Yoga for Breast Cancer
SOME FACTS ABOUT BREAST CANCER
- No breasts are perfectly symmetrical, shapes and sizes of each pair may vary.
- Fibrous and fatty tissue in the breast is normal. Changes in breast texture and ptosis are a part of moving through the years.
- There is no family history of breast cancer in 80% of breast cancer cases.
- 90% of breast lumps are not malignant. But they should always be checked. Early detection of breast cancer is vitally important.
- Mammograms are tools for early detection, not prevention.
- Breast cancer incidence increased by 50% when hydrogenated oils (i.e. margarine) became common in diets.
WHAT IS BREAST CANCER?
Cancer can be explained as abnormal growth of cells due to uncontrolled division. Breast cancer is a malignant tumour that starts in the cells of the breast; malignant means that it can spread, or metastasize, to other parts of the body. Most often, breast cancer starts in cells that line the ducts, which are the tubes that carry milk from the glands to the nipple; this type of breast cancer is called ductal carcinoma. Cancer can also start in the cells of the lobules, which are the groups of glands that form milk; this type of cancer is called lobular carcinoma. Both ductal carcinoma and lobular carcinoma can be in situ, which means that the cancer is still where it started and has not grown into surrounding tissues. They can also be invasive, which means they have grown into surrounding tissues. Less common types of breast cancer can also develop. These include inflammatory breast cancer, Paget disease of the nipple and triple negative and basal-like breast cancers. Rare types of breast cancer include non-Hodgkin lymphoma and sarcoma. Every cell contains a DNA which is copied into the new cell; in cancer, there are mistakes in copying. There are error-correcting proteins in cells which prevent these mistakes and render an exact copy. When mutations occur in these error-correcting proteins they cause cancers which may cause enhanced multiplication. These mutations can manifest as errors in enzymes or specific markers like p53, BRCA1, BRCA2 in case of breast cancers. Mutations can be inherited or acquired.
1-Chest Wall; 2-Pectoralis major; 3-Lobule; 4-Nipple; 5-Areola; 6-Lactiferous duct; 7-Fatty tissue; 8-Skin
Cancer cells keep on replicating as opposed to normal cells which die after their purpose is served. To ensure that the cell completes its life span there are protective pathways, like P13K/AKT or RAS/MEK/ERK pathway. Mutations may also occur along this pathways, like the PTEN protein which turns the pathway off for each cell when the cell is required to die.
The first sign of breast cancer often is a breast lump or an abnormal mammogram. You might feel a firm, not necessarily painful, lump in your breast while showering or doing a regular breast self-exam. Also lumps in the armpits are a warning sign. While a lump is the most common sign of breast cancer, other noncancerous conditions, like cysts, can also cause breast lumps. Women with a rare form of the disease called inflammatory breast cancer can develop a red, pink, or purple rash across part of their breast. The skin of the breast might also appear puckered, like the skin of an orange, peau d’orange. If you notice an unusual lump in your breast, report it to your doctor and have it checked. Male breast cancer is not uncommon and must be taken seriously. To summarize, signs of possible breast cancer are:
- A lump
- Ongoing pain
- Size changes or swelling
- Redness, rashes or crusting in the breast, armpit or collarbone areas
- Changes in the nipples – discharge or inversion
- Puckering of the skin.
DIAGNOSIS AND TESTS
Breast examination can be done by self or by a trained medical practitioner. Mammogram, which uses a series of X-rays to show images of your breast tissue, is currently the best imaging technique for detecting tumors. Ultrasound uses sound waves, which bounce off the breast to create a picture of the tissue inside. An ultrasound is not used to screen for breast cancer; it can help spot tumors in dense breasts that don’t show up clearly on a mammogram. An ultrasound can also help the doctor find out whether a growth discovered during a mammogram or breast exam is cancerous. Biopsy, where a small amount of the lump material or fluid is excised with the help of a needle and examined under the microscope. FNAC (Fine-needle aspiration and cytology) is the most common form of biopsy where a thin, hollow needle is used to withdraw cells from the lump and is sent to the lab for analysis. Surgical biopsy which is the most accurate method for confirming cancer. The surgeon removes a part (incisional biopsy) or whole (excisional biopsy) of the breast lump depending on the size and sent to the lab for histo-pathological examination. Estrogen and progesterone receptor tests is done if the biopsy confirms the cancer. This test helps determine the treatment protocol.
BREAST CANCER STAGES
TNM Staging (Tumours, Nodes, Metastasis) is used to find the breast cancer stage. Breast cancer stages range from early, curable breast cancer to metastatic breast cancer. After breast cancer is diagnosed, doctors do tests to find out whether cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body. Then they assign a stage, which helps them treat the cancer. In stages 0 and 1, the cancer hasn’t spread beyond the breast. Stage 2 cancer may have spread to the lymph nodes. Stage 3 tumors have spread to the lymph nodes, and possibly the chest wall. Stage 4 means cancer has reached other, remote parts of the body.
Metastasis is a process when the cancer cells spread through the blood stream and get localized at other organs and cause secondary tumors. Common sites include bone, liver, lung and brain. The manifestation can be known by bone or joint pain, unexplained weight loss, jaundice, neurological symptoms etc.
Breast cancers that are influenced by hormones estrogen and progesterone are treated with HRT (Hormone replacement therapy) and radiation . Surgery is performed where the tumors are devoid of hormone receptors. Surgical procedure can vary from simple Lumpectomy (removal of lump) to partial or complete removal of the breasts (simple mastectomy , partial or segmental mastectomy, modified radical mastectomy). Breast reconstructive surgery is offered for women after radical mastectomy. Surgery is generally followed by chemotherapy and radiation.
AT RISK POPULATION
The disease rarely affects women under 25 years of age. 1 in every 8 women is at the risk of developing cancer sometime in life. Lack of child bearing or breast feeding, late pregnancy are risk factors. Caucasian women are more likely to develop breast cancer than are black or Hispanic women. High fat diet, alcohol intake, tobacco use, exposure to radiation, genetic susceptibility (BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations) and parental history, overuse of contraceptive pills, hormone replacement therapy are additional risk factors.
AYURVEDA/ YOGA PERSPECTIVE
Tumor is described in the 11th Chapter of “Nidan Sthan” of the noted Ayurveda scripture “Sushrut Samhita” as:
Gatra Pradese Kwacita Deva Dosa¡, Samurchita Mansamabhipradusya |
Vrattam Sthiram Mandarujam Mahantamanalpamulam Ciravraddhayapakam||
Kurvanti Mansopacayam Ca Ïopham, Tadarbudam Ïastravido Vadanti |
Vatena, Pittena, Kaphena Capi, Raktena Mansena Ca Medasa Va ||
Tajjayate Tasya Ca Lakshanani, Granthe¡ Samanani Sada Bhavanti |
In some part of the body, the excess of vata and other doshas cause unusual growth which may consist of flesh and tissues, which may or may not cause little pain but spreads deeper inside and imbalances the important dhatus (chemicals), and which does not burst on its own and matures slowly. This arbuda looks like a granthi (knot or hard acne) and which is a manifestation of abnormal tridoshas (vata, pitta and kapha) and infected blood, myoplams/tissues (majja), flesh or any cells. It may sometimes be caused by infections (leading to tridoshaj imbalance and abnormal changes) in a wounded or internally injured part of the body, which malign the blood, serum, lymph, or body tissues, etc.
Breast cancer is loosely correlated to the reference of Stana Arbuda mentioned in Ayurveda texts (Stan = Breast, Arbud == hard lump ) by certain scholars. Stan Arbud is categorized as per Dosha :
- Vata type
- Pitta type
- Kapha type
- Vata, pitta and kapha type or Tridoshaj
Uncontrolled growth of cells occurs from Vata derangement. The process of cells transforming into mutated ones happens because of Pitta imbalance. The inability of the cells to complete their life span and die or go on without perishing can be termed as Kapha imbalance. These stages can occur individually or in combination (Tridoshaj). Breast cancers, or for that matter, any cancer, occurs because of enzyme disruption and/ or mutations in the body. Certain mutations may be Karmic (genetic dispositions) but most of them are acquired due to our ignorance and lack of knowledge about food and lifestyles. Erratic eating habits disrupt and cause enzymatic changes. It is recommended in most ancient cultures to be at ease and refrain from any physical work for first 3 days of menstrual cycles to establish a good blood flow. Having sex at the right age releases certain enzymes in your body that promote health. A good sexual intercourse activates the chakras which helps promote health. Proper implementation of knowledge of Tantra Yoga is a great preventive and remedial measure to hormonal disorders. The management of Breast Cancer is done at all the five levels of the Pancha Kosha.
||Yoga postures like Surya Namaskar, Shalabhasana, Naukasana, Simhasana, Dhanurasana. Relaxation and Balancing Techniques like Yoga Nidra, Marma Therapy. Kriyas like Shatkarma. Mudras like Gyan Mudra, Nabho Mudra, Ayurvedic medicines and herbs etc.
||Nadishodana Pranayama, Suryabhedana Pranayama, Kapaal Bhaati Pranayama and Bhramari Pranayama etc.
||Concentrative or Mindful Meditation through breath, AUM meditation, Nada Yoga, Mantra Yoga, Tantra Yoga etc
||Conceptual corrections and Yogic Counseling
||Discovering bliss through karma etc
YOGA/ AYURVEDA RECOMMENDATIONS
Three-fold approach to treatment is recommended:
- Aaahar (good diet)
- Vihaar (good lifestyle)
- Aushadhi (medicine).
These have to be followed in the same order.
In Yoga/ Ayurvedic Nutrition, aahaar (diet) is decided according to constitution. Still, some general guidelines can be followed by everyone:
Eat at proper time, have fruits for breakfast or dinner at least 3 times a week. Whole fruits should be eaten (no juices except Pomegranate) without adding salt or sugar. Unripe fruits must not be consumed. Fruits should never be combined with milk. Also fruits should not be eaten after meals except banana which should not be consumed empty stomach. Lunch should comprise of whole grains cooked properly. The use of microwave and other unnatural ways of cooking must be avoided. One should not sleep after meals. One should not eat after sunset. Eating immediately before sleeping interferes with GH secretion and hence repair processes of body. Go to bed around 10pm. Staying awake between 1am and 2am deranges melatonin secretion and increases risk of cancer. One should get up before sunrise. Avoid extra salt and refined sugar.
One aspect of cancer cells is that they need up to 30 times more food than a normal cell. Just by denying yourself food on certain days, you could put down the level of cancerous cells. In every ‘mandala‘ of 40-48 day, human body does not need food for three days. In general, ekadashi, or 11th day, after full moon and new moon is more suitable for fasting. Fasting on these days opens doors to health and spiritual growth.
Vihaar should be according to Yamas and Niyamas, which should be followed by everyone. They guide us about ways to lead a stress-free life.
Yoga helps in all form of cancers. Yoga is important for prevention as well as an adjunct in therapy. Studies have proven the beneficial role of yoga in prevention as well as during treatment. All steps of Ashtanga Yoga, viz., Yamas, Niyamas, Asanas, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharna, Dhyana and Samadhi, are important and should be adhered to in the same order. In health or disease, it’s always better to know and choose yoga postures and pranayama exercises according to the prakriti and vikriti of the person.
In addition to acting on koshas and balancing chakras, yoga postures improve lymphatic circulation and hence body immunity. Yogic postures done with focus on breath, bandha, drishti and proper alignment are meditative and help in detoxification. Some yogic postures beneficial in breast cancer are:
- Surya Namaskar
Shakti Chalana Kriya we teach also help in correcting and balancing the system.
Ashwin, the breath, is said to be the physician of gods. According to Vedas, it heals all maladies, with a name or without it. Recent years have witnessed a rise in interest in the healing powers of pranayama and myriad of studies have proven its positive effects on health. Pranayama has immense healing potential, and in expert hands, can work wonders. Pranayama is a great way to boost immunity. It is the bridge between the physical body and spiritual body and optimizes the flow of Prana. Some exercises like:
- Kapal Bhati
- Anulom Vilom
- Vibhag Pranayama
- Mahat Pranayama
- Sama Vritti Pranayama
- Visham Vritti Pranayama etc.
have been shown to help in cancer. Please check the details of some breathing exercises here. To offer the advantages of this yogic science of breathing, SAVY launched Dr Sahdev’s ‘Breathe and Heal’ Program ,a stepped program based on some very safe and healing breathing exercises, more than a year back. Fight Cancer program at SAVY, which has a very safe and stepped program of breathing exercises – DSBH Therapy , at its crux, is a very safe program for cancer care – for prevention, as adjunct therapy of cancer patients, cancer survivors and even for families of cancer patients.
Meditation acts at deeper levels of the mind and detoxifies all koshas. Meditation technique should be chosen carefully. Even simple Concentrative Meditation Techniques (CM), like focusing on breath, sound, mantra, image, TM etc., have been found to be useful in cancer care. Mindfulness meditation (MM) also has been shown to have very positive effect in health and recovery. At SAVY, we have been working on Yoga with Intention in Meditation, in which the intention to heal is introduced while the subject is in a meditative stage. It has a much deeper healing effect.
MARMA THERAPY AND MASSAGE
Marmas can also be called minor chakras; they are vital points in the body through which life energy flows. There are 108 marmas and they are classified into different groups. Some marmas are very important in breast disorders, and if massaged with proper pressure/technique, order, oil, duration etc., can help a lot in prevention as well as relief. Some of these points are :
- Apalapa marma
- Hridaya marma
- Apastambha marma
- Kukundar Marma.
Activation of these and other important points by massage with specific herbal oils, medicated ghrita in a gentle manner with discrete motion is highly beneficial. All this must be undertaken under the strict supervision of a well-trained expert with actual experience. Ayurvedic/ Yogic massage based on Marma Therapy has always included extensive work on the breast area for women. This is done not only as a means to beautify the breast, encourage a delightful shape and for greater comfort but also for deeper therapeutic reasons. It teaches that massage over and around breast tissue improves or helps maintain health in all parts of female reproductive tissue as well as assists in hormonal balance. Most masseurs are either not trained in such specialized massage and/or will not do it because of the fear of sexual harassment suits. Most agree, however, that it is therapeutic and beneficial. Recently, some studies have documented the role of breast massages in breast cancer prevention. Also, these massages may offer relief in post-operative complications.
Ayurveda medicines are very helpful in all stages of this disease and can help improve quality of life. Selection of medicines is done on the basis of prakriti and vikriti after proper assessment. Regular use of turmeric cuts your chances of getting breast cancer by 50%. Neem also helps in keeping the number of cancer cells in the body in check. Some medicines can also to be applied externally, like: Aloe vera root, Jasmine, Pomegranate juice mixed with mustard/sesame oil, Terminalia chebula fruit powder, Manjistha, Raktachandan and grape juice. Herbs like Symplocos racemosa, Semecarpus anacardiuum, Moringa oleifera, Oroxylum indium etc are used by physicians in form of external application. These herbs require supervision.
MUDRA VIGYAN AND KRIYA VIGYAN
Various hand postures (hasta mudras) are said to have very beneficial effect in health and disease. Gayatri mudras, a set of 32 hand postures to be performed with chanting of Gayatri Mantra, is said to have a very beneficial effect in cases of cancer. Also, Nabho mudra and Khechari mudra, when done properly along with certain Pranayamas, are said to have a curative effective in cancer. Panchakarma requires strict supervision by an expert. Interestingly Snehana, i.e., intake of various medicated oil preparations in a classical way a week or 10 days prior to the start of chemotherapy or radiotherapy, has been found to reduce the toxic effects of such therapies. Shatkarma is a set of six detoxifying procedures, viz., Neti, Dhauti, Nyauli, Basti, Kapal Bhati, Tratak, which are said to remove the toxins from the body and thus help the body recover from any ailment.
NADA YOGA AND MANTRAS
All disorders in Ayurveda have been correlated to karmic influences. Hence chanting Mantras with appropriate gestures is very helpful. The selection of Mantras and time to chant depends on the natal chart and its interpretation. Mantras influence the vibratory functions of cells and help them work in specific synchronization with the brain. Over a period of time it helps to cleanse the body of toxins. These therapies must be followed with strict guidelines of diet and lifestyle.
VEDIC ASTROLOGY AND GEMSTONES
Gemstone therapy and Vedic astrology have been shown to be useful in cancers. Blue sapphire has been found to be most useful.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
- Do Yoga regularly. Yoga has been shown to go a long way in boosting immunity.
- Learn breathing exercises from a knowledgeable teacher and practice them regularly. Pranayama has been shown to have a lot of healing effect.
- Practice breast self-massage as well as use professional help. Marma massages, done properly, help with lymphatic drainage and open up blockages in energy channels.
- Exercise regularly using movements that involve the shoulders and build torso and upper arm strength.
- Wear comfortable, natural fiber (i.e. cotton) underwear. Bras that have under wires or that are strapless should not be used as they will make the breasts sag and allow toxins to accumulate in breast tissue.
- Use aluminium-free deodorant. Empirical studies show that aluminum can enter the blood and lymph systems through the skin and severely challenge the immune system.
- Avoid alcohol. Having even one drink per day increases breast cancer risk, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal.
- Avoid hydrogenated fats like margarine and vegetable shortening.
- Eat a vegetarian diet with little or no saturated or mono-saturated fats, refined sugars, dairy products, meats, and caffeine, and high in whole grains (i.e. brown rice, oats, barley) , green and orange vegetables (i.e. carrots, squashes, kale, broccoli, cabbage, etc.).
- Eat soy-based products, such as soy milk, tofu, and tempeh occasionally.
- Choose to eat organic foods and use environmentally friendly cleaning products. Many synthetic chemicals (including what is found in fertilizers, pesticides. germicides) mimic hormones and cause physical and emotional havoc.
- Use supplements such as vitamins E, C, and B-complex as well as minerals. Eat mineral-rich sea vegetables or take mineral supplements particularly when your stress level is high.
- Use hormone-free contraception. Avoid long-term use of the pill and synthetic hormone therapies when possible.
- Expose your breasts to sun and moon light.
- Sleep in complete darkness.
- Color TVs, microwave ovens, and computer screens emit radiation that can damage tissue.
- Each body type has its own, unique beauty. Seek that out in yourself and become it.
- Sensuality and sexuality are not opposed to or the enemy of spirituality. Celebrate life!
SAVY offers specialized Breast Cancer Care programs based on Ayurveda and Yoga Therapy under one of the Most Qualified Faculty in the World, and the Most Qualified Faculty in Canada.
We offer other programs also under Cancer Care.
Learn all that directly under expert guidance of one of the most qualified faculty in the world!
The Head of Faculty – Dr Jitender K Sahdev, in addition to being a Physician in Modern Medicine from India, is a Yoga Therapist, Yoga Teacher and Ayurveda Practitioner par excellence in London with over 51,000 hours of Traditional Yoga teaching experience and almost three decades of experience in Modern Medicine, Ayurveda, Yoga Therapy and other alternative treatment modalities. A Surgeon by profession from India, he started his Surgical career in a Cancer Hospital in India and in his Surgical career over almost three decades, performed thousands of cancer surgeries. He utilizes Ayurveda and Yoga as stand-alone as well as complementary therapies for optimizing the health and wellness of his clients, for easing symptoms associated with disease, and more. He trained under doyens of Yoga in India for almost four decades.
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Dr Jitender K Sahdev
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E-RAP 2500, E-RYTh 2500, E-RWT 500, RYBT, RWSYT, RWPYT, RWCYT (Worldwide Yoga Alliance, Canada)
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Note : Yoga Therapy is best administered in an individualized manner though some generalized guidelines have been provided for all. You should check with your health care professional before starting this or any new therapy or exercise program or breathing routine. This is especially important if you have any pre-existing health conditions, such as high blood pressure, migraines or heart or lung ailments. Women who are pregnant or think they might be pregnant should consult their physician before performing any of the breathing or physical exercises or undertaking any therapy program.
The information contained in the program is not intended to serve as a replacement for professional medical advice. Any use of the information in these programs/ workshops is at the reader’s discretion, risk and responsibility. The studio, author and the publisher specifically disclaim any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the use or application of any information contained herein. A health care professional should be consulted regarding your specific situation.