. . My Own Story -- The Long Journey Back to Normal
I was diagnosed with DCIS breast cancer at 49, during a routine mammogram. After a large lumpectomy, we found that the area was bigger than previously thought, and the pathology report showed that my cancer was the nastiest kind -- '9' on the Bloom-Richardson scale of 1-9-- the highest possible rank for aggressiveness and likelihood of recurrence. Lucky me. So, although DCIS is usually treated with a simple lumpectomy followed by radiation, it was recommended that I have a mastectomy to keep the chance of recurrence low. So in December 2008, I had a left mastectomy and reconstruction. Some say that this procedure is one of the most grueling and painful to go through, and I would have to agree--this was by far the the hardest thing I've been through. But I am so grateful that we live in a day when we don't have to die of breast cancer if it's caught early.
I'm fortunate to have a quizzical mind, and through it all, I stayed very near the web. I love having information of all kinds just a keyboard away. I spent about two months searching the web for information -- the best doctors, the latest techniques, the latest breast cancer advances, as much as I could find -- it was painstaking work ferreting out all this information, which was all over the place. As I went, I bookmarked anything that looked interesting. I realized lately that having this information all in one place could be a tremendous help to others, so I am compiling it here for you! I also plan to continue to seek out the latest, and pass it along when I have it. It is likely that you're here because you or a loved one are also battling breast cancer. If so, know that you have a comrade-in arms. Over time there will be a lot of information gathered here, so please take a look at the archives, as well, and poke into all the corners.
See the archive below to navigate through the posts.
Welcome, and I hope you will find some answers here.
Friday, March 22
A Simple Way to Help Prevent Breast Cancer
Before I tell you about this discovery, I would like to give you a brief overview of my ongoing health, not to bleed all over you, but so you can understand that my health has been no small matter for me, and that this discovery is significant, and one that you might want to take some time to investigate yourself.
Among my health problems over the years have been polycystic ovary syndrome and all its many accompanying symptoms (discussed elsewhere in this blog), fibrocystic breast disease, devastating chronic fatigue and other hypothyroid-like symptoms, (despite normal bloodwork, for the most part) irritable bowel syndrome, mitral valve prolapse and the resulting heart arrhythmias, and chronic upper respiratory infections, generally leading to secondary infections, including at least six bouts with pneumonia and many cases of bronchitis and sinusitis, illnesses sometimes occupying up to four months out of any given year. And needless to say, breast cancer was the heavy hitter of all the characters in my health scenario. I could go on, but you get the idea. I have spent many, many years dealing with health problems, including several surgeries and stays in the hospital -- my medical chart is about 5 inches thick. I'm sure it's not hard to imagine that I have hoped for some answers.
So now to the discovery. It's very simple, really, and inexpensive. In fact you may have some of this stuff sitting in your medicine cabinet right now. It is . . . .
Hard to believe, right? But here are some important facts:
1. Iodine is the major building block of thyroid hormone. If there is a deficiency, then hypothyroid-like symptoms may appear, even if the thyroid gland is perfectly healthy. It just lacks the ingredients it needs to make hormones.
2. The current RDA for iodine (150mcg) was intended to prevent goiter and cretinism. An optimal daily requirement has not been intensively studied or established. Proponents believe it should be much higher.
3. Iodized salt is the only significant source of iodine for Americans who do not eat seafood on a regular basis, which with the mercury issue and increasing costs of seafood, is more common. For those also cutting back on salt, an iodine deficiency becomes more likely. Therefore, it is likely that most people in the U.S. are iodine deficient to some degree.
4. It is well-established that iodine deficiency is related to fibrocystic breast disease. Emerging science also strongly suggests that breast cancer for some women is caused, at least in part, by iodine deficiency. This is bolstered by the fact that Japanese women, who consume up to 13 mg per day of iodine in their diet, are much less likely than American women to develop breast cancer, and are, in fact, among the healthiest people in the world. (Keep in mind that 13 mg is nearly 100 times the U.S. RDA.) In any event, taking iodine regularly can certainly help protect you from breast cancer, and other female cancers, even if you are otherwise healthy.
5. Iodine resides in every cell of the body, proponents say in amounts up to 1,500 mg, with only about 3% of that held in the thyroid gland. In women, the breasts, ovaries, lungs, and uterus are also repositories for larger concentrations of iodine, and the bones and muscles to a lesser extent.
6. Until the advent of synthetic thyroid hormone therapy in the 1960s, doctors routinely used iodine to treat many thyroid problems. And, without blood tests to guide them, they simply treated until the patient felt well. Gee. What a concept.
7. It's hard to 'overdose' with iodine, because the body excretes any excess. I have experimented with dose for the last year, and I ended up around 25 mg daily as being the dose that gives me consistently good, productive days.
8. Women are more prone to develop health problems from a lack of iodine. You will see below that most of the health problems mentioned affect women the most.
Below is a list of possible symptoms. Although this is a breast cancer blog, I am including discussions of other health problems, because so many of us suffer from them.
PCOS There is pretty solid evidence that iodine deficiency is at the bottom of this condition for some women, OR that it causes symptoms that are mistaken for PCOS. The lack of ovulation, and therefore a lack of progesterone, in the typical PCOS woman sets her up for estrogen dominance, which can lead to cancers of several kinds, including breast cancer. This was likely the case for my cancer, according to my oncologist in NYC.
Hypothyroid-like symptoms: fatigue, depression, anxiety, weight gain, loss of libido, and memory issues. No doubt that iodine deficiency can be the cause of this, rather than overt thyroid disease.
Breast complaints, including fibrocystic breast disease and increased soreness in the breast around the time of menstruation. Iodine's ability to correct these problems is well-documented.
Chronic fatigue issues, including fibromyalgia. Many doctors who are iodine proponents note that these diagnoses only came on the scene after routine iodine treatment for thyroid issues was abandoned in favor of synthetic hormone replacement, and after thyroid testing became the last word in treatment. Now doctors only treat patients for thyroid disease if they have obvious blood work problems, and they treat the patient until their blood test results are 'in normal range' rather than until the patient feels well, as was done before the advent of testing. For many who do not have thyroid disease, but rather a shortage of iodine, they may, in fact, experience chronic fatigue and other symptoms that may not be reflected in the blood work. Many of these poor souls are shunted off into the chronic fatigue category with no effective treatment, because they don't fall into the 'thyroid' category for treatment. Some doctors report excellent results with their chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia patients, using iodine. If you have a chronic fatigue issue and you've tried everything, it certainly can't hurt to try iodine!
Irritable Bowel Syndrome This is not generally found on iodine deficiency symptom lists, but I'm listing it here because three weeks into taking iodine, my 30-year case of IBS simply disappeared. I mean disappeared. I wasn't expecting that, and to be released from so many years of pain and discomfort is an added bonus.
High blood pressure
Impaired immunity to common viruses, and some lung diseases. Iodine can be a valuable tool in the treatment of COPD, in particular, because it induces apoptosis, or programmed cell death. This means that it discourages colonization of viruses and bacteria in the lung tissue (which is one property that makes it effective in the treatment of related cancers as well). It will also loosen and thin mucous secretions.
Slowed mental function, especially in children, and possibly ADD
Links to iodine deficiency and autism are being explored, as well as a relationship to migraine headaches
Looking at these symptoms, you can probably see why I found an iodine link to all my medical complaints worth exploring. And now I can say that since I have been supplementing with iodine, I have not felt so well in a long time.
Unfortunately, the idea of iodine supplementation has not yet reached the mainstream medical community, so you may be on your own here, unless you have a good naturopath. Mainstream doctors are slow to adopt new ideas and treatments due to liability issues, and many will wait until longer-term results are available, to protect themselves. Understandable, but in the meantime, there are an awful lot of people out there suffering needlessly. After all my negative experiences with doctors, I have just gone ahead and treated myself, but I can't, of course, recommend this for anyone else. If you can find a like-minded doctor, you'll always be better off coordinating iodine supplementation with him. If, on the other hand, you decide to do the research yourself and give this a try, be reassured knowing that it's very difficult to take too much iodine, and there is really no downside to trying it. Will it help alleviate your symptoms, whatever they may be? I can't say, of course, but if you do try it and find good results, let me know!
There is so much more info out there on this subject, so I won't belabor it anymore here. Below are some sites to visit to educate yourself more.
breastcancerchoices.org has more information on this topic, and also has several worthwhile links regarding the relationship between iodine and the breast.
Here is an abstract for a study done on breast cancer, as related to iodine.
There are more out there, just a Google search away.
A long historical perspective on iodine
A primer on supplementing with iodine
The cheapest place to buy iodine pills on the web -- Iodoral is the most recommended, but NuFormulas is also good
Good luck, and I welcome your comments.