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How surgery can cause breast cancer to return and what you can do to stop it.

What's worse than getting breast cancer? Getting breast cancer twice.

Have you noticed that some women have a recurrence of breast cancer while others don't? One reason for this has been known for a century, yet most doctors--even oncologists--don't talk to us about it. This is unconscionable, because when you understand what can cause breast cancer to return, you can take steps to prevent it from happening.

The reason for relapse was first discovered in premenopausal women. Now, researchers are finding that it applies to some postmenopausal women as well. The explanation has to do with a phenomenon that occurs after surgery. For some women, surgery is both the solution and the problem. It removes the tumor, but it causes others to grow!

How surgery affects breast cancer relapse

Any injury--including surgery--stimulates blood vessel growth. This development of blood vessels, called angiogenesis, is a normal reaction to tissue trauma. Angiogenesis is not just helpful, it's a major function in healing. It carries an increased blood supply to a damaged area so it can repair itself more quickly.

But surgical wounding from breast cancer surgery is different, especially for younger women with positive lymph nodes. Blood vessels in a small but significant number of these women often grow at a greatly accelerated rate after the primary tumor has been removed.

At the same time, surgery "wakes up" dormant cancer cells. You see, breast cancers go through periods of being temporarily dormant. Surgery can interrupt this dormancy. Suddenly, these fast growing blood vessels become a food supply for hungry cancer cells.

This phenomenon occurs most frequently in premenopausal women. Why? We think it may be because their hormones "turn on" an angiogenic switch. If this is the reason, postmenopausal women on hormone therapy may be more at risk for a relapse after breast cancer surgery than women who are not taking hormones.

The angiogenesis theory has been tested in mice injected with lung cancer cells. One hundred percent of these mice had no growth in cancer cells as long as the primary tumor remained. Nor were additional blood vessels formed. But as soon as the main tumor was removed, their lung cancer cells began to grow rapidly.

Explaining the angiogenic surge

Early relapse is often triggered by surgery when single dormant cells are stimulated, resulting in angiogenesis and tumor growth. For small primary breast tumors, 50 percent of all relapses fall into this category. For larger tumors, this accounts for 75-83 percent of relapses.

A number of factors could be responsible for this sudden increase in blood vessels. You probably realize by now that every function in our body contains checks and balances. There are signals that generate the production of blood vessels, and signals that slow them down. It's possible that surgery removes the signals that slow down angiogenesis, allowing blood vessels to multiply.

Or, surgery could increase blood vessel stimulators or growth factors that "turn on" cancer cells. This would cause temporarily dormant cancer cells to wake up and attach themselves to blood vessels in a feeding frenzy, producing rapid tumor growth.

Whatever the mechanism is, there's a strong connection between increased blood vessels after breast cancer surgery and a relapse. However, there are some steps you can take to prevent a recurrence.

(1) Look for angiogenesis

Breast thermography shows changes in heat in your breasts. Mammograms don't. Since blood vessels emit heat, increased blood vessel activity can be detected easily with thermography. Get a thermogram one month after surgery, and every three months for the next six months. Repeat thermograms twice a year for the next two years.

(2) Stop angiogenesis

The best way to stop angiogenesis is to take modified citrus pectin (PectaSol) as soon as you can after surgery. It not only stops angiogenesis, it also keeps cancer cells from clustering. Chances are there are at least a few tiny cancer cells floating around after surgery. If you can keep them from forming into a tumor, they'll die. PectaSol is the singular most important nutrient I know of for all kinds of cancer. It's especially useful after surgery, but you can also take it as a preventive. PectaSol is the only modified citrus pectin product that has been rigorously studied in scientific studies.

(3) Avoid synthetic hormones

I've been talking about the dangers of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for years. We already know estrogen and progestin increase your risk of breast cancer. If you've been on HRT and you have breast cancer, it's quite possible the hormones were the cause. In July 2003, the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) hormone study was stopped because the researchers found that HRT significantly increased your risk for breast cancer. We also know that when this breast cancer is diagnosed, it's at a more advanced stage.

While this new study doesn't prove hormones cause the breast cancer relapses, it does indicate that as a possibility. If you have breast cancer and take HRT, you need to stop taking it. Work with a doctor to get you off of these drugs and onto something far safer.

The best way to go is to avoid hormones altogether. But if you must take hormones, work with a doctor who understands natural hormones and monitors you very closely. Natural hormones are much safer than synthetic. For more information on this, read my articles from May and June 2001 on my website. In those articles, I give you all you need to know about hormone replacement.

(4) Consider additional treatment, including chemotherapy

I'm not a big fan of chemo, especially for older women. This is because chemotherapy doesn't work as well with us as it does in laboratory cell tests or on laboratory animals. However, researchers think that during this sudden burst of angiogenesis, these newly-awakened cancer cells are more sensitive to chemotherapy than usual. If you're going to use chemotherapy, this could be the best time to use it.

After breast cancer surgery, you have a window of time when chemo works best to delay a relapse or cure you. Within six months after surgery, some chemotherapy drugs have reduced relapses by 80 percent! As time goes on, this percentage decreases. Studies show that this is of some value to any woman who has had positive lymph nodes.

Always monitor chemotherapy's effectiveness with thermograms. They can tell you whether or not the drug you're taking is working.

Retsky, M., et al. "Hypothesis: Induced angiogenesis after surgery in premenopausal node-positive breast cancer patients is a major underlying reason why adjuvant chemotherapy works particularly well for those patients," Breast Cancer Research, 2004, May 14, 2004.

Retsky, M., et al. "Breast cancer screening: controversies and future directions," Curr Opin Obstet Gynecol, February 2003.

For more information ...

... on breast thermography and thermography centers: check my website or call 800-728-2288 and ask how you can get my special report on the subject.

... on modified citrus pectin (MCP): check my website for past articles. Get my book on the subject (800-728-2288).

... on PectaSol brand MCP: call EcoNugenics (800-308-5518).
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Publication:Women's Health Letter
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Date:Feb 1, 2005
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