Tests, Triggers, and Personal Responsibility

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A patient arrived eager to announce she had given blood for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene blood test. Her grandmother had ovarian cancer and her aunt breast cancer, and she felt she wanted to know.  Generally, I have a reasonably good poker face and very nearly always offer no dissuasion for any decision. Though I do my best to have the treatment room a place free of judgment, of offering support for patient’s choices, she noticed I had something to say. I told her that of my patients who’ve taken the test, those positive for the gene experience a daily background anxiety upon knowing the result, and that I believe that the daily stress and focus on what the outcome may mean is a strong causative factor in itself.

Having the BRCA gene means that statistically there is a higher likelihood of being diagnosed with cancer by the time you are 80. But, as I asked my patient, if you were to find that you did have the gene, what would you do? Would you have the “at risk” tissues and organs cut away from your body?

From the point of view of Chinese medicine, removal of any of the curious organs immediately places undue stress on the remainder of the curious organ system. These are: the brain, the spine, the bones, the bone marrow, the uterus and ovaries, the prostate and the gallbladder. I would like to see a study in 20 years, analyzing the health of people who underwent the elective removal of any part of this group. I think the results might show a significant increase in leukemia and cancers of the gallbladder, liver, bone marrow, and brain.

What’s missing in this new discussion is the trigger. I myself could easily have the BRCA gene, for example. My mother had an extremely aggressive breast cancer in 1985. (She’s now 90 years old.) My father died of cancer at 85. But cancer doesn’t cross my mind until a patient asks if they should have the BRCA test.  My advice is always to follow one’s own guidance. Whether they elect to have the test or not, the recommendations are the same: avoid the triggers. The triggers are: introduction to the body by any means—by mouth, skin, lungs or blood—anything that is not food; and, of course, stress, a causative factor on its own. In our culture the list is very long: herbicides, pesticides, preservatives, colorings, additives, processed food, drugs, sugar which is present in 80% of grocery items, etc.

Statistics can seem more powerful than they are.  They have little information to offer an individual.  The baseline for study is already a life filled with triggers of stress, diet, and toxins.  The studies could possibly be more accurate if a control group ate a clean, clear diet and had some quiet reflective time every day. In the meantime, let’s keep doing our work.

Ann Cecil-Sterman
Connecticut, USA.

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