Breast Cancer and Integrative Care

Written by Dr. Katherine Lik, ND

(September  2011)


Breast cancer is one of the most common cancer that affects women in the United States, second only to skin cancer, and there are over 230,000 new cases diagnosed each year. Although statistics such as these are alarming, there are many which are uplifting and inspiring, such as the fact that breast cancer research progresses in leaps and bounds each year and that there over 2.5 million breast cancer survivors alive today.


Ever-increasing survival rates are not only due to medical research and the wonderful work of dedicated doctors across the country. Breast cancer survivors well know that the battle against breast cancer requires so much more: It requires healthy living, a comprehensive treatment plan, and a commitment to positive choices across the board. (Not to mention, hope, faith, and love and support from friends and family!) Integrative health care has been my life's work and my life's passion because I have long noticed the connection between the mind and the body, and I believe this connection is never more pertinent and relevant than in the treatment of breast cancer. Cancer is a disease that attacks the body, but it can also attack the mind and spirit and chip away a patient's will to fight and survive. Integrative health care can be a invaluable part of breast cancer treatment because it can help a patient to become empowered and educated, and it can put the fire back in her spirit and return her will to fight.


At Raby Institute, our integrative care plan for breast cancer patients is multi-fold and unique to each patient's needs. For example, many breast cancer patients suffer from insomnia or poor sleep, yet we know that deep, restful sleep is key for healthy body functioning. In cases such as this, we might recommend melatonin, a natural hormone found in body that is key for sleep processes. Other patients might be taking certain cancer drugs such as tamoxifen, and in these cases, we would recommend the activated form of coenzyme Q10 (Ubiquinol), niacin, or riboflavin to increase the efficacy of the drug. Supplements such as calcium and vitamin D can also help to promote strong bones and decrease a patient's chance of osteorporsis (bone loss is sometimes a symptom of breast cancer treatment.)


Beyond supplements, we also look into a patient's diet and exercise needs. There are many foods which can help to supplement a breast cancer patient's treatment plan, including mushrooms and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli. Ground flaxseed has also been shown to help decrease cancer risk, and it can also help tamoxifen work better.  We also advise patients to decrease their consumption of red meat and animal products, and to instead select whole, healthful, unprocessed foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.


Along with dietary modifications, cardiovascular exercise can also be a positive addition in a cancer patient's treatment plan as it can reduce the recurrence of cancer. Thirty minutes of cardio performed four or five times a week can help a patient to burn calories, build muscle, improve mood, decrease stress, and enhance sleep. It can also help to prevent bone loss and make it easier for patients to maintain their weight. These lifestyle enhancements can not only be beneficial for breast cancer patients, they can also be invaluable for survivors and those seeking preventative measures. 


Ultimately, a healthy lifestyle is the combination of many components including medication, smart dietary choices, exercise, restful sleep, and plenty of relaxation.  At Raby Institute, we constantly seek new and inventive ways to offer these solutions to our patients, all while supporting their existing medical treatments and offering them respect, dignity, and compassion.

"Dr. Raby gave me my life back – physically and emotionally. I was struggling with huge amounts of stress over my work and my health.  I was a mess! But she got me through everything. She is amazing, and she was there for me no matter what.  Even if I wasn’t scheduled, she made time for me."
- Raby Institute patient