Dr. Nicole Sundene
Breast Cancer Symptoms such as breast pain are always scary for women, as well as their doctors.
I have been worried as a doctor over many breast lumps and abnormal mammograms I have found over 23 years of working in Women's Health. Most concerning breast lumps in Women’s Health are breast cysts, fibroycystic breasts, or inflamed lymph nodes and generally not breast cancer. I hope to bring reassurance and clarity to women stressed about breast lumps and breast pain.
BREAST PAIN CAUSES
Breast pain can be very severely stressful for women as many of us have known women with breast cancer. I am writing this blog today to assure women that generally, breast cancer is painless unless it is severely advanced. Most patients I have found breast lumps on that actually have breast cancer tell me the lump does not feel painful when I press on it.
So if you do feel breast pain when testing your breast lump rest assured it is 99.99% most likely a breast cyst or an inflamed lymph node in the breast that could be reactive to a post-viral response. Both covid infection and covid vaccines are causing more breast pain complaints for women. Fibrocystic breast changes in women with dense breasts are one of the #1 things I see come back on mammogram reports when women have breast pain or a breast lump.
While I don't want women to ignore breast lumps, and hope they will see me ASAP should they find one, I am writing this to help decrease the anxiety that is associated with finding a breast mass.
Oftentimes women panic over a breast lump, make an appointment with me for an exam and a mammogram and ultrasound of the breast only to realize it is fibrocystic breast changes or dense breasts.
WHEN SHOULD I CHECK FOR BREAST LUMPS?
While I don’t want you to go into a total panic if you find a breast lump, you should still absolutely see your doctor. I don’t recommend checking your breasts while they are responding to high estrogen levels in your cycle. You should instead do your monthly breast exam on days 5-9 of your cycle, after your period is over and the high estrogen levels from ovulation have worn off.
The 5-9 days after your period is the best time to check your breasts to avoid confusing hormonal changes with something more serious. Breast pain that fluctuates with the menstrual cycle is usually benign.
Breast Cancer of course should be treated by an Oncologist that specializes in this such as a Breast Surgeon. Not me! I do not treat Breast Cancer eve though I am a Women's Health Naturopathic Doctor. While I am comfortable supporting your process with herbs for any side effects from chemo, radiation, Tamoxifen, and also provide post menopausal support.
I am not an oncologist and I do not treat cancer directly. I do have a lot of experience helping women through the process and after they have had a hysterectomy and cannot take hormones because of the cancer. This is when Naturopathy and Herbal Medicine can work wonders!!
So please do not ever sign up to work with me if you think I am going to treat your cancer, I do not treat cancer but I am highly experienced in helping women manage the side effects or breast cancer treatments, recover from breast cancer treatment, and well versed in treating menopausal women with herbs after they have had chemotherapy.
BREAST CANCER CHEMO SIDE EFFECTS
Women who have undergone chemotherapy or radiation commonly develop hypothyroidism and adrenal fatigue, as these treatments can impact all rapidly dividing glands and weaken thyroid function, cause thyroid deficiency, precipitate Hashimotos symptoms in women that were previously asymptomatic, and also leave women anemic, nutritionally depleted in their b vitamins and iron.
So working with a Naturopathic Doctor after your cancer is critical to proper recovery and repair as well as remaining proactive about ensuring hormones, vitamins, and minerals are sufficient.
Women that are menopausal and on Tamoxifen after breast cancer can suffer from very serious hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, anxiety, depression, mental health, bladder problems, as well as Yeast Infections due to hormonal changes to the vagina. Naturopathic medicine in this instance excels because women with breast cancer should not take any hormones.
BREAST CYST SYMPTOMS
Please do not assume your breast lump is caused by breast cysts or fibrocystic changes. If your lump is painful it is most likely benign, or non-cancerous. If your lump is painless that is the more concerning type of lump although neither should be addressed and we will need to then send you for a mammogram and ultrasound.
If you simply have breast cysts which is about 95% of the time I find a breast lump… then you should increase your cruciferous vegetables for sulforaphane and DIM to detoxify the bad estrogen or “estrone” that triggers these breast cysts. Doing this is also good if the diagnosis is breast cancer, as cruciferous vegetables are demonstrated in research to prevent cancer.
BREAST CYST TREATMENT
Breast cysts can easily be treated via nutrition, herbal medicine and hormone balancing. Hormone Testing is usually the first thing I do along with imaging when my patient has a breast lump. Patients with breast cysts should avoid: Black tea, sugar, and animal fats. Animal fats that are the highest sources of inflammation for fibrocystic breasts should be eliminated first and foremost such as from dairy, cheese, cream, red meat, and pork.
Trans fats and fried foods should never be eaten. Red meat and dairy can be consumed in moderation once your breast pain or cyst has resolved. But the arachidonic acid in the animal fat essentially becomes estrogen and inflammation that make breast pain worse.
So the moral of the story in breast health is less meat and more cruciferous veggies. I also always recommend a vitamin E supplement at 800 IU of Natural mixed tocopherals. Do not take synthetic vitamin E it is not healthy for women’s breasts! Make sure you get the mixed tocopherals that are natural.
That is a basic overview of what women should know if they find a new breast lump. Please do not get yourself too worried, but also do not ignore it. Please just remain calm and proactively get the tests you need.
CAUSE OF BREAST CANCER-RELATED BREAST PAIN
There is a rare form of breast cancer called Inflammatory Breast Cancer that invades the lymphatic ducts of the breast and is very painful. Generally, it only impacts one breast while breast pain from fibrocystic breast changes and cysts occur in both breasts and worsen prior to and during menses and then subside. Inflammatory Breast Cancer does not change throughout the cycle and remains painful at all times. Women can experience pain in their breasts, sensations of warmth, itching of the nipple, retraction of the nipple, and dimples all over the breast that are referred to as "Peau de Orange" or dimples that appear like the skin of an orange. This type of breast cancer is generally missed by mamograms and imaging and requires a breast biopsy.
You need to schedule an appointment with me or your doctor to address it immediately. In breast cancer cases, the sooner we can diagnose cancer the better the outcome for the patient.
So please never ignore a breast lump. While I am here to assure your breast lump is most likely a breast cyst, we also need to ensure that is true because breast cancer when caught early is highly treatable.
Yet, breast cancer from ignoring breast lumps and refusing to do annual mammograms generally has a worse prognosis as the breast cancer has advanced to the bones, lungs, brain and organs. Please share this important post, as many women have been neglecting thier annual cancer screenings, especially mammograms and it is time for everyone to get caught up on their screening tests.
If you need my help, simply pop over to my SCHEDULE page to treat yourself to a Naturopathic visit! I would be happy to help you with your breast pain symptoms.
Dr. Nicole Sundene
Dr. Sundene is a Naturopathic Doctor in Scottsdale, Arizona, and is a Female Hormone Expert in Women's Health and Bioidentical Hormones. She specializes in Holistic Women's Health for Menopause, Thyroid, Hashimotos, PMS, Perimenopause, Autoimmune, Postpartum, Chronic Fatigue, Depression, Anxiety, Food Allergies, Digestion, Dermatology, Acne, Psoriasis, Eczema, and Adrenal Hormonal Conditions. In 1999 she began working for a Hormone Doctor prior to starting Naturopathic Medical School. With over 23 years of experience in both Prescription and Natural women's health and hormones, she presents to women the best-integrated health solutions for their Chronic Disease.
She has been an Herbalist for over 28 years and enjoys teaching women how to use herbs to balance their hormones, nutrition and optimize their health. Dr. Sundene relies on blood testing for her hormone metrics. The hormone testing is covered per the patient's insurance plan (not Medicaid) and conducted at certain points in the woman's menstrual cycle. To learn more about Hormone Testing for Women Visit: Bioidentical Hormones. Follow Dr. Sundene on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for more tips on Women's Health, Female Hormones, and Naturopathy!