by Nykole Sargent, BUS Cellular and Molecular Biology, Utah, USA
I have spent the last 8 years studying health sciences, biotechnology, genetics, and molecular biology, and the last 5 years studying esoteric medicine. BRCA1 mutations have been gaining momentum in the press, and I feel to write about it from a scientific / medical perspective, as well as a personal / esoteric healing perspective.
THE CONNECTION BETWEEN BREAST CANCER, BRCA1 AND GENE MUTATIONS
BRCA1 (1) is the name for a gene (a segment of DNA) that has been associated with the development of cancer in breast tissue; BRCA stands for BReast CAncer. It is estimated that 1 in 5,000 women carry a mutation in BRCA1 – this translates to 5-10% of breast cancer cases having a mutation. According to research, 50-80% of women with varying mutations in BRCA1 AND who have a family history (other women to whom they are related having breast cancer) will get cancer during their lifetime. The risk calculation depends on the location of the mutation in the gene, and the extent of family history the person is presenting with, hence the wide range. This means that 20-50% of the women who have the same BRCA1 mutations AND a family history will not get cancer during their lifetime. Women who have BRCA1 mutations but no family history and vice versa are at a lesser risk, determined by a genetic counsellor. However, many women who have breast cancer do not have BRCA1 mutations (90-95%). It is thought that there are other genes causing the disease that we have not discovered yet.
Science in general believes that by continually scanning the human genome they will find a genetic cause to every disease case. But I can say, as having worked on such projects, that this simply isn’t true. The cancer research community is spending billions every year scouring the genome of cancer patients with hope of such a discovery, but few have been made. This is not to say that research isn’t worthwhile – I think it means that the background causes are perhaps more complex than we like to admit and perhaps different in nearly every case. For example, the colon cancer experts I work with published a paper in 2010 with the first two sentences saying:
“Fewer than 5% of colon cancers arise in the presence of a clear hereditary cancer condition; however, current estimates suggest that an additional 15-25% of colorectal cancers arise on the basis of unknown inherited factors. The aim of this study is to identify additional genetic factors responsible for colon cancer.” (2)
The results of this study and subsequent research, which I have been involved with, still have not yielded any additional genes that are responsible for colon cancer. The conclusion of such endeavours is that the answer is missing or is bigger than our current technology can handle. Interestingly, some of our most prestigious genetic scientists wrote a paper titled “Finding the Missing Heritability of Complex Diseases” (3). Meaning they aren’t finding the answers where they think they ought to be. We have yet to consider that we might be looking in the wrong place, or with too narrow a scope.
BREAST SCREENING AND PREVENTING DISEASE
At the same time, medicine is putting effort into preventing diseases instead of retrospectively trying to cure them, which is a step in the right direction: albeit they are relying on genetics to determine who will get diseases and who won’t as part of a push for “personalized medicine”. For this reason women are screened for breast cancer by the age of 50. Women who have relatives that have had breast or ovarian cancer at around age 50 are encouraged to begin this process earlier, around the age of 40. Part of this screening includes a family history evaluation, and breast examinations. Women who have multiple relatives with breast or ovarian cancer are encouraged to undergo genetic testing for BRCA1/2 – if they can afford it. A negative result means that the woman has a “lesser risk” (20-30% chance) of developing breast/ovarian cancer. A positive result means that the woman is at “high risk” (60-70%) of developing breast cancer in her lifetime. This is great because many of the individuals who carry disease-causing gene mutations definitely do need greater attention when it comes to their health-care, and genetics can help guide these decisions.
When a test comes back positive the woman is informed about her health-care choices. One option is to have her breast tissue removed and thus prevent cancer from ever developing. Alternatively, she can enrol in an intense surveillance program in an effort to detect any cancers early. Or she can do nothing, which is not recommended. Most women opt for the first or second choice, which will significantly reduce their risk of developing breast cancer. But what does this choice mean in terms of healing?
USING ESOTERIC MEDICINE TO SUPPORT CONVENTIONAL MEDICINE
The philosophy of Esoteric Medicine states that the truest form of medicine, that is, the primary and foremost form of medicine, is in the way that we live on a daily basis. It is here we find the fundamental answer that science is desperately searching for – there is something missing in the way we are living.
I feel that having a double mastectomy only takes away the chance for the body to develop cancer in the breast tissue this lifetime. It alone does not address the momentum of choices that allowed the possibility of breast cancer in, that can still be lived out. This is a possible shortfall of conventional medicine – when cancer is seen to be caused by a gene and therefore can be prevented by cutting off that part of the body. From an esoteric understanding, disease is caused by an energy that is carried in the body and reinforced in every choice; removing body parts doesn’t necessarily change the energy that is there. The blog Western Medicine & Esoteric Medicine – One Surgeon’s perspective is great at explaining this. Yes, disease absolutely requires medical support to heal physically, but it is worth considering that the woman may require additional support if further healing is needed. This is where I have found the Esoteric Healing Modalities are extremely beneficial because they ask questions of us that we might otherwise never stop to consider on our own. I know that self-love was foreign to me before I began participating in Esoteric Healing courses.
I am all for treating and preventing cancers with modern medical techniques, without these we would be lost! I am here simply suggesting my own feeling that there is more to the disease to be looked at and healed along with medical intervention. A beautiful first-hand example is provided here: Breast Cancer: Knowing what I know now, I would definitely do things differently. The many facets of healing disease need discussion as it was, to my knowledge, never mentioned in the recent media coverage on this topic.
BREAST CANCER, OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH OURSELVES AS WOMEN, AND THE IMPORTANCE OF DEVELOPING SELF-CARE
I’m only 26 and have not had breast cancer. But I do know that developing and healing breast cancer is a very personal process. Women who have or are at risk of breast cancer are faced with a great deal of confronting choices, and I would say support in re-connecting to our body and learning self-care is an important part of this process. Therefore the case of Angelina Jolie is not one to be judged and condemned, nor idealised and championed. Instead, I see it as an opportunity to ask myself where I am in dealing with my own relationship with the possibility of breast cancer based on how I feel within myself. By living a truly self-nurturing life on a daily basis, honouring myself as a woman, connecting to my body and its needs, being aware of my choices and addressing any underlying hurts, I feel I am learning how to take responsibility for my part in health-care.
The medical information provided in this article was retrieved by personal communication with professional genetic counsellors and oncology doctors. It is highly recommended that any personal health concerns be addressed by your own trusted health professionals, and questions about personal genetics should be discussed with a genetic counsellor.
References (National Centre for Biotechnology Information):