If there is one major area that needs to be improved in medical school training, it is in the field of nutrition. Traditionally, diseases were viewed as attacking the body from the outside, like an infectious agent. Nutrition and diet were usually not emphasized as a critical factor of the battle in the study of Western medicine. Now, it is known that nutrition and the general state of health are both crucial in fighting, preventing and recovering from disease, including breast cancer.
The medical information regarding the usefulness and efficacy of dietary supplements and herbs has been studied and developed differently from the information regarding chemotherapy regimens. Medical researchers study groups of people closely to study the efficacy of a particular dose or sequence of chemotherapy regimens compared to the best treatment plan already being used. This information is published for a specialized audience of cancer specialists, who use the data in the treatment of their patients. On the other hand, herbal and dietary supplements are rarely studied in this manner. Instead, people trained in other modes of treatment use remedies that have been passed on from their teachers and seem to be useful in treating their patients. Physicians have slowly come to realize the need for more traditional scientific testing of these herbal and supplementary therapeutic modalities.
Most women with breast cancer diagnoses are partially convinced that they have caused their breast cancer by poor dietary practice, lack of exercise or excessive stress. There is no evidence, however, that any particular agent or factor is responsible for breast cancer. Quite popular now are publications and books suggesting that breast cancer can be prevented and even be cured, by dietary modification and lifestyle change. As famous as this approach is nowadays, there is no evidence to support this claim. This approach has a certain appeal to many individuals basically because it is simple and empowering.
Nor is there evidence to support supposition that breast cancer results from depressed immune system function. Sadly, it appears that the immune system cannot determine a breast cancer cell from a normal breast glandular cell even with their significant differences due to DNA damage. An example of this, the development of the drug trastuzumab (Herceptin) is based on the overproduction of a gene fragment that leads to increased amounts of a cell surface protein not found on normal cells. The host cannot differentiate this abnormal cell and its increase in protein, but an antibody can be developed by using another species’ immune system and then, by using genetic engineering, that information can be transferred into a human antibody-producing cell. These genetically altered human cells then produce an antibody to attack the cell surface protein. This antibody can destroy the cell and make it more susceptible to other anticancer agents. The important issue is that breast cancer is not recognized by a normal immune system. As more knowledge is obtained, it may be possible to manipulate the immune system through vaccines and genetically modified proteins, but the immune system in a breast cancer patient is almost certainly functioning well. If a cancer patient requires chemotherapy, this may impair the immune system temporarily, but this is completely reversible and will not allow the cancer any advantage.
Your immune system is important in infection prophylaxis and you need to take care of it and your body and its ability to heal through nutrition, vitamins and exercise.