“It takes just two words: breast cancer, to change someone’s life,” says breast oncologist Dr. Marisa Weiss.
The way the mind connects to the body plays a huge part in the patient’s battle against cancer.
In hospital you’ll have doctors dealing with physical issues but what is often neglected is the patient’s state of mind.
“It’s essential doctors find out what’s going through a woman’s mind to address underlying issues including lack of sleep, anxiety or intimate concerns. Breast cancer sufferers tend to place the blame on themselves; heavily questioning their lifestyle and the person they used to be.”
Although not cures per se, holistic treatments focus on getting women to take the time to address their mind and their body following the intrusion and exhaustion of surgery or chemotherapy.
“Yoga brings a lot of things; but the breathing is key as it brings relaxation and meditation. Whether anxiously awaiting test results or unable to sleep, yogic breathing will help keep focus. Yoga also builds up physical strength, corrects posture, balance, flexibility and range of motion. Following diagnosis, women often feel their body has betrayed them, yoga helps re-build their body confidence.”
“Acupuncture — where fine needles inserted in the body’s ‘meridians’ help the positive flow of energy throughout the body — sooths headaches, nausea, pain and discomfort caused by treatment.”
Weiss does hold one reservation with the technique, “never place needles in the arm adjacent to the affected breast, as this may cause Lymphedema.” Here the lymph system is damaged or blocked causing fluid to build up in soft tissues creating swelling or infection. In this case, patients can choose to undergo “Acupressure,” where pressure is applied to specific spots with the hand instead of needles.
Modern days diets can be unhealthy; most people eat processed foods daily. According to Weiss, “we should be eating between five and nine fruit and vegetable servings a day, seeking out organic sources when possible to avoid consuming pesticides. Low fat, non-dairy options are best and fried foods should be avoided alongside the frequent consumption of red meat, which can contain hormones.” That’s just the starting point. Weiss insists there is a link between breast cancer and alcohol consumption, “limiting your intake to five drinks a week is a good benchmark — the more you drink, the higher your risk.”
Hypnotherapy uses a technique where the mind talks to the body, known as cell command therapy. Hypnotherapist, Marisa Peer, explains how the method is based on how the body mimics the mind. Patients must tell cells what to do and how to behave, imagine their cancerous cells being devoured.
Cancer brings fear and anxiety, “the power of the mind is amazing,” explains Peer. “Once a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer she is confronted with the fear of dying. Hypnotherapy allows women to communicate with their body, get rid of this fear and make their imagination work with them rather than against them.
Less widely used and acknowledged, biological feedback is the repetitive training of the mind to relax. Physiologically, there is a physical state of relaxation defined as state of being which slows heart rate and lowers blood pressure.
The effectiveness of the holistic approach to breast cancer is still up for debate. “They definitely fight the cancer,” exclaims Dr. Marisa Weiss. “The body has a lot of healing and battle to go through. If your immune system is down and you are anxious, you won’t be able to overcome the physical challenges.”