Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Breast Cancer Seminar Review 2014: The Power of Choice with Dr. Contreras

Today's post follows on from our major annual seminar 'Breast Cancer - The Power of Choice' held on Saturday 4th of July 2014. The event was headlined by world renowned integrative oncologist Dr. Francisco Contreras from Oasis of Hope Hospital in Mexico, who alongside other experts aimed to separate myth from fact and share his extensive experience.

The UK has one of the highest incidence rates of breast cancer in the world and unfortunately it is a figure which is only rising. So as we sat to begin Yes to Life’s major annual seminar on the topic, it was not without the sense of standing up to issues which in some way affects us all. Hosted by Yes to Life’s founder Robin Daly, the event took place on Saturday 4th July at the beautifully historic Glazier’s Hall. Leading oncologists, doctors, nurses and health care professionals gathered with patients and carers to talk about the facts about breast cancer, the myths, the options open for sufferers and most importantly the hope for a healthier future.

Dr Francisco Contreras gave the first presentation of the morning. As director of the Oasis of Hope Hospital in Mexico Dr Contreras is one of the most knowledgeable integrative oncologists in the field and as he took the stage it was clear his expertise was matched by a genuine sense of warmth for his patients. He presented Breast Cancer as a ‘cultural problem’ and stressed that whatever the gains in genetic medicine, it would always remain a disease that is highly influenced by lifestyle. Dr Contreras referred to statistics which showed that a 1% increase in a country’s GDP pointed to a 35% increase in the rates of breast cancer incidence, in other words in wealthier countries you are far more likely to suffer from breast cancer. He also pointed out that within countries the wealthier sections are also more likely to become afflicted with the disease.

What are the reasons for this? According to Dr Contreras it all comes down to lifestyle. Breast cancer is strongly linked to over-exposure of oestrogen. Women are necessarily exposed to this hormone from their first period until their last and have natural breaks from it during pregnancies. Many lifestyle factors however have started to increase this exposure. In the West oestrogen is commonly added to foodstuffs, most notably in meat and milk production, which is one of the reasons girls have started to menstruate earlier. Western women statistically have fewer children and tend to have them later in life; they are also more likely to use contraceptives containing oestrogen which again increases exposure. Many women also use HRT during menopause which prolongs the time they would naturally be subjected to the hormone. All of these factors are increasing the amount of oestrogen women are subject to in a lifetime, thus contributing to the rise in breast cancer incidence in the West.

One of the elements Dr Contreras emphasised in the prevention and treatment of breast cancer is the importance of diet, reiterating Hippocrates’ famous words ‘let food be thy medicine and medicine by thy food’. Where animal products are pumped with oestrogen they should be avoided and the same for fruit and vegetables treated with pesticides. Dr Contreras pointed to the fact that cancer cells feed on sugar and therefore this was another thing to be avoided.  Dr Contreras said ‘if you are negotiating for a life there has to be some sacrifices’ and explained how within a group of long term survivors the most obvious common factor was diet. He was also however very quick to make clear that one of the most important things was to find a way to be happy with what you were eating, food should never make you fearful or miserable!

Staying positive was in fact another central part of the hospital’s work. Dr Contreras maintains an entirely holistic view of the patient and insists they be treated as a person rather than just a tumour.  Alongside treatments both orthodox and alternative, every patient at the Oasis of Hope undergoes counselling with the belief that the emotional and spiritual aspect of an individual deserves the same healing attention as the body. Patients are also required to bring a loved one along with them for the duration of their treatment.

Two doctors spoke about Hyperthermia and Mistletoe therapy, both which are being used in the UK alongside orthodox treatments. Dr Siegfried Trefzer from the High Tree Medical Clinic in Sussex spoke about using Hyperthermia in cancer care. Cancer cells hate heat so by elevating the whole body temperature to 39.5 degrees Celsius, gains can be made in tumour reduction. The patient lies down in a reflective, brightly lit and heated box for a calculated amount of time, whilst being monitored for temperature and vital statistics. Within the groups they have been working with results have shown to be very effective.

Mistletoe therapy was the topic covered by Dr Stefan Geider from Camphill Medical Practice in Aberdeen. A semi-parasitic plant, poisonous in high doses and more commonly seen at Christmas parties, Mistletoe has incredible health properties. It is primarily used to boost the immune system which is of vital importance for any patient suffering a chronic disease, such a breast cancer. Subcutaneously injected on a weekly basis, mistletoe not only functions to bolster the body’s own attempts to attack cancer cells but has in some cases also been seen to reduce tumours.  Mistletoe has also been observed as a strong mood enhancer, greatly improving the well-being of patients. Studies are ongoing but current evidence points to mistletoe being an effective alternative cancer therapy, and most importantly a non-toxic one.

Following an appropriately delicious and nourishing lunch, Jenny Philips spoke about the importance of nutrition in breast cancer care. Having gone through the disease herself, Jenny practises what she preaches and insists that eating well should be a matter of enjoyment not deprivation. She maintains that Nutritional Therapy is one of the most powerful ways to naturally boost your health as both a preventative and alongside medical treatments. Some of the biggest and most instant gains are to be made in well-being and energy levels, which is of great relevance for anyone going through cancer treatment. Through her organisation Inspired Nutrition, Jenny regularly runs cookery workshops for Yes to Life beneficiaries teaching inspiring recipes to positively enhance health (see more information on our website).

As the seminar came to a close, delegates gathered in the refreshments room where the discussions could have gone on for hours. The momentum created by the talks was tangible as people made notes and shared experiences. Although the day had come to an end there was a sense of new seeds being sown within the cracks of hope that had been determinedly forced into our understanding of breast cancer. There was suddenly the chance to move forward with the idea that there were options open; that in spite of breast cancer there was still the power the make choices, to say Yes to Life. Breast cancer might be one of our biggest health challenges but with so many professionals and individuals exploring the possibilities our prospects for meeting these challenges only grow.

To find out more about Yes to Life's work check out our website www.yestolife.org.uk, email office@yestolife.org.uk or call our office on 0845 257 6950.

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