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How does Naturopathic Medicine Support Breast Cancer Prevention and Treatment?

In this article:

Amy Rothenberg, ND and Heather Barrett, ND with INM & AANP

Highlights

To support breast cancer prevention and treatment, naturopathic doctors:

  • Boost and sustain the immune system and minimize inflammation after surgery
  • Safely reduce side effects of radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and pharmaceutical drug therapies
  • Support the patient through mental and emotional stresses
  • Emphasize breast cancer prevention measures in healthy patients motivated to reduce their cancer risk
  • Develop post-treatment recommendations to reduce the risk of recurrence

How does naturopathic medicine support breast cancer prevention and treatment?

Emphasizing a holistic approach, naturopathic medicine offers complementary natural therapies to support and strengthen the body and mind before, during, and after conventional medical breast cancer treatment. Naturopathic medicine can help optimize tolerance to conventional treatments while also providing strategies to reinforce the body’s natural defenses and recovery systems so that each individual is at their strongest capacity to fight the disease.

One out of eight women in the United States will develop breast cancer over the course of her lifetime, and while rare, breast cancer is also diagnosed in men. While conventional medical treatments such as surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and pharmaceutical drug therapy are often essential components of breast cancer treatment, they can cause significant side-effects and can increase the risk of other health conditions. Additionally, battling breast cancer takes a tremendous mental and emotional toll on the patient.

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How NDs Can Help

Specifically, naturopathic doctors help to:

  • Boost and sustain the immune system and minimize inflammation after biopsy, lumpectomy, or mastectomy surgery[1],2 with the goal of shortening recovery times
  • Safely reduce side effects of radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and pharmaceutical drug therapies, as well as provide natural synergists to these conventional treatments to enhance their efficacy3
  • Support the patient through mental and emotional stresses that any cancer diagnosis and treatment brings4,5,6
  • Emphasize prevention measures in healthy patients motivated to reduce their cancer risk7
  • Develop post-treatment recommendations to reduce the risk of recurrence8,9

Licensed naturopathic doctors are educated at four-year, post-graduate medical schools. While providing support to people diagnosed with cancer is within the purview of all naturopathic doctors, there are naturopathic doctors who specialize in naturopathic oncology. Naturopathic oncologists are board certified by the American Board of Naturopathic Oncology after completing a two-year residency or a minimum of five years in specialized naturopathic oncology practice. They are designated as Fellows of the American Board of Naturopathic Oncology (FABNO).

Working both in hospital oncology settings and in private practices, naturopathic doctors and naturopathic oncologists aid and collaborate closely with conventional oncology treatment teams. They understand both standard treatments employed by medical oncologists and how best to work in a collaborative model of cancer treatment that includes complementary and integrative therapies.

Personalized Treatment

While naturopathic medicine treatment plans are personalized to each patient after a comprehensive consultation, and adjusted as needed during and after treatment, prescribed therapies may include:

  • Dietary and lifestyle modifications
  • Botanical medicine
  • Vitamins and supplements
  • Psychological/emotional care
  • Intravenous therapies
  • Acupuncture
  • Homeopathy

In addition to providing care to individuals diagnosed with breast cancer, naturopathic doctors can also help individuals at risk identify and implement strategies that can reduce their chances of developing breast cancer. These strategies include natural lifestyle modifications to diet, nutrition, sleep, and exercise, as well as stress reduction. Naturopathic doctors are trained to focus on these health-building areas in order to establish and restore optimal health.

The AANP and the INM would like to acknowledge Amy Rothenberg, ND and Heather Barrett, ND for their contributions to the content of this FAQ. Some of the content for the FAQ appeared in articles by Dr. Rothenberg in the Huffington Post and by Dr. Barrett on her blog.

  1. Dirican A., Andacoglu O., Johnson R., McGuire K., Mager L., Soran A. The short-term effects of low-level laser therapy in the management of breast-cancer-related lymphedema. Supportive Care in Cancer. 2011; 19(5): 685-690. Available here: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00520-010-0888-8
  2. National Cancer Institute. Lymphedema (PDQ)-Health Professional Version. Available here: cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/side-effects/lymphedema/lymphedema-hp-pdq
  3. Vollbracht C., Schneider B., Leendert V., Weiss G., Auerbach L., Beuth J. Intravenous vitamin C administration improves quality of life in breast cancer patients during chemo-/radiotherapy and aftercare: results of a retrospective, multicentre, epidemiological cohort study in Germany. In Vivo. 2011; 25(6): 983–990.
  4. Mindfulness meditation for younger breast cancer survivors: a randomized controlled trial. Cancer. 2015; 121(8): 1231-40. Available here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25537522
  5. Garssen B, Boomsma MF, Meezenbroek Ede J, et al. Stress management training for breast cancer surgery patients. Psychooncology. 2013; 22: 572-580. Available here: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/pon.3034/full
  6. Phillips KM, Antoni MH, Lechner SC, et al. Stress management intervention reduces serum cortisol and increases relaxation during treatment for nonmetastatic breast cancer. Psychosom Med. 2008; 70: 1044-1049. Available here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18842742
  7. Anand P. et. al. Cancer is a Preventable Disease that requires major lifestyle changes. Pharmaceutical Research 2008; 25: 9.
  8. Greenlee, Heather, et al. Antioxidant Supplement Use after Breast Cancer Diagnosis and Mortality in the Life After Cancer Epidemiology (LACE) Cohort. Cancer. 2011; 118(8): 2048–2058.
  9. Pierce, John P., et al. Greater Survival after Breast Cancer in Physically Active Women with High Vegetable-Fruit Intake Regardless of Obesity. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2015. Available here: https://arizona.pure.elsevier.com/en/publications/greater-survival-after-breast-cancer-in-physically-active-women-w

This article is provided by

The Institute for Natural Medicine, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. INM’s mission is to transform healthcare in America by increasing both public awareness of natural medicine and access to naturopathic doctors for patients. INM believes that naturopathic medicine, with its unique principles and practices, has the potential to reverse the tide of chronic illness that overwhelms existing healthcare systems and to empower people to achieve and maintain their optimal lifelong health. INM strives to achieve this mission through the following initiatives:

  • Education – Reveal the unique benefits and outcomes of evidence-based natural medicine
  • Access – Connect patients to licensed naturopathic doctors
  • Research – Expand quality research of this complex and comprehensive system of medicine

About The Author(s)

Author

Institute for Natural Medicine Staff

Our dedicated content team of professional staff writers represents decades of experience covering essential natural health topics in an accessible, evidence-based, and engaging way. Guided by a shared passion for holistic well-being, each and every one of our writers strives to empower our readers to take charge of their health.

Supported by a rigorous fact-checking and medical editing process from licensed naturopathic doctors that examines the latest in peer-reviewed research, our team brings their in-depth knowledge of natural health practices into every piece of content we produce. We strive to be the gold standard for evidence-based natural medicine, providing trustworthy information and inspiring narratives to help you live your best health, naturally.

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