogen Methylation Testing
Another key component to reproductive and hormonal health is a process called methylation. Methylation is a normal process that causes proteins and hormones to “change” from one substance to another (from serotonin to melatonin, for example).
Proper methylation is essential for correct genetic expression as well as for detoxification of the liver. Estrogen methylation in particular is an important step in the metabolism of the female hormone estrogen. Cancer cells have shown to have improper methylation overall and this is a HUGE piece of the puzzle that most traditional doctors often miss! If a woman is not properly methylating (or “breaking down”) estrogen in her body, then aggressive estrogens re-circulate and this can increase the risk of breast cancer.
#3 – Vitamin D Test
Did you know that most Americans are deficient in vitamin D? There are many reasons for this, including sedentary, indoor lifestyles, and bad eating habits. The connection between vitamin D deficiency and breast cancer has been confirmed many times over by scientific research and is acknowledged by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The majority of woman I coach who have been diagnosed with breast cancer have a severe vitamin D deficiency. The test to get your levels checked is easy and can be done through most health care providers or on your own through an independent lab.
#4 – Iodine-Bromide-Fluoride Test
Iodine is another substance that is vital for not only breast health but also reproductive, hormonal, and especially thyroid health. And, like vitamin D, most individuals in the U.S. are iodine deficient.
Why? Again, there are several factors, but a big one is environmental. Fluoride, which many local and regional water districts began putting into public water systems in the 1960s to help “prevent tooth decay,” can block the assimilation of iodine in the body, as can bromide.
Do yourself a favor and, at the very least, get your iodine levels checked today. This is especially important if you have thyroid issues.
#5 – Complete Thyroid Test
A complete thyroid hormone analysis, which will check levels of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) as well as T2, T3, and T4 hormones, is recommended especially if your iodine levels are low or if you are experiencing the symptoms of either hypo- or hyperthyroidism. Hypothyroidism has become a widespread condition in the U.S. because of iodine depletion, stress, and other factors. Hypothyroidism is a precursor to breast cancer and a whole host of other disease conditions.
#6 – Sleep Panel
A comprehensive Sleep Panel is important to consider if you are having sleep issues such as insomnia, restless sleep, trouble falling asleep, or are just feeling extra tired, or “wired and tired” throughout the day.
The correlation between sleep disturbances and breast cancer is clear. A 2014 study published in the medical journal Breast found that sleep disturbances were noticeably high in women with breast cancer. Besides melatonin (a vital hormone that can literally “put cancer cells to sleep”), a Sleep Panel will look at other neurotransmitters including serotonin, GABA, dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, and glutamate.
#7 – Heavy Metal Testing
If you were to ask me who I think should get tested for heavy metals, I would say everyone! We live in a toxic world. No matter how healthfully we try to live our lives, heavy metals are going to inevitably affect us in some way without proper detoxification practices to get rid of them.
You may especially be at risk for heavy metal toxicity which can lead to breast cancer if you currently have or used to have amalgam fillings in your mouth. Detoxing from heavy metals is simply a part of a healthy breast and healthy body protocol and getting tested for specific substances and their levels can help you target necessary detox efforts.
#8 – Tests for Gut Health
More and more, we are discovering the connection between gut health and immune system function. This makes perfect sense since 80% of your immune system cells reside in your gut!
Conditions such as leaky gut and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be indicators of bad bacterial overgrowth and toxicity in the digestive system which can lead to autoimmune disease, allergies, oxidative stress, inflammation, and cancer. One test that can help you determine the “state of your gut” is a parasite stool analysis. Other more comprehensive tests will measure the amount and quality of the major flora in your gut in addition to parasites. A test such as this is recommended for anyone with a history of leaky gut, Crohn’s disease, IBS, diverticulitis, or other gut-related conditions as well as those with autoimmune conditions and allergies.
Why Isn’t My Doctor Telling Me About These Tests?
You may be asking yourself this question right now, and rightly so! It would be easy to get into a lengthy conversation about the ills of the billion-dollar cancer industry that is designed to promote the “status quo” at the expense of patient advocacy and disease prevention.
On a more individual level, it’s likely simply that most doctors don’t know that these tests exist because they haven’t been educated about them. A 2006 survey of medical schools done by the University of North Carolina School of Nutrition found that out of the 106 schools they studied, only 32 required their students to take a course in nutrition.
If awareness about the importance of such a basic thing as food is lacking in most doctors today, you can be sure that most are completely ignorant when it comes to targeted and peripheral testing aimed at cancer healing and prevention.
Many doctors (both new and experienced) are simply not educated about targeted testing for cancer healing and prevention At the very least, your MD or oncologist should be open to the information you may have to share with them as well as your requests for one or more of the tests mentioned above (even if they are not able to perform them). If he or she is not, then it may be a good idea to find a doctor who is.
Always Work With a Qualified Health Practitioner to Interpret Your Test Results
So what in the world do you do with all the data you accumulate after all of those tests?
First of all, don’t leave it up to yourself alone to interpret them. From the very beginning of your healing journey, reach out and work directly with a well-qualified and open-minded integrative MD, chiropractor, registered nurse (RN), or other naturopathic health professional.
They will be able to guide you as to the right tests for you (which will save you money) as well as know how to interpret them. Most of all, they’ll be able to take the results of those tests and turn them into a unique healing protocol that will be just right and specifically tailored for you and your individual healing journey.
Approximately 20% of all initial breast cancer diagnoses wind up being “false positives.”
A study found that mortality rates from breast cancer was the same both for women who got mammograms and those who did not.
There is technology which can safely and effectively detect breast cancer, sometimes years before a lump or bump appears.
There’s a billion-dollar cancer industry that is designed to promote the “status quo” at the expense of patient advocacy and disease prevention.
It’s important to work with the right doctor to find the best detection methods for you.