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PREVENTING RECURRENCE BREAST CANCER PREVENTION

Whilst it is widely accepted that nutrition plays an important part in breast cancer prevention, the corollary that nutrition can be involved in reducing the recurrence of this disease is sometimes still viewed as novel. Research into this area is still at an early stage, and is looking promising, but it will probably not be confirmed until well into the twenty-first century that we can help to prevent recurrence with dietary measures. The closest we come to anything that resembles evidence are Japanese women, whose low incidence of breast cancer is linked to their diet, and who also have a much better chance of their breast cancer not returning. Why? Probably because they are carrying on doing what they have been doing all along, eating a diet which is protective against breast cancer. So this is where you have to apply some logic to the situation and decide for yourself if the link between nutrition and breast cancer prevention is likely or not. The truth is that when all the evidence is in, sorted and made sense of, you will probably have died of old age anyway. Why wait? Given that dietary manipulation doesn't do any harm, and you believe that you may be loading the dice in your favour, why not go with your instincts? It really is a

no-lose situation. A key principle of the Hippocratic Oath, to which all doctors owe allegiance, is 'First Do No Harm'. Nutrition, when used wisely, at the very least does no harm and, at most, can make all the difference in the world. Supporting the body's defence mechanism and giving it the raw materials that it needs to function optimally can do a massive amount to help thousands of women to live many years beyond their initial diagnosis of breast cancer.

Members of the medical profession cannot relish being at the sharp end when watching patients decline. In fairness to most doctors they can only use the procedures at their command. Hospitals have limited resources and, for the most part, have to rely upon treatments which are based upon years of research. It must be added that few doctors have formal training on the effects of diet, and supplements, on breast cancer.

In all other fields the advice given for secondary treatment - in other words, prevention of recurrence - is the same as that which is given for initial prevention. This is the rule, not the exception. If you have a heart attack you will be told to reduce salt, reduce saturated fat, take exercise and avoid smoking - the same strategies that are suggested for avoiding heart disease in the first place. If you have osteoporosis you will be advised to take calcium and do exercise, as will a person who wants to prevent the disease. If you have kidney stones you will be asked to drink a lot of water, as this is known to prevent them in the first place.

And, it may not be just nutrition that works - the knock-on effect of doing something positive which may be helpful can bring into play the little-understood matter of the power of the mind in the healing process. A woman who is actively participating in her return to health will probably have the edge.

There is another exciting way in which nutrition can be used, to improve not only a woman's chance of surviving the cancer, but her recovery from the treatment she undergoes to deal with the disease. The treatment may have worked, but for some women may not have been 100 per cent successful in the long term. Nutrition can create the right environment for the immune system to operate optimally, mop up any residual cancer, recover from surgery and other

treatments, and create an environment which is hostile to the development of new cancers.

What is good for prevention must be good for promoting recovery and preventing recurrence.

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Cancer