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An integrative approach to breast cancer

Reading time: 10 minutes

Blending the best of integrative medicine with the best of conventional medicine gives the greatest chance of healing breast cancer, says Dr Leigh Erin Connealy

Every 14 seconds, a woman somewhere in the world is diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s the most common cancer in women in both developed and underdeveloped countries around the globe. Those numbers equate to 2.3 million women annually, and 670,000 succumb to the disease each year.1

Conventional medicine offers standard options for treatment, most often radiation, chemotherapy and surgery. But there are alternatives—safer, less invasive and more effective approaches that combine integrative and conventional medicine and offer women hope as well as healing.

Though scary, a diagnosis of breast cancer does not have to be a death sentence. Here are some tips and treatment approaches we use at the Cancer Center for Healing.

Get in the proper mindset

First and foremost, you need to prepare mentally. Countless studies highlight the importance of a positive mindset in healing. I encourage patients to practice daily affirmations, meditation, restorative breathing and other methods to improve the mind/body healing connection.

You will also benefit significantly from asking for help. In my book The Cancer Revolution (Da Capo Lifelong Books, 2017), I devote an entire chapter to putting together the ideal support team.

From family members and friends who can help with errands, chores around the house, rides and company during doctor appointments to counselors or ministers who can help with the mind-body-spirit aspect of your healing, your “cheerleaders” can make a profound difference.

Find the right doctor

Physicians are not one-size-fits-all. When facing a breast cancer (or any cancer) diagnosis, you must do your due diligence to find the practitioner who best fits your needs. I recommend finding an integrative oncologist who offers multiple treatment approaches and therapies. The more options you have, the better.

We welcome patients from all over the world to the Cancer Center for Healing in Irvine, California. However, you can also find a skilled physician closer to home by visiting the American College for Advancement in Medicine website at or the Institute for Functional Medicine site at

Once you assemble a list of potential practitioners, it’s time to start interviewing. Think carefully about questions like these:

  • Does this physician offer all the treatment modalities you’re interested in?
  • Do they listen to you and value your input?
  • Are you being rushed, or are they taking the time to help?
  • Is the general feeling you get positive and uplifting?

These questions will all help determine whether a practice and practitioner are right for you. Don’t be shy—this is your health!

Come up with a game plan

Once you compile the optimal care team, your physician will work with you to individualize your treatment plan. At the Cancer Center for Healing, we do various tests and diagnostics to determine which therapies are best for each person on a case-by-case basis.

Each cancer is different, and each person is unique, so the optimal multipronged approach provides the optimal chance of success.

In addition to targeting the specific cancer cells, our holistic approach addresses underlying factors: what caused the cancer, what continues to “feed” the cancer, and how we can bolster the body’s defenses and improve immune function. Again, the total-body approach of integrative medicine is essential to cancer treatment.

Consider out-of-the-box modalities

As an integrative cancer practitioner, I have the benefit of using treatment options outside the realm of conventional medicine. This approach allows me to blend the best of integrative and conventional medicine, giving patients the best chance of healing.

Again, your treatment course will be specific to your cancer type and your individual needs. There are, however, a handful of modalities we’ve had great success with at the clinics for patients with breast and other types of cancer.

Low-dose chemotherapy. Low-dose chemotherapy, also known as fractionated chemotherapy with a bio response modifier (FCBRM), is an incredibly effective and safe form of chemotherapy used to shrink tumor masses. Developed in the 1930s, this treatment option has been used by integrative cancer practitioners since 1946, and multiple studies have proven its effectiveness.

FCBRM differs from traditional chemotherapy in several ways. First, it involves the IV administration of the hormone insulin along with various anticancer agents. Because cancer cells have 16 times more insulin receptors on their surface than regular cells, the insulin acts as a Trojan horse escorting the chemo drugs and other anticancer agents into the malignant cells.

The insulin also prompts the cancer cells to divide more rapidly, making them more susceptible to treatment. Delivering the treatment right to the cancerous cells allows use of a lower dose of chemo (10–25 percent of the typical dose).

Chemotherapy drugs are notorious for their side effects, including hair loss, nausea and fatigue. But patients who receive low-dose chemo can often sidestep or significantly mitigate these adverse effects. They report better quality of life without compromised treatment results.

Multiple cancers, including breast cancer, respond well to this treatment in most cases.

Repurposed drugs. Repurposed drugs are older drugs that have been around for a while that we now use to treat other conditions. For breast cancer, one drug we rely on in a modified capacity is Metformin.

Traditionally a diabetes drug, Metformin shuts down the sugar supply that cancer cells thrive on. Depending on a patient’s bloodwork and individualized needs, several other drugs can also be utilized. Talk to your doctor about what is ideal for you.

IV mistletoe. Used for nearly a century as an alternative medicine, the liquid extract of mistletoe successfully treats not only cancer but the side effects of traditional cancer therapies.

It stimulates the immune system by increasing and activating immune cell activity and promoting cancer cell death. It also protects normal, healthy cells from the damaging side effects of chemotherapy.

In a small yet promising study published earlier this year, researchers from the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center gave 600 mg of IV mistletoe extract to 21 patients with “advanced and treatment-resistant cancers of various types” three times per week.2

After several months, the cancer had not advanced in five patients, and tumors had shrunk in three of them. All the patients reported better quality of life.

We have excellent success with this therapy at our clinics and do not doubt that more extensive, larger studies will bear out the efficacy and safety of mistletoe as both an adjunct and frontline cancer therapy.

High-dose IV vitamin C. Vitamin C is a powerhouse for immune function, but our bodies can’t absorb enough of it through digestion to kill cancer cells. Dr Linus Pauling and Dr Ewan Cameron were the first to publish clinical trials showing that 10 g of IV vitamin C increased survival rates in patients with cancer.

Today researchers and pioneers in the field, such as Dr Mark Levine, are showing that even higher doses may be necessary to raise blood plasma levels of vitamin C to cancer-fighting levels. High doses infused intravenously bypass the digestive system entirely and go directly into the bloodstream.

They have a pro-oxidant effect, meaning they react with the oxygen in cancer cells and create hydrogen peroxide, which leads to apoptosis (cell death) of the malignant cells.3 Patients respond well to this treatment with few to no side effects, and research continues to emerge regarding the efficacy of this vital therapy.

Think about prevention

As is the case with any disease, prevention is the best medicine. Taking steps now to prevent problems later is an excellent way to stack the odds in your favor. Learn about the most common causes of breast cancer and how you can eliminate or avoid them. It’s crucial to reduce your exposure to potential carcinogens post-treatment as you continue your healing journey.

One of the biggest contributing factors to breast cancer (and most types of cancer) is oxidative stress (see ‘Causes of oxidative stress,’ below). Simply put, the cellular balance in the body is disrupted by too many harmful free radicals and insufficient antioxidants to “mop them up.” Over time, this excess leads to cellular damage, which can trigger cancer and other chronic diseases.

You can start working on these things on your own or with an integrative physician.

Balance your pH levels

The body strives to maintain a state of homeostasis, or balance, at all times. Disruption of this equilibrium can lead to cancer and other chronic diseases.

Part of this balance can be measured by pH levels in the blood. Our goal is to be in a slightly alkaline state—7.43, to be exact. Drinking water that’s slightly alkalinized like your blood can be beneficial, but many of my patients reap even more rewards from hydrogen water.

Molecular hydrogen boasts several impressive benefits. A powerful antioxidant, hydrogen excels at mopping up free radicals and dampening the flames of inflammation. Clinical trials have shown these effects of regularly drinking hydrogen-rich water:

  • Improved cognitive function and brain health
  • Boosted energy levels
  • Better body composition
  • Faster recovery times
  • Enhanced immune function
  • Anti-aging support
  • Better skin
  • Increased metabolism

Several studies have also suggested molecular hydrogen (H2) has anticancer properties. Just last year, in a review of 27 studies and articles, researchers concluded, “H2 plays a promising therapeutic role as an independent therapy as well as an adjuvant in combination therapy, resulting in an overall improvement in survivability, quality of life, blood parameters and tumor reduction.”4

Because hydrogen water has been shown to inhibit cancer cell division, induce cancer cell death and possess anti-tumoral effects, anyone with cancer or chronic disease should add it to their daily arsenal.

Eat foods that fight cancer

It’s no secret that food can be medicine. In general, we recommend patients with breast and other cancers eat a modified keto diet that is low in carbohydrates and rich in healthy fats, nutrient-dense produce and quality organic protein. Here’s a cheat sheet of good options.

Animal protein. Look for clean animal protein sources that are organic, hormone- and antibiotic-free, and free-range. The best are organ meats, poultry, small wild-caught fish, organic eggs, lean red meat and bone broths.

Organic vegetables. Load up on organic and non-starchy vegetables, particularly cruciferous veggies like broccoli, brussels sprouts and cauliflower. Other great options are asparagus, artichokes, bean sprouts, beets, bok choy, cabbage, celery, greens, cucumbers, garlic, green beans, kale, leeks, lettuce, onions, radishes, scallions, sea vegetables, shallots, spinach, sprouts, watercress and zucchini (courgettes).

Depending on your dietary goals and restrictions, talk to your doctor about whether these nightshades and higher-sugar veggies are okay for you: beets, bell peppers, eggplant, mushrooms, parsnips, squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, tomatoes and yucca.

 Low-glycemic, organic fruits. Eat plenty of low-sugar fruits, like avocados, berries, lemons and limes.

Healthy fats. Healthy fats and oils contain essential fatty acids that maintain healthy cells and reduce inflammation. Good options include organic olive, hemp, walnut, avocado, coconut and Malaysian red palm oils.

Likewise, try almonds, walnuts, cashews and macadamia nuts. (Avocados, also listed as fruits, have wonderful healthy fats.)

Avoid foods that fuel cancer

On the flip side, try to avoid foods that trigger allergies and inflammation. An elimination diet or allergy testing can help you identify problems, but these are some of the most common triggers:

  • Dairy products
  • Wheat
  • Corn
  • Sugar
  • Soy
  • Conventional eggs
  • Peanuts

Avoid fried and grilled foods, which can contain carcinogens. Instead, broil, bake, sauté or steam your food. Also cut out genetically modified (GMO) items. In my experience, most people don’t tolerate them well.

A word of hope

If you or someone you love is facing a breast cancer diagnosis, know this: you are not alone and you have options. Partner with your personal team of cheerleaders, find an integrative physician who will embrace the full spectrum of treatment options and never, ever give up hope. Your healing journey is just beginning.

Causes of oxidative stress

These are some of the most common causes of oxidative stress:

  • Chronic stress and unresolved emotional trauma
  • Tobacco use
  • Prolonged infections in the gut or mouth
  • Poor sleep hygiene
  • Exposure to radiation, including electromagnetic fields (EMFs)
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Environmental toxins
  • Viruses, fungi, mold and parasites
  • Poor gut health or a disrupted microbiome
  • Excess fat around the midsection and organs (visceral adiposity)
  • Sedentary lifestyle/too little exercise

Discussing diagnostics

It is nearly impossible to write an article about breast cancer without discussing diagnostics, and the darling of conventional medicine for breast cancer is mammography. Though the idea has been around for nearly 100 years, mammograms were not officially recommended by the American Cancer Society until 1976.1

These x-ray exams of the breast are recommended regularly for women over age 45. The problem is that they are not all that accurate and come with a host of risks.

They can cause pain and trauma, rupture breast implants and expose patients to unnecessary radiation. Worse, they are notorious for false positives and missed cancers in women with dense breast tissues.

In a groundbreaking study published in The Lancet, researchers noted, “About 5 percent of screening mammograms are positive or suspicious, and of these, 80–93 percent are false positives that cause much unnecessary anxiety and further procedures, including surgery.”2

Why put women at risk when safer options exist? One diagnostic tool we use regularly is ultrasound. A practical non-radiation option, ultrasound looks for lumps and bumps in the breast and is quick and painless. A good self-exam each month goes a long way toward early detection as well.

We also use thermography, an infrared imaging technology, to study vascular patterns in the breast and heat that may indicate cancer. Thermography is a valuable tool for highlighting abnormalities in the breast tissue and monitoring patients during treatment (see below for how to find a provider near you).

A new and exciting tool that I think will change the way we diagnose breast cancer is quantitative transmission (QT) ultrasound. QT imaging is an innovative, safe, painless and FDA-approved technology that uses sound waves to create a 3D reconstruction of the breast without compression or radiation.

With 40 times the resolution of an MRI, QT imaging has the potential to replace mammograms and other diagnostic tools with a single simple, painless test. We’re bringing this innovative solution into our clinic very soon, but be on the lookout for it to spread like wildfire. It’s destined to change the way we screen for breast cancer.

How to find a thermography provider

Here are some resources for finding a thermography provider near you along with some individual providers. There currently doesn’t appear to be a UK organization with a directory of different medical thermography providers, which is why we’ve listed specific companies for the UK.


American College of Clinical Thermology
The ACCT website has a members directory you can search to find an approved thermography clinic near you.

American Academy of Thermology
This website includes a ZIP code search function to find a member near you.

Eagle Institute for Clinical Thermography
Here you’ll find a wealth of information on thermography as well as an up-to-date list of thermography centers in the US and other locations around the world.


Medical Thermography
Based in Liverpool, Medical Thermography UK has 32 clinic locations across England and Wales, and you can search for a clinic near you on the website.

The Natural Doctor
The Natural Doctor, founded by leading integrative medicine physician and WDDTY editorial panel member Dr Nyjon Eccles, offers Thermocheck® breast thermography at its London clinic.

A member of the International Association of Certified Thermographers (IACT), ThermaVue offers breast thermography at the Forest Foot and Health Clinic in Southampton.



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Main references
  1. Breast Cancer Research Foundation, “Breast Cancer Statistics and Resources,” 2024,
  2. Cancer Res Commun, 2023; 3(2): 338–346
  3. Adv Nutr, 2011; 2(2): 78–88
  4. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev, 2023; 24(1): 37–47
'Discussing diagnostics' references
  1. J Womens Health (Larchmt), 2019; 28(6): 820–826
  2. Lancet, 1995; 346(8966): 29–32
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