Lifestyle Choices and Breast Cancer Prevention

by Jane, UK

In recent months there has been a lot of media portrayal about preventive mastectomy (also known as prophylactic mastectomy or risk-reducing mastectomy) re-ignited by Angelina Jolie’s high profile decision to have a preventive double mastectomy.

I have been wondering about this subject as I am a woman and also someone who in the past has had breast health issues.

From my own experience over many years of making lifestyle choices that support me and in taking far more care of myself, I have found that my general health and well-being has improved immensely – so too has my overall health as a woman.

Could lifestyle choices possibly play a role in supporting the prevention of diseases such as breast cancer?

“New figures show that breast cancer is now the most common form of the disease in Britain. This country also has the highest death rate for the disease in the world” (Harding 2013).

The recent media portrayal of preventive mastectomy has raised many conversations about cancer prevention and as I researched for this article I found there are many statistics, articles and blogs written about breast cancer and breast cancer prevention.

Cancer prevention is perceived as any action taken to lower the chance of getting cancer and, anything that increases the chance of developing cancer is perceived as a cancer risk factor.

In the case of breast cancer prevention in the recent media, there have been statistics that state preventive mastectomy may significantly reduce the chance of developing breast cancer in moderate and high-risk women, such as those who test positive for changes or mutations in certain genes (e.g. BRCA1 or BRCA2), bearing in mind “the US Preventive Services Task Force recommends that only women with a strong family history think about getting a BRCA genetic test which is only 2% of US women” (Fox & Aleccia 2013).

In amongst the many articles and websites women are also cited to be at risk if they:

  • Have had previous breast cancer,
  • Have a family history of breast cancer,
  • Have breast changes that increase the risk of breast cancer (e.g. abnormal cells – lobular carcinoma in situ),
  • Have had radiation therapy to your chest before the age of thirty (for example as a treatment for Hodgkins Disease),
  • Have diffuse and indeterminate breast micro-calcifications or dense breast tissue.

Whilst there is current research into breast cancer and its causes, “much research is still needed to understand breast cancer – and its causes – fully” (Harding 2013). Such as examples the National Cancer Institute and the longitudinal Breakthrough Generations Study Breakthrough Breast Cancer set up in 2004 to investigate genetics (via blood samples), lifestyle (e.g. diet, alcohol intake, occupation) and environmental factors that may change the risk of a woman developing breast cancer.

In looking further at the risks of getting breast cancer, there are also often cited relative risks (as cited by GenesisUK) such as:

  • Age at first menstrual period;
  • Age at menopause;
  • Age at first birth;
  • Number of pregnancies;
  • History of breast feeding;
  • Use of the contraceptive pill; and
  • Use of Hormonal Replacement Therapy (HRT).

Environmental chemicals have in the past also been suggested as relative risks to getting breast cancer, though as yet there don’t seem to have been any studies that show a direct link with developing breast cancer. 

Studies Linking Lifestyle to Breast Cancer

Lifestyle choices are also cited as a possible relative risk for breast cancer (e.g. American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute) and “statistics show us that nine out of ten of us are willing to make lifestyle changes to reduce our risk of disease” (Harding 2013).

The American Cancer Society suggests that women can lower their risk of developing breast cancer by considering their body weight, physical activity and diet – stating that some studies show that a diet rich in vegetables, fruit and fish for instance has been linked with lower risk of breast cancer.

GenesisUK suggests “there is now evidence that physical activity has a protective effect against breast cancer”, partly through controlling body weight and also due to the positive effect on body hormone levels, which could potentially lower the risk. GenesisUK also suggest that there are several studies that have shown breast cancer has been linked to alcohol intake and that women who are tee-total have a lower risk of breast cancer compared to those who drink alcohol, and the level of risk rises with the level of alcohol intake.

Genetics and Epigenetics

There is another level of lifestyle choices that could be considered here too. We know that genetics were a factor in Angelina Jolie’s decision to have preventive mastectomy, however, the other aspect of genetics that hasn’t featured highly in the websites, articles and media coverage on preventive mastectomy – epigenetics.

“Epigenetics is the mechanism by which environmental changes alter the behaviour of our genes” (McKie 2013). McKie suggests all sorts of life events can affect DNA methylation levels in our bodies, including diet, illnesses, ageing, chemicals in the environment, smoking, drugs and medicines. From these, McKie concludes that epigenetic changes produce variation in disease patterns – “we have studied identical twins who have different tolerances to pain and shown that they have different states of methylation. We have also produced similar results for depression, diabetes and breast cancer. In each case, we have found genes that are switched on in one twin and switched off in the other twin. This often determines whether or not they are likely to get a disease.” (McKie 2013)

Rankin suggests that “epigenetics research proves to us that environmental influences, including hormonal factors are affected by our thoughts, beliefs and feelings that affect how your genes express themselves” (Rankin 2013). Rankin goes on to suggest that studies have also shown that environmental factors can override certain genetic mutations, effectively changing how DNA is expressed, and that scientists are now learning that the genome is far more responsive to the environment of the cell – especially the hormonal environment created by our thoughts, beliefs and feelings, in that the way we are, we think, we feel and what we do affects us more deeply than we may realise – to the extent that our genetics can change.

Is Double Mastectomy the only Preventative Option for Breast Cancer risk?

Considering this article so far, what do the many media articles and web pages suggest are the options for women in reducing their risk of breast cancer (aside from elective bilateral preventive mastectomy)?

For those with medium to high risk of breast cancer chemo-prevention is now available in the UK as recently announced by NICE, who suggest that ‘Tamoxifen or Raloxifene’ taken daily for 5 years can cut breast cancer risk by 40%, with a protective effect for up to a decade, although there can be side effects including hot flushes and blood clots.

There are also options for:

  • Raising awareness – being breast aware, getting to know what your breasts look and feel like and what is normal for you in how your breasts look and feel.
  • Health education – to raise awareness of diseases in the breasts and the possible symptoms, know what changes to look for e.g. lumps, pain, discharge from the nipple.
  • Close monitoring – e.g. periodic mammograms and regular check-ups of a clinical breast examination performed by a health care professional.
  • Avoiding menopausal hormone use (Keefe & Meyskens 2000).

In addition to the above, lifestyle choices are often cited as preventive to the development of breast cancer, e.g. limit or cut out alcohol consumption, bring a focus to diet by moving away from processed foods and undertaking regular exercise.

Where might epigenetics play a role here?

In some research on epigenetics (McKie, 2013; Rankin, 2013) there is growing suggestion that lifestyle choices do play a role in the prevention of illness and disease.

I know for myself as mentioned above, in gradually and tenderly making many lifestyle changes, such as my diet, my rest and sleep, in exercising and in stopping things that had a negative impact on my body (e.g. alcohol, dairy, rushing around, burning the candle at both ends), my health has and continues to improve. And the long term conditions I have had (endometriosis, eczema and asthma for instance) have dissipated.

In wondering about the prevention of illness and disease there is clearly much that needs to be considered in the context of each woman’s unique risk factors, level of concern and how she feels in knowing her body as only she does.

“You know your body better than any doctor does – and only you can know what’s right for you” (Rankin 2013).

Whilst I am not in the shoes of Angelina Jolie or others for instance who are at high risk of breast cancer, nor would I want to make light of the choices any woman in this position has made, for these are serious considerations, what I can say is that lifestyle choices have made an enormous difference to the quality of my health and life overall.

And if, as epigenetics purports, lifestyle and the way we think and feel has an impact not only on our health and well-being but also on our genes, then maybe it is a worthy consideration for all women (and men) – whatever their circumstance, state of health or risk factors are.

It just may be that we could reduce the risk not only of breast cancer, but also of other illness and disease. That is worthy of further research and consideration.

Further Reading:
Endometriosis – Experiences and Observations on Women’s Health – Part 1
Mastitis – Experiences and Observations on Women’s Health – Part 2

References:

  1. American Cancer Society (2012) –”Breast Cancer Prevention and Early Detection“. Retrieved August 30, 2013
  2. Anderson, B. O. et al. (2008) “Guideline implementation for breast healthcare in low-income and middle-income countries: overview of the Breast Health Global Initiative Global Summit 2007”. Cancer, 113, 2221–43.
  3. Breakthrough Breast Cancer (2004) – Breakthrough Generations Study into the Causes of Breast Cancer – In Breast Cancer Risk Factors – The Facts. Joint Publication Breakthrough Breast Cancer & BMA. P 37
  4. Chan, Amanda. (2013, May 14) “Double Mastectomy: why Angelina Jolie had breast removal surgery“. Huffington Post. Retrieved from
  5. Dobson, Roger. (2013, June 9) “Professional women more susceptible to breast cancer“. The Independent.
  6. Fox, Maggie & Aleccia, JoNel. (2013, May 15) “More women opting for preventive mastectomy – but should they be?” NBC News.
  7. Genesis UK. Preventing Breast Cancer Charity – Retrieved August 30, 2013.
  8. Harding, Charlotte (2013, July 04) “10 ways to prevent breast cancer” (femail.co.uk). Mail online.
  9. Keef KA & Meyskens FL Jr. (2000) “Cancer Prevention”. In: Abeloff MD, Armitage Jo, Licther As, Neiderhuber JE, Editors. Clinical Oncology 2nd Ed. London: Churchill Livingstone, 2000
  10. McKie, Robin (2013, June 02) “Why do identical twins end up having such different lives?” The Guardian.
  11. National Cancer Institute (2006) – “Fact Sheet Preventative Mastectomy – Retrieved August 30, 2013.
  12. NHS Choices. (2012) “Breast Cancer (female) prevention“. Retrieved August 30, 2013.
  13. NICE Guidance. (2013) “Familial breast cancer: Classification and care of people at risk of familial breast cancer and management of breast cancer and related risks in people with a family history of breast cancer“. Retrieved August 31, 2013.
  14. Rankin, Lissa (2013, May 16) “Was Angelina Jolie ‘Medically Hexed?” Care2 Healthy Living.
  15. Roberts, Michelle (2013, June 25) “Breast Cancer: NHS to offer tamoxifen to at-risk women“. BBC News.
  16. World Health Organisation (2013).  “Breast Cancer: Prevention and control“. Retrieved August 31, 2013.

171 thoughts on “Lifestyle Choices and Breast Cancer Prevention

  1. “I know for myself as mentioned above, in gradually and tenderly making many lifestyle changes, such as my diet, my rest and sleep, in exercising and in stopping things that had a negative impact on my body (e.g. alcohol, dairy, rushing around, burning the candle at both ends), my health has and continues to improve” And so can say many of us who have made major life-style changes. Just recently I was talking to a friend, who, since her double mastectomy – and currently undergoing chemotherapy – she has drastically changed her diet – giving up sugar including chocolate, caffeine, gluten, dairy and alcohol. She says she has never felt or looked better, has more energy and friends say she looks years younger. Its never too late to change.

    1. I agree that it is never too late to make changes to the choices we make. Through the work of Serge Benhayon and Universal Medicine I have learnt how every choice we make has an impact on our body, one that either supports the body or one that harms it, and how from making more self-loving choices we are able to support our body and help undo some of the harm we have caused it.

      1. Yes I agree too – it is never too late to change. There are many women I now know who have made different lifestyle choices following attending Universal Medicine or Esoteric Womens Health presentations or modalities. There are many stories like my own by many women from all walks of life which are deeply inspiring, and which all women – and men would benefit from.

  2. Jane, this article is so true! I know that since learning through Universal Medicine to start making more self-loving choices, rather than self-abusing ones, I no longer get skin allergies or asthma. I also have never looked brighter or younger and when I walk in true connection to my body and myself, I know I have never felt better. Let’s hope it’s not too long before all women catch on to this idea!

  3. This is super informative and inspiring article Jane for it asks us to consider the power of our choices in how we choose to live, so that if what epigenetics says is true, the way we look after ourselves can have a remarkable affect on our health. Having cured your endometriosis, eczema and asthma through the lifestyle adjustments you have made, you are living proof of the truth in epigenetics and another reason for people to really sit up and listen and maybe ponder over the part they play in their own ill health.

    1. I agree Samantha – there are many who have commented on this blog site, and written blogs who are living walking miracles having made choices in their daily living in all aspects of their lives which have then turned around their health conditions and overall wellbeing. Epigenetic’s makes sense, and offers us the responsibility and choice to live life in a way that truly supports us.

  4. Thanks Jane for a very detailed blog on this subject which affects so many women (and men) around the world, not to mention the impact of a diagnosis of breast cancer on family and friends of the person concerned. What concerns me these days is that the idea of raising money for research into breast cancer prevention and treatment has become, I feel, quite commercialised and trendy with many well known sports stars and celebrities supporting various causes. While all of this has benefit, the part that is being overlooked is the deeper consideration of the quality of life we (primarily women) are living. This is given tokenistic consideration, if at all, in comparison to the focus on finding the ‘cure’ via drugs and surgery.

    1. Hi Helen, you raise some interesting points – overall with charities and research into medical conditions – given some of the research has been going on for some years there is a question as to how it is contributing to the prevention of breast cancer or other medical conditions, as whilst we are living longer (but in poorer health) we don’t as yet seem to be preventing many of these conditions – even though we do now have many links to lifestyle choices. I also feel there is some research to come one day that involves large scale womens communities in different parts of the world/all over the world to start a fuller conversation about lifestyle, and the way we are living as women and the correlation with womens health issues such as breast cancer.

  5. “What I can say is that lifestyle choices have made an enormous difference to the quality of my health and life overall.” For me its the small daily choices that can make an overall difference to health and wellbeing. Simple things like the time I go to bed or taking small walks when I feel too and eating what feels right for me. Its beautiful to listen to our bodies and take responsibility for how we treat ourselves in a loving and caring way and does benefit our health immensely.

  6. Jane it is great to have more awareness about epigenetics research. Since being inspired by Serge Benhayon, Universal Medicine to make many different choices in my lifestyle from the awareness of my body and mental thoughts now, there have been many changes in my body physiology that have been experienced personally and leave me in no doubt as to the truth epigenetics offers for us all to consider our way of living.
    “….especially the hormonal environment created by our thoughts, beliefs and feelings, in that the way we are, we think, we feel and what we do affects us more deeply than we may realise – to the extent that our genetics can change?”.

    1. I agree Stephanie, our bodies are our greatest guide to daily living and if we choose to listen to them we can catch any ailment or disease earlier – or even before it happens if we really take care of ourselves from the guidance of our bodies.

  7. After reading this more questions arise like: If our endocrine system can be affected by our thoughts and emotions what about all the other systems? If that system is affected (a major system at that) then wouldn’t all the others be affected also? Cancer is a huge illness and disease for anyone but what if the smaller ones were equally approached from the same angle of our choices in and of life affect our health? If we have negative thoughts and emotions on a regular basis would that result in regular ill health? I know this as a fact for as my actions, thoughts and emotions are addressed the greater my health has become but through this blog I understand that there are deeper what if’s to consider. Thank you Jane.

  8. What I find beautiful about this blog is that it shows that the cancer discussion is way far more open and far more close to us than the way it was portrayed to be.
    When we are talking about genes (over which we have no say) and procedures such as mastectomy (only done by a specialist), we are at the mercy of what happens. There is nothing we can do.
    Yet, when introducing lifestyle factors and epigenetic into the picture, you and your choices take center stage. This is a great news for some who are willing to honestly give it a go and see what happen, adjusting how they live. It is not such a great news for others who have no intention to live in a responsible way and admit that, through their choices, they have responsibility on the occurrence of the disease.

    1. Well said Eduardo – too often in life we feel a victim of circumstance, yet deep down there is something inside us that questions this – though often we don’t follow that question through. Maybe in time through our medical consultations we could be asked ‘how are you living your life?’ and given some simple observational homework for a few weeks to observe how we live life which we then take back to the medical professional and discuss so that our care can be partly our own daily living choices and not solely reliant on medicine.

  9. A must read for every woman. Thank you Jane for thoroughly exploring the latest research re Breast cancer so all woman can feel empowered re choices to make if faced with Breast cancer and how to prevent it.

  10. “You know your body better than any doctor does – and only you can know what’s right for you” (Rankin 2013). Such a great quote and for me, it’s so true. We’re living in it, so we know it intimately. Yet we’ve been brought up in a culture that has us working with an outsourcing mindset, one that takes best advice from qualified practitioners in conventional and complementary medicine but often omits the third element of the medical trinity – ourselves. Either because we’re not asked or because we don’t offer. This isn’t about us all studying biology from the age of 3 and being able to self-diagnose, but it is about trusting and using that connection we all have with our bodies – to read, observe and understand our body’s markers and to bring that as an equal factor into the overall prevention and treatment equation

    1. I agree Cathy – and it maybe that we need to look at how we train and educate our medical/healthcare practitioners so that they work with the patient/client in supporting more self responsibility and self diagnosis and understanding of our bodies rather than an exchange whereby we expect to be ‘fixed’ or ‘solved’ when we go to our healthcare services.

  11. A thorough examination of the current approaches to breast cancer prevention that offers the reader the opportunity to deeply ponder how the lifestyle we choose, the ideals and beliefs as well as the diet we eat may also be a factor in developing disease or not. A well-researched and informative article, thank you Jane.

  12. A brilliant article, Jane. Thank you. Very informative, factual, well researched, unbiased, and unimposing – I feel this is precisely how this subject (or anything in fact) should be discussed and presented by the media, instead of trying to incite emotional reactions or hype and influence public opinions.

  13. Wow what an article Jane thank you for sharing such insight into a highly sensitive subject , it is beautiful to see our path to health and vitality is opening up to the choices we make and the responsibilities that go hand in hand . The research and data coming to light through epigenetics , lifestyles ,nutrition studies etc are all reflecting this needed awareness.

    1. I love what you say here Paul ‘It is beautiful to see our path to health and vitality is opening up to the choices we make and the responsibilities that go hand in hand.’ It is incredible how much we can change the way we feel and our own health and wellbeing by observing our daily living choices, and making changes in the way we live listening to our body which is a great guide.

  14. Jane this is a fabulous article and very well researched. How we live is so of such importance not only when it comes to living with illness and disease but also on how we feel everyday in terms of our wellbeing. We are only catching the surface of this with the new research.

    1. I agree Jennifer – we are only catching the surface of this with the new research. In time to come it will be normal to live knowing that the daily living choices we make can either harm or heal us – and knowing just what an absolute magical tool the physical body is in that it knows exactly what is needed every moment of the day – if we choose to listen to it.

  15. Thank you Jane very your very informative article. I found the research behind epigentics fascinating. Taking responsibility for our health really is worth it.

    1. Thanks Kate, and since this article was written there is more and more research and papers and studies that show how our daily living choices affect our health. We need only experiment with simple daily living things to feel that for ourselves – e.g. bed time, or drinking more water, we can for ourselves feel the difference these things make.

      1. I agree, simple changes can make a big difference in the way we feel on a day to day basis that have far reaching effects on those around us, as our moods are more balanced and our responses to difficult situations and stress more steady supporting not only ourselves but also the people around us.

  16. Thank you Jane for this insightful article. It is getting common knowledge that lifestyle affects our heath, now it is time to support people to understand why caring for ourselves is not what we tend to choose, why do we override what our bodies are communicating to us all the time. We are so worth caring for on an ever deepening level.

    1. Good point Katinka – starting the conversation about how lifestyle affects health is key here – as whilst the research is saying it – as a population Im not so sure we’ve ever really talked about it. Yes we may see food choices, or a lack of exercise impacts us – but there is so much more to it than that as we know from the presentations of Serge Benhayon and Universal Medicine.

  17. Thank you Jane for sharing such a super article on this subject, and I totally agree with you, that lifestyle choices have made an enormous difference to the quality of my health and life overall. When we begin to realise that every choice has a consequence and catches up with us sooner or later, it breaks the illusion and the delusion that we get off scot free with ill choices make with regards to our health.

    1. In reading your comment Jacqmcfaddeno4 I realise that there are now many studies and papers written on the impact of lifestyle – and how it effects our health – and it would be great if a study was done to pull all those studies together e.g. for womens health and look at the common points and then to study this further looking at the Esoteric Women’s Health modalities (e.g. the esoteric breast massage). In time studies will be done and will bring together western medicine, lifestyle, and esoteric healing modalities as a powerful combination.

  18. Thank you for compiling so much valuable information in one location – having presented all of it so clearly I really felt it when you bring home the point that our choices are our best medicine and as women we can make these choices ever so loving and deeply nurturing.

  19. This is an excellent article and offers us all something very important to consider that epigenetics, or the choices we make and how we treat ourselves, can have a powerful effect on our overall health and our vulnerability to developing illness and disease. “the hormonal environment created by our thoughts, beliefs and feelings, in that the way we are, we think, we feel and what we do affects us more deeply than we may realise – to the extent that our genetics can change.” This is very empowering as it asks us to take responsibility for our own health and not just blame ‘bad luck’ when we are ill but to look at the way we have been living.

    1. I agree Mary – it is empowering – and just goes to show the importance of the daily living choices and thoughts we have and how they impact on our health and wellbeing. Also that nothing is ‘random’ as the way we have lived has an impact on our life and health and wellbeing going forward.

  20. For me this article says “There is so much power in our own hands for our health”, and this is through the simplicity of daily choices. I love how self care was such a strong thread through this whole article, and to respect how precious we each are and take our self care seriously. Regardless of research needed, my body reflects the immense benefits is such daily self caring choices which come from observing the details of my own body. It’s simple, practical and it does work. Even epigenetics is pointing to the same thing – the power is in our own hands, not predetermined by genes.

  21. ‘the way we are, we think, we feel and what we do affects us more deeply than we may realise ‘, this is certainly my experience, and it is also my experience that my behaviours, thoughts etc have an effect on how my breasts feel before and during my period. If I have been emotional, tense, over busy and not nurturing myself at times throughout the month, my breasts around my period will swell and be sore and sensitive. There is no doubt for me that if these behaviours were intensified or continued without me sensing this correlation, and pulling myself back to my femaleness, I would end up with some form of health issue with my breasts. They already show me the small things. There has to be a reason for that.

    1. Good points Lisa – Im pretty sure that if there was a research study on what you say – on a group of women about their thoughts and behaviours and the impact it has on their health, and particularly breasts including breast tissue that that would blow a lot of conventional research out of the water regarding breast cancer prevention and show that the way we are in life does make a difference to breast health. Lifestyle choices do make a difference and that is now beginning to be recognised around the world.

      1. What you have offered here Jane and Lisa is an expanded view on what constitutes lifestyle choices and then what these choices mean and then implications for all of our choices. This is huge.

  22. Jane you have brought together here all the considerations when it comes to breast cancer and breast health. This is great as there is so much out there that can at times be confusing and often contradictory. Your ability to simply and clearly explain it all here offers the reader the opportunity to consider all aspects of their health so that if they have to make difficult decisions they in fact will have far more of a choice with the understanding of all that can factor into the situation.

  23. Thank you Jane for this amazing article. It is so important that this writing finds its way into the medical industry and people are given an opportunity to look a little deeper when it comes to self-care and prevention in illness and disease.

  24. Hi Jane, I find epigenetics so interesting – something I never knew anything about until recently – but my what a role it has to play! It shows all the many ways we avoid looking at how we are living – but as scientists start to show people what epigenetics actually are and how they can change based on how we live, I can only hope that humanity starts to accept our role in how we live and what happens to our body.

  25. the most in depth and sensible article i have ever read about breast cancer, more women should read and access these type of article so that they can be helped throughouat their process of treatment.

  26. ” We have also produced similar results for depression, diabetes and breast cancer. In each case, we have found genes that are switched on in one twin and switched off in the other twin. This often determines whether or not they are likely to get a disease.”

    The next step might be to find out what made a difference. Is it their resilience? Their emotionality? Their diet? Their stress levels?

    1. Good point Christoph – thoughts, feelings, daily choices, there is much else that could also be looked at when understanding the cause of illness and disease.

  27. I am inspired that you found a researcher who presented , “You know your body better than any doctor does – and only you can know what’s right for you” (Rankin 2013), Jane. I wonder that this researcher has not been more widely published and profiled in the media. It sounds promising also that there is an acknowledged relationship between environment, hormones, thoughts and feelings and how our genes then express themselves. When will this be thoroughly investigated and made common knowledge?

    1. Colleen that quote you have highlighted here is so important about knowing our own bodies more than anyone else. In my experience being and working with health professionals over the years the more information we have from a patient, the easier our job is. It really does pay to understand and accept that we do know our own bodies.

  28. This a great blog Jane and worthy of attention. I feel lifestyle choices have a role to play in all illness and disease so most definitely breast cancer as much as all others. The sad thing is that many of us today find it easier to blame outside of us for why we get ill in the first place. We protect ourselves and our pride rather then humbly asking the question, what is it that I have been living that has caused this ill in my body or my life? Then we have to feel what we might have been doing to ourselves and even worse, to others. And this is a difficult pill to swallow, but well worth the healing that follows.

    1. Great point Anna “And this is a difficult pill to swallow, but well worth the healing that follows.” – it maybe a difficult pill to swallow but perhaps it is the best medicine we can take – learning to be honest about the way we are living, and being open to seeing the endless possibility that through that awareness and honesty we can make changes that not only effect the quality of our lives, they effect the quality of everything around us – our relationships with others, the way we are at work and so on. Now that kind of pill is remarkable – and, more so it is free of charge because it is within us all to be able to learn to observe ourselves, and make changes.

      1. I love this Jane, what I get from your words is that our greatest medicine is really to let go of our pride and protection, to get honest and allow for a greater awareness, and from this to watch the miracles unfold! A little humility can go a long way, but a bucket load of humility, can take us light years! Humble pie it is!!

  29. Great article Jane. A brilliantly researched piece on the many medical interventions and forms of treatment offered to women with breast cancer today. But as you rightly state Breast Cancer rates and rates of all illness and disease are rising. We live in a time of unprecedented ‘advances’ in science and medicine but more people are living with chronic disease than ever before. Wider and deeper questions indeed need to be asked. The field of epigenetics seems to be bringing us closer to the truth and explains much of what has eluded the medical profession for so long. I love that the fatalistic view that our genes are set in stone and we are predisposed to certain illness being debunked. The food we eat, the lifestyle we lead, how we nurture and care for ourselves are all communicated to our cells. We are constantly talking to our genes and the words are the choices we make. Leaving the future of our health and well-being is very much in our own hands.

  30. Yes this is an awesome article Jane. You wrote a holistic, well researched, non bias story. It is a must read for everybody on the subject of breast care, as well as general health and well-being.

    1. You raise a good point Concetta – lifestyle choices affect us in every way – not just with the potential of cancer, but for all illness and disease – “And if, as epigenetics purports, lifestyle and the way we think and feel has an impact not only on our health and well-being but also on our genes, then maybe it is a worthy consideration for all women (and men) – whatever their circumstance, state of health or risk factors are.”

  31. It is amazing to consider that something as simple as just making new choices in how we care for ourselves on a fundamental and daily basis can actually have such an enormous impact on not only our health individually, but then how this affects the whole of society.

    1. A brilliant and wonderfully informative article Jane. It is becoming clearer that lifestyle choices cannot be ignored when it comes to understanding the reasons for illness and disease. We cannot continue to think that we can treat ourselves in abusing and disregarding ways and then expect someone else to fix us, always expecting an “ambulance to be waiting at the bottom of the cliff” as the saying goes. I agree that this, and the many other equally amazing blogs on this site, would make a great foundation for a study on the impact on our lifestyle choices.

  32. Lifestyle factors definitely have a huge impact on well being, I know this for myself and how I have made choices that support me and my body over the last 10 years or so. It would be interesting to have more studies undertaken concerning the health benefits of choosing a life that supports our bodies more rather than looking at ways of putting bodies back together when they are already ill or at the risk of ill health. A great article that raises a lot of questions – thank you!

    1. Great point Samantha. For instance all the women who have written blogs on this blog site, and all the comments from men and women – are in themselves the bones of an amazing study for someone choosing to understand why lifestyle makes a difference, and, the link between lifestyle and wellbeing. It just takes one university or organisation to realise that what is posted day in day out on this blog site is pure gold – and something that is open to all of humanity.

  33. This a an excellent article inviting all women to look at all aspects of the way they live. So often we are encouraged to take exercise, eat well etc but there is little discussion on how we are with ourselves while undertaking these daily tasks. I have found that my general health and sense of well-being and vitality have improved greatly since I started treating myself more gently in the way I think about myself and how I live my everyday life. Thank you Jane for a very informative article.

    1. Good point Mary – we are offered solutions that skim over the root cause and merely paint over the cracks – only to find that the habit, or health issue doesn’t go away even if we are exercising more for instance. There is so much more to life than meets the eye. We have a way in the world at the moment where we jump to solutions to fix things too readily (I know I have done this many many times), without first observing what is actually going on, and what triggers it. Reconnecting to ourselves, and building a deeper relationship with ourselves allows us to understand more deeply why we have the symptoms we have, and if we choose to deepen that awareness we can get to the root of where the symptoms are coming from and then consider what is needed from that point in restoring our health and wellbeing.

  34. I absolutely agree Jane that how our lifestyle, thoughts, emotions and feelings impact our health & wellbeing is worthy of further research and consideration. I love the compassionate and balanced way you approached this delicate subject, thank you.

  35. Thank you for a clear and factual article Jane. It brings information not readily available to us into a balanced piece so thanks for your research on our behalf. It is indeed an article all would benefit from reading.

    1. Hi Judy, thank you. There is so much now out there written about the impact of lifestyle on our health. It feels time to write another article pulling together all of the recent articles that state that lifestyle does affect our health – as since I wrote this article far more has now been published.

      1. Jane, I agree, it is time for more articles on this issue, bringing to the fore the importance of lifestyle choices in relation to the development of illness and disease.

      2. That would be great, Jane if you wrote an updated version. This is an amazing article you published here. Thank you for the clear overview supporting us all in what influences our health. I loved the sentence you quoted:
        “You know your body better than any doctor does – and only you can know what’s right for you” (Rankin 2013).”
        So true and by listening we can make different choices.

  36. This is an amazing article Jane, thank you for presenting so clearly on this subject and raising awareness on epigenetics. I have found by choosing to take care of me, I have moved from having a lack of energy to having more energy and my weight has also stabilised instead of fluctuating and always being a focus of concern.

    1. Thanks Beverley. It is amazing how many things we can change when we take care of ourselves. Your examples of feeling more energy, and stabilising weight are just two of many. More and more research is now being published about the impact of lifestyle choices on the physiology of our bodies, as well on how we feel emotionally. What is great about this is that we don’t need to wait for science to tell us – as we all have the greatest barometer of life – our physical body, which if we are open to it, it will show us for ourselves the impact of our daily life choices, as deep down we all know when we do certain things (e.g. over-eat, push ourselves to work too hard, lift something that is too heavy etc.) that it will have an impact on our body and how we feel.

  37. Thank you Jane a great article summing up the fact that the choices we make directly effect our health regardless of our genetic make up. “What we feel and what we do affects us more deeply than we may realise – to the extent that our genetics can change.” This takes away the hopeless feelings that can come when someone is told their condition is genetic. As you article suggests we all have daily choices to make that can emotionally and physically improve our life. Epigenetic is about taking responsibility for ourselves, being the change we want to see!

    1. So true Samantha. We are the sum of our daily living choices – and in taking responsibility we can make changes not just to our lives, but by doing so it also impacts our own physiology and physical body too. As I changed the way I was living to be far more considerate of myself, more gentle, and to take care of me, so too did a number of chronic conditions dissipate (asthma, eczema, rhinitis, hay fever, and even the endometriosis I had had for 30+ years also dissipated).

      1. That’s awesome Jane and now you are a living, walking proof that by choosing love we can overcome anything.

  38. What you have said Toni is so true. When we take action to looking after ourselves it is always about the physical; exercising and eating. It does seem that we miss this bit out, ”emotional, physiological and mental well-being as part of our focus to taking care of ourselves. It seems to be that as long as we are functioning and can get to work and complete all the jobs that need doing there and in the house, than we must be doing ok? We seem to accept that stress and being emotional is normal and something to put up with. We haven’t completely made the link with this to our overall health and disease. It would be really interesting if the medical field did some research in this area.

    1. Great points Rachel – we accept a ‘normal’ of functionality or getting by, or that it is accepted to not feel well and struggle through life, without any inkling that it just maybe possible that life doesn’t have to be this way.

  39. Wow Jane, this article is a must read for all women. It takes into account the science and the factors that have not yet been proved by science. When I was younger I watched a family member die of cancer and it made no sense to me because she had a healthy diet, exercised, painted, did yoga, swam every day and lived what could be seen as a very healthy lifestyle. Although she was very highly strung emotionally, had a huge need for perfection and was actually quite nasty to others. So even if we take all the physical steps to take care of our bodies I know where we are at mentally and emotionally can undo all the support we offer to our bodies physically. I guess this is also reflected in high achieving sports men and women. Our health is dependent on our connection to self, grace and the way we feel about ourselves, this is undeniable yet science has not yet caught up to prove this.

    1. Thanks Toni, what you say reminds me that taking true care of our self is taking care of our full self, all aspects, not just the physical, or medically speaking, but emotionally, physiologically, mentally and so on – it seems that if we miss one aspect of this, then the rest is unbalanced.

      1. Thank You Jane Keep for this indepth well researched article and also the comment you are making to Toni.
        There is an imbalance in our body if we do not look at the Whole Being here – physical, mental, emotional and physiological.
        I Know for me personally, I have made some huge lifestyle changes and it has had an affect on my general overall health and well-being.

  40. I enjoyed reading your article, Jane. It does make sense to look at lifestyle choices and this link to illness and health. Perhaps, it is a challenging area for many because it would mean changing habits and patterns and could it be said that, “generally we don’t want to until we are forced to through serious illness?” From what you have shared, and if I understand what you have explained about epigenetics we are responsible for our health and can change the outcomes through our daily choices.

    1. Thanks Rachel, in my own experience the more I take care of myself the more vital and well I feel. The medical conditions I had in the past have dissipated since I took a lot of care of myself in my daily living. If that is so, and from the articles on epigenetics and the articles sharing that lifestyle choices do make a difference, yes, I feel you are correct in what you say – that we are responsible for our health, and can make changes through our daily choices.

  41. Hear, hear Gayle. This article deserves to be published far & wide.

    Thank-you deeply Jane, for this well researched article, and the dedication and deep respect for the issue of breast cancer – the people involved – and indeed other illness and disease you bring.

    You have so clearly raised one big “what if?” here, a ‘what if’ that IS being considered in research and treatment, but perhaps not as deeply as it might be (in research perhaps, but very much in the predominant thinking of the mainstream…). “What if” our lifestyle choices, and the way we feel, we think, the quality in which we look after ourselves and ‘are’ in our everyday living, are truly of immense significance here? And “what if” WE are worthy of such deep consideration – that a true and whole picture of what prevention and healing means, can truly be ascertained?

    I have also felt tremendous healing and change from deepening the care and consideration of such choices in my life and living, and I continue to learn more about what true self-care means every day. There is a strong history of breast cancer in my family, and with this in mind and heart, I have found it absolutely worthwhile to consider the way I live and its impacts upon my own body. Whether cancer presents for me at some point in my life, I do not know, but I can say with clarity now, that should it do, I am far, far better equipped to deal with it than I have ever been, and have an overall health that is more vital now (at 45) than I’ve felt at any other point in my adult life.

    1. Hi Victoria, thank you. My own experience is that it isn’t in mainstream thinking as you say. Many articles are written about breast cancer, and other illnesses, often focusing on the medical aspect, which is important, without also taking a wider viewpoint, or raising deeper questions. I love what you say about how you’ve deepened your care and consideration in your daily living, and how vital you now feel – that is inspiring.

      1. As is your similar sharing inspiring Jane.
        And thank-you again for this article – it is of true service to all.

      2. It feels vital that the “what if” does become part of mainstream thinking, so woman can start to evaluate if how they treat themselves is affecting their health. I used to somehow kid myself that illness and disease ‘just happen’ and had little to do with the way I treated my body. As I have re-developed my awareness of my body and the way I am with myself, I know there is a constant link between these factors and my health . Science does already know this, it just hasn’t made it to mainstream. I wonder who is stopping this?

  42. Thank you Jane for a well researched article. I trust you will be seeking further publication of this fine piece in a medical journal or periodical. It will benefit anyone who reads it, whether patient or practitioner.

  43. Super beautiful article Jane, thank you for taking the time to research the topic and write what you have learned. It is so important for women to continue to pay attention and learn about breast health and self-care, and you’ve made it perfectly clear here.

    1. I also felt to add, that as a woman working in the field of cancer research and prevention, the topics you touch on here are without-a-doubt central to cancer research and prevention. Thank you again.

  44. What an amazing article – I loved the way you brought all the facts as they are today together and presented so clearly the simple self care options that can so easily be overshadowed by the threat of breast cancer and our seeming helplessness. Thank you for widening the view to include epigenetics and the possibility that the way we live each day unfolds us to one physical reality e.g.: breast cancer….or another, not our genetic predisposition.

    1. Absolutely Adrienne, It is great that epigenetics, and lifestyle are beginning to be looked at widening the view not just for breast cancer but for other illnesses and diseases too.

      1. Great point Jane in that we can start to consider that our lifestyle can affect ‘any’ physical condition of the body, be if from an upset tummy to a migraine to a diagnosis such as cancer etc. In other words, we don’t have to wait for a full blown disease to occur before we start to consider the implications of lifestyle on our health and overall wellbeing.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.