MIAMI (CBSMiami) - They are rituals that are five thousand years old; the healing power of oil, touch and spices.
Practices now enlisted into a modern-day war against breast cancer.
An epidemic that one of the nation's leading experts, Dr. Christine Horner, said has left many women feeling terrorized and helpless.
"(It is like) a game of Russian roulette," said Horner. "Like what year is it going to get me?"
It's a question San Diego base Horner is asked night after night as she travels the county. Recently she was the featured guest at a "girls night out" cocktail party that featured talk that might save lives.
Dr. Horner recently sat down with CBS 4 Chief Investigator Michele Gillen.
"When I was a plastic surgeon, I did a lot of reconstructive surgery and the thing that really alarmed me was that my patients were getting younger and younger until finally I was doing women in their 20's," said Horner.
The women had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
"I thought oh my God, you know something is seriously wrong with this, so that's when I went through the medical research to see if there was anything to help lower their risk," said Horner.
What Horner found changed her life and has catapulted her on a journey to help women prevent getting breast cancer.
"I found thousands of studies that show exactly why we have a cancer epidemic and all the things that we're doing that are causing it and contributing to it and the things that we traditionally don't do in this culture that are highly protective," said Horner. "They are all natural. Food, supplements, herbs, lifestyle choices, all the things I was taught in my medical training, didn't matter. They lied to me"
Horner believes studies now offer ample evidence that lifestyle, and choices you make, can affect your vulnerability to getting breast cancer.
Keep in mind, in the war against breast cancer she's a rebel. It was Horner's outrage and fight which are credited with getting the nation's insurance companies to pay for reconstructive surgery following mastectomies. They had argued it wasn't necessary to rebuild a breast.
"It was an incredible nightmare. In fact I got a letter that said they would not pay for breast reconstructive surgery for my 32-year old patient because it was on an organ with no function," said Horner.
"I said you just said that to the wrong person. So I organized a national campaign to make it mandatory to make insurance companies pay for breast reconstructive surgery after a mastectomy," said Horner.
Sixteen years later she's engaged in a mission to help women go on the offensive against breast cancer. As she puts it, wake up your warrior goddess.
The research and quest for answers led her to the world of Ayurveda. A centuries old system of medicine from India where paying attention to the body, taking time to heal it, and rituals such as massage, cleansing and detox are priorities.
"The thing that makes it different than a normal massage is that they use two technicians and the technicians use synchronized motions on both sides of your body and what it does is causes the hemispheres of the brain to synchronize which is what happens when you meditate," explained Horner who added, "There are 500 studies that show meditation is good for anxiety and stress. It puts you in this really relaxed state and the movements are designed to get the toxins out of your body."
On the food front it's back to the future. An ancient spice like turmeric shows may have anti-cancer properties.
"When we went that road most people said there's no research on it and do you know that the India spice turmeric has 6,500 studies in the medical research now studied extensively," said Horner.
Her list of ingredients she believes can promote the growth of cancer cells?
"Most of the things that we know of that are bad for us," said Horner.
She said women should pay attention to studies that show a plant-based diet is linked to preventing breast cancer.
"People who mostly eat a plant-based diet have extremely low instances of developing breast cancer so we have science on both sides of that," she shared.
But she said studies show that the most toxic additive is a toxic relationship and that feeling loved and supported helps the body stave off disease.
"If we are in toxic relationships it's the worst thing possible for us and has extreme damage," said Horner. "With my breast cancer patients, I tell them this is your time to be ruthless. You do not allow anyone in your life that is not loving and supportive. You've got seven billion people on the planet, you have choices."
She also pushes the importance of making healthy choices in an effort to counter chemicals and outside triggers we can't control and are exposed to daily
"I think there are over 100,000 chemicals registered under the FDA and so many of them haven't been tested for safety. Those that have are potential carcinogens and toxins, so that's one of the reasons that I always advocate organic, non-toxic products," said Horner.
Her number one reminder: The best place to fortify your body is your bed through sleep.
"Going to sleep by 10 p.m. infuses your system in way that can remove symptoms of menopause," said Horner.
The quest is to go on the offensive against disease.
At the end of the day, it's very personal for Horner. Before her journey into the world of prevention, she couldn't save the woman closest to her.
"My mom had breast cancer. Early on she was doing very well until they found cancer on the opposite breast. It metastasized to a bone in her leg and she gave up and didn't want to live. She died nine months later and that completely rocked my world because I was the spokesperson for the American Cancer Society on breast cancer issues and I was told to say we don't know what causes breast cancer, we have no known cure and the best thing that women can do are breast exams and mammogram's in hopes of finding it early," said Horner. "It didn't work for my mom and that was a huge forest in the looking for the answers."
Answers that set her on the path to offer other women a range of tools and knowledge so they could awaken their warrior goddess and maximize their health.
"I think what you're trying to say is that these are not things that should be looked at as luxuries, they are now life-saving," said Gillen.
Horner couldn't agree more.
"Exactly. It is no longer an option, you must do it in order to be healthy," said Horner.
For more details on the techniques, tools and locations featured in this story go to drchristinehorner.com.
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