Posts made in October, 2009

Wednesday Bubble: herbs for breast cancer prevention

Posted by on Oct 21, 2009 in breast cancer | 7 comments


In keeping in line with my commitment to inspiring, breast cancer-related bubbles during the month of October, I am happy to share some rather promising news.

This week, it comes from Germany and was reported this past August in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention: while hormone replacement therapy appears to increase the risk of breast cancer, use of herbal preparations containing phytoestrogens (plant-based compounds that act similar to estrogen) may actually prevent the most invasive type.

Wow! Sounds promising, right?

There has been a lot of noise surrounding the effectiveness of plant-based estrogens (e.g. soy isoflavones) for menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats and mood swings. Some studies suggest they work and others, that they don’t. In fact, I do believe that the verdict is still out, although when used properly and in coordination with a licensed practitioner, they might very well be worth trying — much more so than health risk laden hormones. Moreover, if their use does actually reduce the risk of developing breast cancer, which is the exact opposite of hormone therapy, well, then I am all for them!

In this particular investigation, researchers examined how and when over 10,000 postmenopausal women were using herbs and any possible relationship to development of breast cancer. The findings? Women who used herbs had a 26% lower risk of ever developing invasive breast cancer than those who did not. That’s quite a bit, right?

The researchers are unclear why this may be. However, I’m certainly encouraged by the news, news that an herb a day may keep breast cancer away. Definitely inspired by the fact that a natural compound might both improve  menopausal symptoms and offer protection. Happy Wednesday!

[Note! Many oncologists recommend that women with estrogen-positive tumours or those who are prone to them avoid plant based estrogens. As always it is essential to speak to a practitioner before using any over the counter herbal preparation!]

Read More

Cougar Life

Posted by on Oct 19, 2009 in Uncategorized | 0 comments


Oprah’s talked about it. There’s a National Convention and Dance. Hell, there’s even the Real Cougar Woman, a website dedicated to providing cougars everywhere, with a forum to talk taboo and be real all the way, just like “Kim Catrell, Katie Couric, Demi Moore, Hillary Clinton and Susan Sarandon.” And now, there’s even a new dating site to help you do it….

Billed as “The Ultimate Catch,” Cougar Life, a new online dating site matches ‘Cougars to ‘Cubs.’ Already raising controversy, Cougar Life was recently banned from advertising on ABC’s “Cougar Town.” Say what?!

In any case, ladies, this is the site if you want to snag a cub.

What’s a “cub” you ask? According to the site:

“To snare a true Cougar a man [AKA Cub]  needs to be youthful, fit, unintimidated and of course sexually driven! These men can range from athletes to intellectuals, and from technologists to entrepreneurs and all points in between; they can come in all shapes and sizes, but one thing they have in common is the desire to possess a sexually charged older woman.”

The desire to possess a sexually charged older woman.

A male friend once told me that there was a belief among younger men that women in their 40s and 50s were insatiable.


So, what’s your criteria ladies?  Are you feeling crazed, insatiable, desirous for that sweet young cub? Are you ready to live large on ‘Cougar Life?’ Are you ready to have those cubs feeding out of your hand?

Admittedly, I admire their marketing savvy; someone had to fill this niche and good for them for taking the lead.

Me? I think I’ll skip this game of Life.

Read More

Ladies of the world, flashers, sweat-ers, mood swingers…it’s World Menopause Day!

Posted by on Oct 18, 2009 in menopause | 4 comments

Lend me your ears….you have your own DAY! In the U.S. we give you a month. But the world gives you a day!  And it’s TODAY!  I wrote this rant last  year and it’s still so appropriate that I thought I’d repost it.

I wish I could laugh about it. Because as my Twitter friend @lilpecan wrote me yesterday:

“Who doesn’t enjoy a little menopause humour? (No, really? Who doesn’t? Because I’ll kill them.)” (Gotta love that, right?!)

In any case, my thoughts about World Menopause Day. Kill it!

Last month was National Menopause Month in the U.S. Now, the ‘world of women in menopause’ actually has a day. I swear if it weren’t abundantly clear that the initiative was likely being driven by national medicine societies and pharmaceutical companies, I’d suspect that Hallmark and PaperHouse had conspired to sell more cards.

Here’s the challenge issued by the International Menopause Society (IMS):

“The World Menopause Day challenge therefore calls on every woman age 45 and older to return to her physician and speak about her individual health history, her risks for diseases, the benefits and risks of available treatments for disease prevention, and steps she can take now to take charge of her health.”

President Hermann Schneider of the IMS also says:

“Due to the recent publications on the risks of long-term use of hormone therapy, many women suffering from menopausal complaints have either dropped out of therapy or haven’t started therapy at all.”

Okay. I truly believe that it’s a great idea to take charge of one’s health and examine some of the natural changes that occur, not only with menopause, but also with aging. But by lumping them all together in a single pot, well, I cry “foul.”

Did you know that many diseases that the medical community has long associated with menopause are, in fact, due to the aging process? You may recall that I recently wrote about a new study published in the Journal of Hypertension clearly demonstrates that differences in heart disease risk between pre- and post-menopausal women with similar risk profiles existed only when age, NOT ESTROGEN LEVELS, were accounted for. This may be why hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has not been proven to prevent heart disease.

So, until they sort some of these bits out, do we really want to fault women for refusing hormone replacement? Moreover, how many women wish to make a pact with the devil to further the medicalization of menopause? Not I!

Here’s what I propose:

  • To the IMS and other medical societies – stop medicalizing what is a natural transition in our mid-lives. Hey, here’s a nifty idea: why not review your data, read alternative medicine peer-reviewed journals and educate yourselves about effective alternative therapies for your patients who have been scared off by the negative findings surrounding HRT and antidepressants and other pharmaceuticals? What’s more, what if you made a greater effort to embrace multidisciplinary collaboration and invite educated and credentialed alternative practitioners into your fold, practitioners who might be able to offer you and your patients important solutions when Western ways fail or are simply, impractical?
  • To the World Health Organization – please stop telling us to celebrate the menopause. Trust me – when women are flashing in the middle of a meeting, sweat pouring down their faces as their colleagues look on, or are sleeping on soaking wet sheets because of night sweats, well, they don’t really feel like having a cocktail and a “WOOT,” ain’t life grand”-sort of celebration. Maybe, instead, think about devoting some of that hard research cash toward studies that focus first on women and last on profit.
  • To leading women’s health expert and Council Member of the British Menopause Society, Mr. Nick Panay, a Hot Flush Diary is the last thing I want to keep on my nightstand. In fact, the idea of taking notes on all of my hot flashes and night sweats and when/why/how they occur and how they make feel gets me pretty hot under the collar. Tell you what: the next time you have to pee for the zillionth time in the middle of the night, turn on the light and write in your BPH journal how you feel. I would guess that that’s not going to happen, right?

Want to “make this hot woman cool?” Stop making me feel as though menopause is a disease and not a natural transition that all women go through. Stop telling me that I should embrace this part of my life without fighting it every step of the way. And please, stop treating my body as if it’s disconnected from my mind.

Read More

Tender breasts and HRT – Do you need to worry?

Posted by on Oct 16, 2009 in breast cancer | 2 comments


Yes, you do, according to UCLA researchers, who examined data from more than 16,000 postmenopausal women participating in the halted Women’s Health Initiative estrogen plus progestin trial. If you recall, this trial abruptly ended in 2002 when researchers learned that women taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) had a significantly increased risk for developing breast cancer.

In this latest study, which appeared in the October 12 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers took a closer look at the data to identify which factors, if any, could predict the possible development of breast cancer in women taking hormones. At the study’s start and every year until it was stopped, participants underwent mammography and were asked to do breast self-examinations. In addition to providing information on factors that might increase their breast cancer risk, they were also asked to to rate the degree of breast tenderness at the beginning of the trial and after one year.

Study findings showed the following:

  • Women taking HRT who did not have any sort of breast tenderness at the study’s start had three times the risk of developing tender breasts at the one-year mark compared to women taking placebo.
  • Breast tenderness at one year was associated with a 48% higher risk of developing invasive breast cancer than peers who never developed breast tenderness.

The researchers say that they are unclear about the reasons for this relationship and wonder if it might be possibly due to the fact that HRT causes breast tissue cells to multiply rapidly, thereby leading to more tenderness and an increased cancer risk. They also caution that the results just apply to this particular form of combination hormone therapy (which goes by the trade name Premarin®).

So, should you worry?

Emerging evidence continues to point clearly to a skewed risk benefit profile when it comes to hormone therapy, with risks outweighing any subjective benefits such as a decline in hot flashes, improved sleep or less vaginal dryness. It’s up to you to decide if you want to continue using hormones is you presently take them, or if you want to start HRT in the first place. And of course, if you are using hormones and develop breast tenderness, you should contact your practitioner as soon as possible to discuss your symptoms.

Ultimately, we all have control over certain factors in our health lives and don’t have control over others. Choose wisely.

Read More

Wednesday Bubble: red or white? Can wine choice affect breast cancer risk?

Posted by on Oct 14, 2009 in breast cancer | 4 comments


Hey all you wine lovers out there! There’s encouraging news out of last month’s North American Menopause Society meeting: red wine may work in the body the same way that aromotase inhibitors (agents that are used to block the production of estrogen and halt breast cancer) do!

In this study, researchers assigned 36 pre-menopausal women to red wine first (cabernet savignon) and then white wine (chardonnay). Each participant drank 8 ounces of the wine in the evening with food, did not drive afterward (for safety) and agreed to avoid other alcoholic beverages or grape products. Each “treatment” lasted one menstrual cycle (~1month) and included a break to “wash” the body of the prior wine type. All participants had their blood collected during the early follicular (day 5-8) and mid-luteal (days 17-21) phases in the period just before the study and during the two “treatment” cycles.

The results showed that compared to white,  red wine significantly increased levels of freely circulating testosterone in the body and also led to lower levels of sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) and estradiol. In other words, this means that similar to aromatase inhibitors, red wine helped prevent testosterone from converting to estrogen, thereby leading to lower levels of estradiol and estrone, which in turn, would provide a means of starving an estrogen dependent tumor.

Although these findings are VERY preliminary, they do give hope that researchers might be on the cusp of realizing more natural ways to prevent breast cancer tumor growth. Let’s keep hope alive! Donate to breast cancer research.

Good health and cheers!

Read More