Breast Cancer

An Alternative Approach to Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer

Women are afraid of breast cancer, and rightly so. In the U.S. today, women have a “1 in 8” lifetime risk of getting diagnosed. Who these days doesn’t know several friends or relatives who have had some form of the disease, ranging from early stage DCIS to stage four metastatic breast cancer? I know quite a few of my students who have been through this difficult experience. So let’s talk about the field of energy medicine for women who are dealing with breast cancer.

I have always believed that when you have been diagnosed with cancer, you need everyone on your team—your oncologist, surgeon, radiation oncologist, and other medical personnel—along with practitioners of whatever complementary and alternative (CAM) treatments work most effectively for you. As a spiritual teacher, I highly recommend the supportive measure I believe is vital for dealing with breast cancer treatment, recovery, and prevention of recurrence: a strong, daily meditation program.

There is a lot happening on the alternative (CAM) front these days. One of the encouraging developments is that there are more “integrative oncologists.” These are the doctors who go beyond the standard Western medical care by combining the best of conventional and alternative treatments. While still utilizing surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy (often administered in very different ways than usual), these docs include lifestyle evaluations, recommendations for specific botanicals and supplements to bring the whole body to a better state of health, exercise, and the inclusion of treatments like energy healing, meditation, acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic, naturopathy, therapeutic massage, biofeedback, yoga, tai chi, and the expressive arts.

Integrative doctors and CAM practitioners use protocols that are based on the idea that attacking the tumor with the traditional “cut-burn-poison” approach is frequently not enough. They understand the importance of bringing mind-body-spirit into harmony, and relieving the chronic stress that so many live with—stress that promotes inflammation, which is at the root of almost all chronic disease, impacts your “terrain” (the biochemical environment inside your body), and dampens the immune system and body mechanisms that can fight off cancer cells. Toxic exposures from all the hormone-disrupting chemicals in our food and water, plastics, and pollutants in water and air eventually damage genes that can then become cancerous. So these practitioners aim to bolster your immune system and lessen inflammation, while understanding that we are all unique and need individualized healing plans.

Over the last 15 years, almost every major city mainstream hospital, such as MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Memorial Sloan-Kettering in New York City, and UC Simms/Mann Center for Integrative Oncology in L.A., has launched integrative programs. To find a cancer center that provides CAM treatments by practitioners trained in cancer care, go to When one of my friends was dealing with breast cancer, she went to the Sari Asher Center for Integrative Cancer Care in Palm Beach and was amazed to find a (female) massage therapist who was trained to work directly on her breast to reduce scar tissue after a lumpectomy and radiation.

There are also annual conferences that focus on integrative therapies. The Annie Appleseed Project (, for example, hosts an annual evidence-based complementary/alternative cancer therapies conference that provides outstanding information to practitioners and patients about new possibilities for surviving and beating cancer (and they serve only organic food).

Many of the complementary and alternative treatments are forms of holistic medicine, often based on the wisdom of ancient medical systems, such as Traditional Chinese Medicine (which includes acupuncture, tai chi, qigong, herbs, and massage); ayurvedic medicine (stemming from the ancient Indian Vedas); indigenous healing methods; and naturopathy and homeopathy.

If whole-person integrative medicine is to become the new standard of care, and all of us involved in energy medicine certainly hope this happens, there is a lot to be done before most doctors and patients understand its potential. Of course, the biggest problem with CAM treatments is that most integrative services are not YET covered by insurance. But the tide is turning. Kaiser Permanente recently started to offer coverage for acupuncture, chiropractic, and other CAM treatments.

With breast cancer rates in the U.S. predicted to soar 50% by 20301, it’s more important than ever that energy healing is included in the prevention and treatment of breast cancer.