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Breast Health

Written by Dr Arien van der Merwe


The most devastating loss of life from breast cancer occurs in women between 30-50 years of age. According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the leading cause of death in women 40-44 years of age. Although breast cancer has only 10% the morbidity and mortality of coronary heart disease, it is generally more feared.

Yet the American Medical Association (AMA) journal, American Medical News, reports that little documented evidence exists to prove that mammography saves lives from breast cancer.

As reported in more and more research based feedback, even as a detection tool, mammography has doubtful place in clinical practice. Other technologies are proving to be more effective in breast cancer detection and should become part of mainstream clinical practice in order to save more lives. Fortunately, women today have more options available to them to help in the detection of breast cancer than in past decades. Unfortunately, education and awareness of these options and their effectiveness in detecting breast cancer at different stages in life are sadly deficient.

The hereditary breast cancer genes, referred to as BRCA 1 and 2, are associated with breast and ovarian cancers. However, these genetic factors account for only 5-10% of all breast cancer! Lesser known factors are estimated to account for another 10% of all breast cancers. In at least 70% of cases, however, the cause of breast cancer is as yet unknown.

Generally accepted risk factors for breast cancer
Risk for breast cancer is increased if a woman:
• Had her first period before age 12
• Went through menopause after age 50
• Had her first child after age 30 or never were pregnant
• Was on hormone replacement therapy or birth control pills
• Consumes two or more alcoholic drinks per day
• Has a family history of breast cancer
• Is found to have inherited the breast cancer genes
• Is postmenopausal and gained weight (not so for premenopausal women)
• Has elevated levels of insulin as seen with syndrome X, metabolic syndrome or type 2 diabetes, which are conditions associated with central obesity and increased levels of insulin-like growth factor 1
• Is sedentary (doesn’t get enough exercise – moderate intensity 30 minutes 5 times a week)

Remember: Genetic tendency of course also plays a role, but genetic weakness is a potential rather than a promise or certainty!

Lesser known underlying emotional risk factors
The breasts are the nurturing, life giving glands in a woman’s body. Caroline Myss writes in The Creation of Health that breast cancer often occurs in women that tend and serve others (mothering) while neglecting themselves. A woman might feel unconsciously that she gives and gives, but seldom receives love, acknowledgement and comforting. Such a woman might give the appearance of being emotionally strong, but deep in her soul being, totally unconscious, lies the buried energy images of personal neglect. This process might start during a difficult childhood with too many demands, too little time to really be a child, too many expectations of caring for others.

Breast cancer might also develop in some women because of an inability to have a child, or to breast feed it. It feels as if her goal in life hasn’t been fulfilled. Guilt, self hatred, little or no acceptance and unconditional love during childhood can also play a role. Other women might be unconsciously afraid that their identity and self worth as earth mother might be lost when grown up children leave the home. They might experience an existential crisis doubting their further usefulness as a human being.

Genetic tendency of course also plays a role, but genetic weakness is a potential rather than a promise or certainty! As we’ve seen, only 5-10% of women with breast cancer have a positive family history.

The mind-body-soul connection should not be regarded a blame, as if you create your disease on purpose! Far from it, as the process lies so deeply buried in the cell memories, that it isn’t even close to consciousness. This energy explanation for breast cancer serves only as a guide to help with the essential inner healing when disease is regarded as teacher rather than curse. If you identify deep hurt and injury, consult a sensitive health care practitioner. A lot of research has been done that shows the survival and remission rate of women with breast cancer increase dramatically when they attend group support sessions and workshops that help them deal with the inner issues that led to and exacerbate, the disease.

Popular myths regarding what causes breast cancer include antiperspirants, wearing a wire bra, and having had an abortion

Breast Thermography

Finally, a painless, non-invasive screening procedure, that carries no risk of radiation or painful, even potentially harmful, compression of breasts! Digital Infrared Thermal Imaging (DITI) is a heat sensitive scanning device (very much like a large digital camera) that detects variations in the temperature of tissue. It is therefore used, not only for breast screening, but also for screening of the whole body, all organs, even muscle tears, joint injuries and the prostate gland in men.

Breast thermography, which involves a heat sensitive scanner to detect variations in the temperature of breast tissue, has been available since the Sixties. Early thermal scanners were not very sensitive and were insufficiently tested before being put into practice, resulting in wrongly diagnosed cases. Modern breast thermography has immensely improved technology, based on extensive scientific clinical research. This article references data from major peer reviewed journals and research on more than 300,000 women who have participated, using this technology.

Breast thermography can assist in early identification of even slight changes in breast tissue, as well as increasing awareness among women of all ages. It has demonstrated a higher degree of success in identifying women with breast cancer under the age of 55 in comparison to other technologies, and is also an effective addition, complementray to clinical breast exams and mammography for women over 55. It provides a non-invasive and safe detection method with no danger of radiation. If introduced at age 25, it will provide a benchmark, or thermal signature that future scans can be compared with for even greater detection accuracy.

Once the thermogram scan identifies early changes, women must go for health coaching or health mentoring, to help them work through the lifestyle options, such as diet, exercise, stress management, food supplements and herbal remedies, relaxation training, and maybe most important of all, addressing the underlying mental-emotional and spiritual issues, to be able to release blockages in internal energy flow, through guided visualisations or imagery.
More info on Thermography:
Healing strategies (addressed during my health coaching 12 weeks to wellness program)
Chapter references from my book ‘Stress Solutions’

• Deep relaxation training: Become silent within, meditate, reflect and contemplate your life, listen to your soul – refer chapter 8
• Emotional process work to release energy for healing
• Take time out for yourself to cultivate a quality life
• Using the disease as teacher to guide you into the inner recesses of your body and soul, to the dreambody talking to you via the disease symptoms.
• Positive affirmations (if these feel right for you):

– I am important
– I tend to, love and nourish myself
– I fill my life with joy (love thy neighbour as thyself, not instead of thyself!)
– I allow others to be who they’re meant to be and develop as they should (especially important when you have teenagers!)
• Daily stress management and relaxation techniques – refer chapter 5 – 8.
• Breathing exercises: deep belly and chest breathing often during the day – refer chapter 7.
• Use your journal to write or draw images, feelings, thoughts
• Share your emotions with others
• Healthy eating, lots of water and regular exercise will always be important
• Take a comprehensive antioxidant combination – refer chapter 7 and 10.
• Other therapies to consider:
– Kinesiology, EFT (emotional freedom technique)
– Ayurveda
– Acupuncture for pain and swelling
– Homeopathy
– Energy or transpersonal psychotherapy
– Reflexology
– Therapeutic aromatherapy
– Mind-Soul-Body Resonance yoga exercises as discussed in chapter 10, week 10.

Refer to the stress management and relaxation tools and techniques discussed before, and do some of them every day. Also follow the 12 weeks to wellness program in chapter 10.

Healing options: some examples
• Health coaching/mentoring
• Nutritional therapy
• Herbal remedies
• Stress management
• Mental-emotional process work
• Fitness and movement therapy
• Postural Integration
• Therapeutic massage
• Lymph drainage
• SCIO for Biofeedback and Energy release
• Transpersonal or energy psychotherapy (referred)

When a diagnosis of early or more advanced cancer is made it usually catapults the patient into shock and a crisis. You might be advised to have immediate surgery, followed by chemotherapy or radiation and months will pass before you feel you can function and think ‘normal’ again.

Before decisions for your treatment are made for you, you need to know that beside conventional treatments, you can follow a nutritional and herbal approach instead. Of course this would not be recommended for everyone. The conventional therapies of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy do have their place for some people and some cancers. The individual choice depends on many factors. The most important of these, being that the individual with cancer, together with close family, actively seek out information on both conventional and alternative methods of treatment. Only then should informed decisions on best course of action be made. Ultimately, the choice is yours: it’s your life. Learn to listen to the messages coming from deep within you, gently guiding you towards health and wellness.

How does a patient, or family, choose who is to be on the treatment team? How do you decide which treatment is best for you? The shock of a cancer diagnosis throws many people into turmoil, and clear thinking is often difficult. Because of this, a health coach / mentor in the form of a book, program or knowledgeable individual, can be very helpful. Everyone will benefit from a support team of trusted family, friends and empathetic health advisors.

Above all, find health care professionals who are positive and optimistic; avoid those who are not. No doctor or other person is in a position to state that you have only three months to live. This is atrocious!

Hope is very important. Rather know that although the biopsy findings indicate a potentially serious condition, people have survived from this and worse conditions, and we can’t predict who the survivors will be. Miracles or unexplainable events do happen!

One final word of advice: It is important that your treatment team includes a health professional who has detailed and specific knowledge about nutrition and supplements that are supportive to the particular therapy you are receiving. Some supplements can interfere if taken at the same time as radiation and chemotherapy, though they may be helpful before and after.

Reading list and online course for health coaching:
1. 12 weeks to Optimal Wellbeing Online Course by Dr Arien van der Merwe (
2. Stress Solutions by Dr Arien van der Merwe; esp. the 12 weeks to wellness course, and reference to specific chapters in following article
3. Health & Happiness by Dr Arien van der Merwe; esp. the chapter on antioxidants and cancer process interruption
4. Various hand out articles, applied meditations and processes, written by Dr Arien van der Merwe; throughout the 12 week health coaching program
5. Relaxation CD with guided meditations; especially developed by Dr Arien for newcomers to meditation. Some of the techniques discussed in chapter 8 can be experienced on the CD
6. Radical Remission by Dr Kelly Turner; who did her PhD research interviewing 1000’s of patients who went into radical remission from even hopeless cancer, identifying nine common denominator factors that all of them implemented
7. Complementary Cancer Therapies by Dan Labriola, N.D. will answer many of your questions, and will provide you with a structure to find your answers.
8. Another source of great hope, especially for those interested in nutritional therapies, is Dr. Lorraine Day. This orthopedic surgeon was given only three weeks to live; her cancer recovery story is amazing. Anyone with cancer could benefit from viewing her inspiring videos or audiotapes. Check out her website at
9. Healthy Living from the Inside Out by Mariel Hemingway