Meet Dr. Donnica Video Introduction TV Appearances

Diseases & Conditions Today on DrDonnica.com Clinical Trials Decisionnaires FAQs Top Tips Fast Facts Debunking Myths News Alerts Celebrity Speak Out Guest Experts Women's Health Champions Books Women's Health Resources

Mission Privacy Policy Sponsors Press Room What's New? Contact Us

This website is accredited by Health On the Net Foundation. Click to verify. We comply with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information: verify here.


Hope Award

Send to a Friend

Melina Kanakaredes Prescribes Breast Cancer Awareness

By Adele Slaughter, Spotlight Health
With medical adviser Stephen A. Shoop, M.D.

September 30, 2002 - As Dr. Sydney Hansen on Providence , Melina Kanakaredes returned home to find meaning in life caring for those less fortunate. As a wife, mother, and daughter she hopes all women will find providence when it comes to breast cancer.

"October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month," says Kanakaredes. "I'm excited to be the spokesperson for Lee National Denim Day this year because I just went through the whole process with a good friend of mine -- Katina Antonopoulos -- who found a lump in her breast."

For the sixth year, Lee Jeans is sponsoring the nationwide fundraiser to help support breast cancer research, education, screening, and treatment programs.

"We're asking everybody to wear jeans to work on October 4th and donate five dollars to the cause," explains Kanakaredes. "It's basically a way to get companies, organizations, and clubs to have fun and raise money. Every penny goes to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, which started here in the United States as a grass roots organization, and in the last two years they have opened offices all over the world."

"I heard a scary statistic -- every three minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer," says Kanakaredes. "The good news is, because of new medical procedures and organizations like Susan G. Komen, around 80% of women with breast cancer are being cured or going into remission."

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), each year over 192,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer.

Katina, who was diagnosed with breast cancer almost two years ago, was one of the lucky survivors.

"They were able to give her a lumpectomy and do the whole process of radiation as opposed to chemotherapy, and now she's on a drug called tamoxifen (Nolvadex) for the next five years," says Kanakaredes.

Just do it

Although a family history of breast cancer increases a woman's risk, most new cases occur in patients with no family history.

"Katina had no history of breast cancer in her family," says Kanakaredes. "Doing self-exams saved her life. And it's really easy. You just stick that little card in the shower and do a self-exam once a month."

While lack of education and fear prevent many women from taking the necessary actions to prevent this disease, nine out of ten women have benign breast conditions, such as cysts.

But for those women whose conditions are not benign, doctors agree that three important steps increase the chances of an early diagnosis. They include:

  • performing monthly self breast exams
  • having an annual breast exam by a doctor or nurse
  • beginning regular mammograms at the age of

Although far more commonly mammograms detect breast tumors before they can be felt, Katina's case was different.

"Self-exams basically saved Katina's life because the lump didn't show up on her mammogram," says Kanakaredes. "It was one of those weird flukes where she felt it before they could see it, and then of course they saw it with the sonogram, but it was already two centimeters."

A sonogram, or ultrasound, is often done after a tumor is detected to see if it is solid or hollow (a cyst), and sometimes to guide a needle biopsy.

Hormone connection

Recent studies have begun to explore the connection between hormone production and breast cancer.

"I believe that breast cancer in most people is a preventable disease and a big part of it, but not the whole thing, is hormone balance," says Dr. Rebecca Glaser, breast cancer surgeon, Dayton Alliance Cancer Center Ohio. "We know that some estrogens are stimulatory to the breast tissue, like estradiol and estrone. We also know that an estrogen like estriol is not stimulatory to the breast tissue and actually is protective. Estriol is a natural hormone that women make."

"The problem with breast cancer is that as it forms, it signals the immune system to fight it and the immune system gets subverted and produces very high levels of estrogen," says Dr. David Zava, Director ZRT Laboratory.

High levels of estrogen within the confines of the tumor lead to:

  • Proliferation of cancer cells
  • Inhibition of natural killer cells
  • Stimulation of blood vessels which feed the tumor

Using saliva-testing, Zava found that women just diagnosed with breast cancer often have a distinct hormone profile that is rare in the average population. These women tend to have high estradiol, low progesterone, high testosterone, with low DHEA and high night cortisol, both of which are hormones produced by the adrenal glands.

Today physicians are increasingly prescribing natural hormones for their breast cancer patients and seeing less recurrence and fewer new cases.

Natural hormones differ from synthetic hormones in that they are bio-identical meaning they are made to be exact in structure and function to those the body produces naturally. These may include:

  • Estradiol and estriol cream or supplements
  • Progesterone and testosterone cream
  • DHEA supplements
  • Cortisol supplements

Nature's way

"Natural progesterone in combination with natural estrogens plays a role in preventing the biochemical steps that lead to the initiation of breast cancer," says Zava, a biochemist specializing in the endocrinology of cancer. "Studies have shown that topical progesterone cream applied to breast tissue actually slowed the growth of breast cells."

"Balancing hormones naturally is also a key to preventing depression, weight gain, fluid retention, and heart disease," says Glaser. "It's not just about breast cancer."

"The problem with synthetic hormones is that they don't fit in all the locks that natural progesterone does," says Zava. "It works in the uterus, preventing the overgrowth of uterine lining, but it doesn't work in the brain or the cardiovascular system, and actually increases the risk of breast cancer."

Currently, Zava and Glaser are running a study to look at hormonal imbalances of women with breast cancer. They believe that restoring the balance between estrogen and progesterone before surgery will have a positive effect on survival rates.

"Although I have no breast cancer in my family, my husband's family has history of breast cancer, and now that I have a little girl, I am thinking more seriously about our future," says Kanakaredes.

As destiny would have it, Lee National Denim Day coincides with the October 4th premiere of Providence.

"It is a great thing to be a part of Lee National Denim Day, not only to raise money, but to get the information out there to help women become aware of taking their own health care seriously," says Kanakaredes. "And every penny of your donation goes to help the foundation and some of the strongest people I have ever met are the women who have survived this disease."

"Take care of yourself," concludes Kanakaredes. "Do whatever you can to take care of yourself."

For more information about breast cancer, click here.

Spotlight Health is the leading creator of celebrity-featured health-issue awareness campaigns, connecting consumers with impassioned celebrities whose personal health battles can open eyes, dispel myths and change lives. Spotlight Health helps sufferers and caregivers meet the challenges of difficult health circumstances with understandable, in-depth medical information, compassionate support and the inspiration needed to make informed healthcare choices.

Created: 10/30/2002  -  Adele Slaughter and Stephen A. Shoop, M.

All the content contained herein is copyrighted pursuant to federal law. Duplication or use without
the express written permission of DrDonnica.com subjects the violator to both civil & criminal penalties.
Copyright © 2006 DrDonnica.com. All rights reserved.

Home | Today on DrDonnica.com | Meet Dr. Donnica | TV Appearances | Clinical Trials
Diseases & Conditions | Decisionnaires | Celebrity Speak Out | Guest Experts | Women's Health Champions
FAQs | Women’s Health Resources | Archive | Books & Tapes | Site Certification | Advanced Search
Mission | What’s New? | Press Room | Privacy Policy | Sponsors | Partners | Contact Us