October is breast cancer awareness month—and we're kicking it off with a new series we think you're going to love. We’ll be regularly partnering with the world's top experts in health & wellness to support your mission on living the healthiest life possible.
As Doctors in Residence, our contributors will be sharing expert knowledge that you won't find anywhere else. From gut health to breast health, we're bringing you topics that matter from experts who know.
Dr. Funk is the go-to breast health expert for Good Morning America, The Doctors, and several other programs. You may also know her as the doctor who performed Angelina Jolie's preventive double mastectomy and the bestselling author of Breasts, The Owner’s Manual.
We met with Dr. Kristi Funk 1:1 on the importance of being proactive and taking action for proper breast health. Let’s dive in.
Us: What drove you to write your book on breast cancer?
Dr. Funk: Having co-founded the Pink Lotus Breast Center, I was a successful surgeon in my own thriving environment. While I could have continued on in my career in that same fashion, I wanted to be able to reach more women than I could see personally in my own office. Most importantly, I had massive amounts of information to share with both newly diagnosed women about their treatment options and recurrence reduction strategies, and also with those simply concerned about optimizing breast health through nutrition and lifestyle and proper screening. Hence, the book was born out of a desire to provide an evidence-based resource for all women everywhere – with or without breasts.
Us: Let’s back up and really clarify—what is breast health?
Dr. Funk: Ha! What a great question... Breast health requires a conscious effort to prioritize a diet and lifestyle that science has shown creates an anticancer cell microenvironment – i.e., the fluids bathing your breast cells must eliminate all of the requirements for cancer to flourish. Breast health cannot be extrapolated from total body health. What nourishes and protects the breast would do so for all cells in the body.
Us: Are there ways I can lower my risk of getting breast cancer?
Dr. Funk: Absolutely! The four biggest controllable boulders on the scale tipping toward or away from cancer are: nutrition, weight, exercise, and alcohol consumption. Other factors amounting to pebbles or grains of sand can certainly tip the scales, but nothing will budge if one of the four boulders already exists. Pebbles include emotional stress, environmental toxicities, and taking hormone replacement therapy.
Us: What’s the top myth (or myths) on why women get breast cancer?
Dr. Funk: Without a doubt, the top myth is that women get breast cancer because it “runs in the family”. 87 percent of women with breast cancer do not have a first degree relative with cancer! Only 5 to 10 percent of all breast cancer can be attributed to an inherited gene mutation such as BRCA. If you are a woman, and you continue to age as years go by, then you are at risk for this killer disease.
Us: How much does nutrition play a role in cancer?
Dr. Funk: Every time you lift fork to mouth, you are making a nutritional chess move in the game called, Health. In the most comprehensive study of human nutrition ever conducted in the history of science, the China Study, the authors observed that nutrition is infinitely more important in controlling cancer growth than the dose of the initiating carcinogen. In other words, nutrition creates the soil into which a malignant seed must plant and flourish, but if that soil is inhospitable to cancer, the seed will wither and die. The condition of the soil supersedes whatever it was that transformed a normal cell into a cancerous one in the first place. So, what's in your soil?
Us: Do antioxidants help to ward off breast cancer?
Dr. Funk: Oh yes. Cancer thrives on a battlefield of oxidative stress, a condition whereby free radicals abound and cause ravaging cell damage. It is the mighty antioxidant that halts this cascade of inflammation and cell injury, restoring balance and wellness to the body. It happens all day long, by the way – for example, every meal is a catabolic process, so the more antioxidants you pile onto any given entrée, the more nutritional armor your breast cells can wear in the battle. (Find powerful antioxidants in Vejo’s Matcha Latte.)
Us: Rumor around Vejo offices is that you’re partnering us to form a blend–anything you can say about that yet?
Dr. Funk: I've spent years researching what science has to say about which antioxidant-rich foods release molecules that can scavenge free radicals, eliminate carcinogens we consume and encounter, prevent and repair DNA damage, identify and destroy harmful cells in our bodies, inhibit new blood supply required by tumors to grow, stimulate the immune system, regulate hormone metabolism, and reduce inflammation. I thought, “What if we put all of that into a Vejo pod and people drink it?”
Us: If I am faced with a diagnosis, how do I make informed medical choices?
Dr. Funk: You need to gather a medical family around you (true, one that you never wanted) comprised of doctors whom you trust, and who present your options and then invite you to be part of the conversation regarding your own cancer journey. Honestly, this question harkens back to when you asked me about why I wrote my book. I have seen so many women in second or third opinions and I have been silently stunned by how little they understood. I had to wonder what they had been told prior to seeing me. Now, to be fair, many patients are understandably reeling after a cancer diagnosis and those first few days make it nearly impossible to listen and retain information. Nevertheless, I knew that having Chapter 9 in BREASTS: The Owner’s Manual in between women’s two hands, would at least make me feel better that every woman diagnosed has the opportunity to have a clear explanation of her situation and choices.
Us: What story inspires you the most in our chances of finding a cure to breast cancer?
Dr. Funk: In my opinion, there will never be a cure. But I can envision a world in which cancer has so little opportunity to thrive, that it decides to go seek life on other planets. The cancer-free world I see is covered in edible plants bursting from nutrient-rich soil, with picture-perfect predictable seasons, and without animals in captivity for consumption. If you show me that world, you will not be able to show me cancer.
Us: Anything else we should know?
Dr. Funk: I think love and forgiveness are all too often unrecognized requirements for a healthy, purposeful, joyful life.