On Oct. 13, 2015, the inaugural Women's Health Summit took place in Los Angeles led by Fran Drescher and her foundation Cancer Schmancer. It was a very exciting program aimed at informing people about the latest information on preventing illness and screening for cancer, as well as methods to incorporate traditional medicine with complementary/alternative treatments.
Awards were presented to Sen. Barbara Boxer and comedienne Rosie O'Donnell for their lifetime efforts on behalf of women's health, and by the City of Los Angeles to Fran Drescher for her work on cancer early detection and prevention.
Because these issues are so important, I wanted to share my advice I presented at the Summit with you during Breast Cancer Awareness month.
So here are my tips for you to discuss with your doctor and health care team.
• Your health care team can save and extend your life. So build the very best team you can find. Your team includes you, your family and friends, your doctors (make sure you can talk to them about prevention and screening and use of vitamins, diet and nutrients to keep you healthy), nurses and care managers, your insurance company, a trusted available pharmacist, and a nutritionist/dietician and/or a complementary medicine physician/adviser to discuss complementary options for you. For advice on finding and grading your doctors, and getting a second opinion, see me book Surviving American Medicine.
• To integrate traditional and complementary treatments, be sure your doctor is willing to talk to your alternative medicine adviser, and give you well-informed advice on which treatments go well together and which can interfere. For advice on finding dietary and alternative advisers, use your doctors' recommendations, or go beyond and ask nurses, care managers, and other patients at support groups or wellness meetings. Do not replace traditional medicine methods by using only alternative treatments, but instead integrate complementary methods with traditional methods. Remember, 60 to 83 percent of patients are using complementary methods, but only 23-60 percent discuss them with their doctor, and this is dangerous unless you honestly discuss your use of these modalities with your doctor.
• Doctors and patients can prevent most life threatening diseases. So be sure you have discussed preventing these illnesses with your physician: heart disease (blood pressure control, cholesterol control with statins, exercise, land baby aspirin); diabetes and weight control (with diet, exercise, use of metformin, and periodic checking of your glucose levels); and stroke (by blood pressure control, clotting evaluations for risk of thrombotic stroke).
• What about cancer, the most feared disease in America? There are general methods for preventing most cancers: Use of a cancer preventing diet (with five helpings of vegetables, fruits or fruit juices preferably organic, less fat and less red meat but more fish and poultry), exercise, nutrients (including green tea, resveratrol, curcumin, soy, and tomatoes), reducing dangerous habits (smoking, alcohol intake, and drug abuse), and knowing your family history to help your doctor assess your risk of specific cancers. Also use preventing vaccines (HPV vaccine and hepatitis B vaccine).
• To prevent and detect breast cancer, discuss with your doctor if you should have a blood or mouth swab test for gene mutations (you can check your risk with the government brca risk tool, and if your risk is high, consider BRCA 1 and 2 testing), Be certain you exercise and reduce stress. Keep your vitamin D levels normal and check them each season. Consider reducing risk by family planning (having children before age 35). If your risk is high, consider using medicines (tamoxifen, raloxifine or aromatase inhibitors). Reduce alcohol, keep your weight normal (not overweight or obese), ans avoid post-menopausal hormone replacement therapy. Be certain you get screening (with mammograms or tomosynthesis, ultrasound, or breast MRI).
• Men need to prevent prostate cancer. Screen with PSA testing especially if you are at high risk (due to family history, race, or symptoms), consider prevention with finasteride or statins by discussing these with your doctor, and use a baby aspirin.
• To prevent lung cancer, stop smoking (it's probably okay to use smokeless cigarettes but only to help you to stop smoking), and get annual screening chest CT scans if you have a moderate to strong smoking history.
• One of the most common cancers is colon cancer. Prevent it with diet, aspirin, screening colonoscopy, and testing stool annually for blood.
• For ovarian and endometrial cancer, consider using oral contraceptives to reduce risk by discussing this with your gynecologist.
• Be sure to detect early skin cancer by having at least an annual head to toe of all your skin (and nails) by a dermatologist. Prevent cancers with sunscreens, hats, and shirts to reduce sun exposure. And do not use tanning machines.
• Have your dentist check for early evidence of cancer or pre-cancerous changes in your mouth and gums and tongue.
Don't procrastinate! Don't get cancer or other life-threatening illnesses. Get a doctor and get prevention and screening!