Interview with Beth DuPree, MD, Breast Cancer Surgeon and Author

Beth DuPree, a breast cancer expert and author, finds a balance between new medical technology like digital mammograms, and alternative therapies that can help beat breast cancer.

By Bari Nan Cohen
You don’t have to prove to me that the mind/body/spirit connection is so incredibly powerful, but in Western medicine we have spent so much money on research of the physical body. We have done a little bit of research on the mental. How stress and positive attitudes make a difference on outcome. We have done so little to look at the absolute overall benefit from our spiritual practices. I would love to do a breast cancer prevention trial looking at a group of high-risk women and get them into decreased stress, decreased risk type behaviors. Meaning following them to make sure they are exercising at least three hours a week because we know that decreases the risk of breast cancer by 20 percent.MORE: Wow.DuPree: I give talks to women, and they are afraid of breast cancer. And I’m looking around the room and thinking, there is not a woman in this room who can’t shed 50 pounds. And yet they’re worried about breast cancer. Yeah, they’re at higher risk to get it because they’ve got the extra fat; they’ve got extra circulating estrogen. When you talk about where research needs to go, prevention is a huge part of all of it. I think we need to look at ourselves as a society, as a group of women, and empower each other to get breast cancer to go away. I mean to get it to go back to where it was before where it wasn’t affecting one in eight women. Let’s go back to when it was one in 25 or one in 50. I would love to put me out of business. I’ve got plenty of things I can do with my days. One of the reasons why I love the book I wrote, and one of the reasons why I do the speaking that I do, is that I think empowering women to find their voice and take charge of their lives again is one of the best things we can do to prevent cancer. Don’t make the excuses of no-time-to-exercise or de-stress. My stress reducer? I dig in the dirt. I go to my garden, I plant my vegetables, I pull my weeds. In summer I don’t have to work out in the gym because my body is so sore from doing squats and pulling weeds. MORE: So would you advise women to experiment a little and find the de-stressing thing for them as a preventive measure?DuPree: We each need to do something that reduces our stress level. Someone sent me a great e-mail the other day that said if you pick up a glass of water, and you hold it in your hand for an hour, [your hand is] okay. If you hold it for four hours, it starts to get sore. You hold it for a day, you’re really in spasm. If you hold on to it for a week, you’re gonna end up in the hospital because you are going to be frozen, and you’re not going to be able to move. If that glass of water is the stress that you have in your life, if you hold on to it so tightly, it [can] paralyze the rest of your life because you can’t let it go. And don’t put it off.My sister, she has always loved art but she goes, ‘I’ll paint when I retire.’ Why would you wait until the end of your life to do something that really fuels your passion? We lack passion anymore. We lack passion in our relationships; we lack passion in our jobs. I love what I do. I love going to work. I was just in a business meeting with a bunch of guys who are investing in a hospital we’re building. So I am sitting with these guys at the table and they’re saying, ‘You know you’re so spiritual, and you’re so passionate.’ And I’m thinking, do you go to work just to get a paycheck? Is that what your life is about? Is that what our lives have become about? Are we so caught up in getting the stuff in life that we forget to love what we do? So whether your passion is found in yoga, in gardening, in cooking — some women find passion in cooking and providing for their families. Hello, that’s my mother. She is 81 years old. There is nothing that makes her happier and more passionate than preparing a meal for her family. She is in heaven when she is preparing a meal for her family. Women can be passionate about being homemakers, and we’ve kind of made that a dirty word. It doesn’t matter what it is. But we’ve stopped really promoting and embracing passion, and it’s sad. If you could prove with a clinical study that going back to a lifestyle that is less stressful and more fulfilling would decrease your risk of breast cancer, then we could save a whole lot of money on very toxic drugs.

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