A Q&A with Dr. Connealy on Integrative Breast Cancer Treatment
Dr. Leigh Erin Connealy, M.D., is a leading expert in Integrative Medicine. She serves as the Medical Director of the Center for New Medicine, North America's largest integrative medical clinic, with over 100,000 patients served.
Dr. Connealy's patient-centric approach emphasizes treating the patient with the disease and not the disease of the patient, while identifying the root cause of illness.
As an integrative cancer doctor, how is your treatment approach for breast cancer different from conventional treatment approaches?
"My approach to treating breast cancer involves a combination of conventional medical treatments, along with complementary integrative therapies. I emphasize identifying and addressing the root causes of cancer, taking into account factors like diet, lifestyle, and emotional well-being. This holistic approach aims to treat the whole person rather than just the disease itself.
To make sure we get a full picture, we'll run a number of tests, including thorough lab work, nutrient assessments, and detailed toxin screenings. The treatment plan may encompass a diverse range of therapies and modalities, which might include:
- Intravenous Vitamin C
- Intravenous Artesunate
- Mistletoe Therapy
- Lymphatic Drainage
- Mind-Body EVOX Therapy
- Oxygen Therapies
- Repurposed Drug Therapies
- Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy (PEMF)
- Hydrogen Therapies
- Targeted supplements
- Hormone therapy
Walk us through a typical day of treatment at the Cancer Center for Healing
"Your day begins with a warm greeting from our staff and a soothing cup of herbal tea. This welcoming atmosphere sets the tone for your healing journey.
Then you'll meet with our nutritionist for a session on personalized dietary guidance, designed to support your overall well-being. Following this, you'll have a fractionated chemotherapy session, expertly administered by our medical team.
In the afternoon, you'll experience a rejuvenating lymphatic massage. Following this, you'll have the option for sauna therapy, a soothing and detoxifying experience that promotes holistic healing.
Throughout the day, we'll provide opportunities for mind-body techniques, including meditation and relaxation exercises, which empower you to reduce stress and enhance mental clarity as part of your healing journey. Your day concludes with a review of your personalized treatment plan.
While treatments can vary widely based on individual patient needs, there’s therapies like nutritional counseling, acupuncture, massage therapy, herbal supplements, and mind-body techniques that most patients really benefit from."
What physiological imbalances may be at the root of one's breast cancer? What percent of breast cancer is genetic versus environmental?
"A small percentage of breast cancer cases are directly linked to inherited genetic mutations (e.g., BRCA1 and BRCA2). However, the majority of cases are believed to be influenced by a combination of environmental factors, including lifestyle choices, exposure to toxins, and hormonal imbalances.
Other key factors in breast cancer risk include:
- Estrogen Dominance: Estrogen can fuel cancer growth, making it a significant risk factor for breast cancer.
- Ionizing Radiation: Cumulative exposure to radiation increases breast cancer risk, as it has estrogenic effects.
- Excess Iron: High iron levels lead to increased free radicals, raising the risk of breast cancer.
- Chronic Stress: Stress hormones can hinder the body's ability to eliminate diseased cells, potentially promoting their spread.
- Low Vitamin D: Areas with limited sunlight exposure tend to have higher breast cancer rates, likely linked to vitamin D status."
Tell us a bit about the connection between emotional stress and breast cancer. What treatments do you recommend at your clinic to resolve emotional conflicts?
"Emerging scientific research has illuminated a compelling connection between emotional stress and breast cancer. Chronic stress can instigate a cascade of physiological responses within the body, including the release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Prolonged exposure to these stress hormones can promote inflammation and suppress the immune system, potentially fostering an environment conducive to the development and progression of cancer.
In addition, when stress becomes chronic, as is often the case with prolonged emotional stress, cortisol levels can remain elevated over an extended period. In the context of breast cancer, chronically elevated cortisol levels can potentially create an environment conducive to cancer development and progression.
Biofeedback therapy is a remarkable approach to harnessing the power of the mind to influence and improve physiological functions. This therapeutic technique is founded on the idea that individuals can learn to regulate certain bodily processes, such as heart rate, muscle tension, and even brainwave activity, by receiving real-time information and feedback about their physiological responses. During biofeedback sessions, individuals are connected to monitoring devices that provide data on these bodily functions. Through this feedback, patients can gain insights into their body's responses to stress, pain, or emotional states and learn to control these processes consciously.
The application of biofeedback therapy in the context of breast cancer treatment is intriguing, and we have seen great results at my clinic. It can help patients manage the emotional stress often associated with a cancer diagnosis and the ensuing treatment."
Tell us a bit about the connection between low vitamin D levels and breast cancer. Is vitamin D supplementation sufficient, or do we need natural sunlight exposure?
"Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays a crucial role in regulating various cellular processes, including those related to cell growth, differentiation, and apoptosis (programmed cell death). It also has anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties, which can be relevant to cancer prevention and progression.
Numerous observational studies have indicated that individuals with low vitamin D levels may have a higher risk of breast cancer. One large-scale analysis published in the journal "Cancer Causes & Control" in 2010 found a significant association between low vitamin D levels and an increased risk of breast cancer, particularly in premenopausal women. Another study published in "The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology" in 2019 highlighted the role of vitamin D in regulating genes associated with breast cancer and suggested that vitamin D deficiency could contribute to breast cancer development.
However, the question of whether vitamin D supplementation alone is sufficient or if natural sunlight exposure is necessary remains a subject of debate. The body can produce vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunlight, specifically ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation. This natural synthesis of vitamin D is the most effective way to raise vitamin D levels. However, factors like geographic location, time of year, and skin pigmentation can influence the body's ability to produce vitamin D from sunlight.
I believe supplementation with vitamin D can be a valuable means of maintaining or increasing vitamin D levels, particularly in individuals with limited sun exposure. Studies have shown that vitamin D supplementation may help reduce the risk of breast cancer in some populations. For instance, a randomized controlled trial published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in 2018 found that vitamin D supplementation reduced the risk of overall cancer incidence, including breast cancer, in postmenopausal women."
Is there a connection between environmental hormone disruptors and breast cancer? In your opinion, what are some of the most impactful steps one can take to reduce their exposure?
"The link between environmental hormone disruptors (endocrine-disrupting chemicals or EDCs) and breast cancer has gained substantial scientific attention. EDCs, found in everyday products like plastics, pesticides, and cosmetics, can interfere with the body's hormone system, notably estrogen, which is closely linked to breast cancer risk.
Research shows that EDC exposure can mimic or disrupt natural hormones, affecting hormone levels and pathways that promote breast cancer cell growth. Bisphenol A (BPA) in plastics and certain pesticides, for instance, can act like estrogen, potentially advancing breast cancer.
To reduce EDC exposure and lower breast cancer risk, consider these steps:
- Limit Plastic Use: Minimize plastic product usage, especially those containing BPA or phthalates. Opt for glass, stainless steel, or BPA-free plastics.
- Choose Organic: Favor organic foods to reduce exposure to pesticide residues.
- Use Natural Personal Care Products: Use chemical-free cosmetics and personal care products.
- Water Filtration: Install water filters to reduce EDCs in drinking water.
- Use Clean Household Products: Select EDC-free household cleaners and detergents.
- Support Policy Changes: Advocate for regulations limiting EDCs in consumer products and promoting environmental sustainability."
What about the connection between our detox pathways and breast cancer?
"In terms of detoxification, these are a few tips I love:
- Weekly use of an infrared sauna.
- Detox baths using ingredients like Epsom salts, baking soda, and clay.
- Utilizing castor oil packs on the liver area.
- Incorporating homeopathic detox formulas.
- Liver flushes.
- Promoting lymphatic drainage.
- Body brushing techniques.
These methods collectively contribute to the body's natural detoxification processes."
In your book, The Cancer Revolution, you highlight various lifestyle choices that can combat the underlying root causes of disease. Can you tell us a bit about these?
"In my book, The Cancer Revolution, I emphasize seven key lifestyle strategies that can help combat the underlying causes of disease, and these principles can certainly be applied to breast cancer prevention and treatment:
- Nutrition: Prioritize a nutrient-dense diet that emphasizes real, whole foods. This includes a wide variety of proteins, fruit, and healthy fats. Nutrient-dense foods provide essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can support overall health, including breast health. Incorporate farm-fresh, locally sourced foods whenever possible to ensure optimal nutrient content and support sustainable agriculture.
- Physical Activity: Regular exercise not only helps maintain a healthy weight but also supports immune function and reduces inflammation, which are critical for breast cancer prevention and management.
- Stress Management: Chronic stress can weaken the immune system and exacerbate inflammation. Implementing stress-reduction techniques such as meditation, yoga, or mindfulness can be especially valuable for those at risk of or living with breast cancer.
- Detoxification: Supporting the body's natural detoxification pathways can assist in eliminating toxins and reducing the risk of cancer. It's essential to minimize exposure to environmental toxins and consider practices like sauna therapy.
- Sleep: Quality sleep is crucial for immune system function, hormone regulation, and overall well-being. Adequate rest is essential in the context of breast cancer prevention and healing.
- Mind-Body Connection: Nurturing emotional and mental well-being is fundamental. Positive thoughts and emotional resilience can positively impact health outcomes for individuals dealing with breast cancer.
- Community and Social Support: Building a strong support network and connecting with others who have experienced breast cancer can provide emotional, practical, and psychological support throughout the journey.
The combination of these strategies can contribute to a holistic and effective approach to breast cancer prevention and treatment!"
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