Tag Archives: cancer

This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, take the hurt out of HRT

By Michelle Kretzer

Unless you’ve been studying penguins in Antarctica for the last few days, you’ve probably been bombarded by fluffy pink displays reminding you to buy up fluffy pink tchotchkes for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. But unless you’ve been studying them for the last few decades with no access to the Internet, you’re probably already aware of breast cancer. (And I’m sure that by now, even Antarctica is in possession of a pink doodad or two.)

As Breast Cancer Action asserted in its exposé of pinkwashing, “[I]f shopping could cure breast cancer, it would be cured by now.” Instead of spreading awareness of pink flip-flops, we should be spreading awareness of breast cancer risk factors and how to reduce them. But, unfortunately, prevention strategies don’t get enough attention.

Case in point: A just-released study about breast cancer and hormone replacement therapy (HRT)—the largest such study ever conducted—got appallingly little news coverage, even though researchers found that taking a combined progestogen and estrogen HRT pill tripled a woman’s risk of breast cancer.

The Institute of Cancer Research and Breast Cancer Now studied 100,000 women over 40 and concluded that those who took a combined estrogen and progestogen pill such as Prempro for approximately five years were 2.7 times as likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer as women who didn’t. Women who took the combined pill for 15 years or more increased their risk by 3.3 times. Fortunately, the risk began to fall once they stopped taking the pills.

We already know that Prempro’s sister drug, Premarin, is scary stuff. Researchers have linked its use to an increased risk of dementia, stroke and heart attack. Many women and physicians have shunned both drugs.

And there’s another reason why Premarin and Prempro will never occupy my medicine cabinet. Growing up in horse country, as I did in Kentucky, you develop a strong appreciation for these beautiful, intelligent, sensitive animals—a feeling that the manufacturers of Premarin and Prempro clearly don’t share.

Both drugs are made from pregnant mares’ urine. To obtain it, mares are repeatedly impregnated and then forced to wear rubber urine-collection bags at all times, which causes lesions on their skin. They’re confined to stalls so small that they can’t turn around or take more than a single step in any direction—and they’re denied sufficient drinking water so that their urine will yield more concentrated estrogen.

Some of the thousands of foals born on these farms each year are used to replace their exhausted mothers. Some are offered for adoption. The remaining foals are sold at auction, along with mares whose bodies are exhausted from the constant cycle of pregnancy and birth in abusive living conditions. Most are purchased for slaughter.

With my family history of breast cancer, I want to do everything I can to combat the disease, but I won’t be spending any money on pink-ribbon products or on dangerous, urine-derived drugs like Premarin or Prempro. When I hit menopause, I’ll feel confident asking my doctor about alternatives, such as HRTs made from plant-derived phytoestrogens.

Women deserve better than token pinkwashed “awareness” products, and we all deserve better than dangerous drugs that harm both animals and our health.

Mark your calendars! At Burncoat Senior High School June 17 – 18!

michelle
Go, Michelle, go!!!

Local Cancer Survivor Fights Back through Relay for Life Movement

More than 1.6 million people will be diagnosed with cancer this year, according to the American Cancer Society. For Michelle Roberge of Worcester that statistic became personal when she heard the words “you have cancer.”

Michelle was diagnosed with Stage 2 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, on Sept. 30, 2013 at the age of 34. The mother of 3 young boys, took her cancer diagnosis is stride. She continued to work throughout her 19 months of treatment. And now almost 3 years from her diagnosis she is cancer free.

Her mother and sisters started a Relay for Life team in her honor. Each year they collect money from area business and raffle of items that have been donated.

This year’s Relay for Life of Worcester will be held June 17 -18th at Burncoat Senior High School. Registration is open for survivors, participants and teams.

Visit relayforlife.org to learn more about the event.

All the proceeds from this event go to the American Cancer Society. They participate because they know that by raising funds and walking in the American Cancer Society Relay for Life event, they will help save lives from cancer. They want to make noise and help finish the fight!

The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2014, there were nearly 14.5 million cancer survivors in the US. Thousands of cancer survivors participate in American Cancer Society Relay for Life events each year. They, and their caregivers, take the first lap of every event as community members cheer them on and celebrate the progress that has been made against cancer.

The Relay for Life movement unites communities across the globe to celebrate people who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost, and take action to finish the fight once and for all. Relay for Life events are community gatherings where teams and individuals camp out at a school, park, or fairground and take turns walking or running around a track or path. Teams raise funds in the months leading up to the event.

The Relay for Life movement is the world’s largest fundraising event to fight every cancer in every community, with four million participants in 6,000 events worldwide in 2015.

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The American Cancer Society is a global grassroots force of 2.5 million volunteers saving lives and fighting for every birthday threatened by every cancer in every community. As the largest voluntary health organization, the Society’s efforts have contributed to a 22 percent decline in cancer death rates in the U.S. since 1991, and a 50 percent drop in smoking rates. Thanks in part to our progress; 14.5 million Americans who have had cancer and countless more who have avoided it will celebrate more birthdays this year. We’re determined to finish the fight against cancer. We’re finding cures as the nation’s largest private, not-for-profit investor in cancer research, ensuring people facing cancer have the help they need and continuing the fight for access to quality health care, lifesaving screenings, clean air, and more.

For more information, to get help, or to join the fight, call us anytime, day or night, at 1-800-227-2345

To win the war on cancer, dishonorably discharge tests on animals

By Dr. Frances Cheng
 
In the wake of multiple high-profile cancer-related deaths – including those of the vice president’s son Beau Biden, David Bowie, rock musician Lemmy Kilmister, Alan Rickman, and Celine Dion’s husband, René Angélil – President Barack Obama has established a White House task force on cancer, headed by Joe Biden, to “put ourselves on a path to achieve in just five years research and treatment gains that otherwise might take a decade or more.” 

The president’s commitment is welcome news to cancer patients and their families, but if we’re serious about achieving this vision, we must abandon ineffective tests on animals, which have hobbled cancer research since the War on Cancer was declared nearly half a century ago.
 
Almost 20 years ago, former National Cancer Institute (NCI) Director Dr. Richard Klausner stated, “We have cured mice of cancer for decades — and it simply didn’t work in humans.”
 
But tragically, researchers did not change course. We still don’t have effective treatments for many forms of cancer, and the mortality rate remains high. This lack of results has not been for lack of funds: The NCI had a research budget of more than $2 billion in 2014. Where have these resources gone?
 
About half of the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) $31 billion budget funds cruel — and often bizarre — experiments on animals that we’ve known for decades don’t lead to cures for humans. For instance, in federally funded experiments at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, monkeys’ testes were irradiated, and some of their testicular cells were then injected into mice whose testes had also been blasted with radiation. 

At St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, tumors grown in genetically modified mice were implanted in the brains of fish in a project funded by NIH. And in recent prostate cancer experiments at Colorado State University and North Carolina State University, dogs’ genitals were exposed to powerful radiation in an attempt to induce erectile dysfunction, which it did in some.

The dogs were then sexually manipulated in order to measure the functioning of the genitals and were then killed and dissected. Many of the dogs were killed just because of the highly toxic effects of the radiation. 
 
A recent paper by researchers at McMaster University examined the failure of cancer experiments on animals to apply to humans, concluding, “The power of the animal models to predict clinical efficacy is a matter of dispute due to weaknesses in faithfully mirroring the extremely complex process of human carcinogenesis. The vast majority of agents that are found to be successful in animal models do not pan out in human trials.”
 
Indeed, about 95 percent of experimental drugs deemed safe and effective in tests on animals fail in human trials because they don’t work or turn out to be dangerous. Cancer drugs have the highest failure rate of all disease categories, and the few that are ultimately approved often have marginal effectiveness and harmful side effects with symptoms arguably worse than the disease itself.
 
Both cancer patients and animals in laboratories are suffering while animal experimenters continue to throw public and private resources at a misguided and irrelevant research paradigm that has never worked and never will.
 
Thankfully, in its recently released five-year plan, NIH acknowledged that “animal models often fail to provide good ways to mimic disease or predict how drugs will work in humans, resulting in much wasted time and money while patients wait for therapies” and committed to a greater investment in “technologies that will be better than animal models.” These include three-dimensional cancer models – made from human cells – that can be used to test experimental drugs and high-tech miniature lungs- and other organs-on-chips that replicate fully functioning body systems, mimic human diseases, and allow researchers to test treatments more efficiently and effectively than by artificially inducing illnesses in animals of the wrong species. 

This technology is available and in use now, and adopting it more extensively will save millions of lives—both human and nonhuman. 
 
To win the war on cancer, it’s time to give tests on animals a dishonorable discharge.
 
Dr. Frances Cheng, a senior research associate with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), has a Ph.D. in physiology.

Bacon is “trending” now: Pass the carcinogens!

By Heather Moore
 
The meat-eating public’s general reaction — disbelief, denial and anger — to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) announcement that bacon and other processed meats cause cancer and that red meat, including beef, pork and lamb, is probably also carcinogenic, shows that meat is not just cancerous. It’s also addictive. Even after reading reports linking meat to colorectal cancer — which can cause diarrhea, rectal bleeding and abdominal pain and even be fatal — many meat-eaters are refusing to change their eating habits. Some even insist that they’d rather die than stop eating bacon. 
 
I think those people need to attend Meat and Dairy Eaters Anonymous meetings to help them kick their unhealthy addiction, or they may well get what they want.
Seriously. There are 12-step programs to help people kick their addictions to alcohol and cigarettes, and according to WHO, cured and processed meats belong in the same category. Kim Robien, a cancer epidemiologist at The George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, says the WHO report is “very legitimate” and confirms longstanding research showing that meat consumption raises one’s risk of cancer.
 
Just a few days after the WHO report first made headlines, scientists from Oxford University revealed that eating one steak per week increases one’s risk of colorectal cancer by more than two-fifths and that people who eat meat twice a week have an 18 percent higher risk compared with vegetarians.

Other studies have linked meat consumption to heart disease, diabetes, strokes and several other types of cancer.
 
And yet many people are still eating meat!
 
This may be because meat and other animal-based foods contain opiates and other drug-like chemicals that cause people to get “hooked” and keep craving more.

A recent study conducted at the University of Michigan and released by the U.S. National Library of Medicine indicates that the more processed and fatty a food is, the more likely it is to cause addictive eating behavior. Meat-eaters and vegans alike can agree that many vegan foods, such as strawberries, peaches and pasta with marinara sauce, are quite tasty, but they’re not chemically addictive.
 
Researchers identify addictive foods based on people’s responses to the Yale Food Addiction Scale questionnaire. Many people reportedly have a hard time controlling their intake of foods such as pizza, steak, bacon, cheeseburgers and ice cream. Cheese is thought to be especially addictive because the casein (milk protein) it contains releases opiates called casomorphins.
 
According to Dr. Neal Barnard, the author of Breaking the Food Seduction, it takes just three weeks to kick cravings for addictive foods like meat and cheese.

This explains why 21-day vegan programs are so popular—and effective. If you stopped eating addictive foods for three weeks, you’d crave them much less than you would if you had eaten them the previous day.
 
Giving meat and other animal-based foods the boot will reduce your risk of life-threatening illnesses and help animals at the same time.

Researchers have found that people who eat plant-based meals are between 25 and 50 percent less likely to get cancer, and each vegan spares more than 100 animals every year.
 
Bacon isn’t worth dying for — not for people and not for pigs. With so many tasty vegan foods to enjoy, kicking the meat habit is entirely possible. And it could save your life!
 

7 things you should know about pets and cancer

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How spoiled is my brat? #4 … Jett is often served breakfast in bed.

Cancer can strike anyone – including our pets.  But as scary as a cancer diagnosis may be, it’s not a death sentence for your dog or cat.

November is Pet Cancer Awareness Month and veterinarians are hoping to dispel some common myths and encourage pet owners to learn more about the serious subject of companion animals and cancer.

Many pets go on to live happy and fulfilling lives after undergoing treatment. That’s why it’s important to have your dog or cat regularly seen by a veterinarian and know the signs and symptoms of cancer.

Here are seven facts that all pet owners should know about cancer.

Cancer accounts for nearly 50 percent of all disease-related deaths each year for older pets.

Warning signs of cancer in pets are very similar to those in people, including:

persistent, abnormal swelling

sores that don’t heal

loss of weight and appetite

persistent lameness or stiffness

It’s important to remember that some signs may be hidden, which is why routine veterinary examinations every six months are recommended for older pets.

There are steps you can take to prevent cancer in pets. These include spaying or neutering, proper oral care, using sunblock on light-colored pets and avoiding exposure to cigarette smoke, which can lead to both lung and intestinal cancer.

Some cancers can be cured, and all patients can be helped to some degree with a proper treatment plan.

The same types of cancer treatments offered in human medicine are also available for pets. This includes surgery, radiation chemotherapy, immunotherapy or a combination thereof.

Pets don’t experience many of the debilitating side effects of cancer treatment that humans do.

In fact, 10 percent or fewer of dogs and cats experience chemo-related side effects.

Calling all Red Sox fans to join rally for the Jimmy Fund!

BOSTON – Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund launched the 2015 Rally for the Jimmy Fund presented by Next Step Living®, a chance for Boston Red Sox fans to “rally” in their workplaces and schools leading up to Fenway Park’s Opening Day April 13 to support adult and pediatric patient care and cancer research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Rally for the Jimmy Fund encourages co-workers, classmates, and friends to form Rally teams in which each member contributes $5 or more to the Jimmy Fund. In exchange, they can wear Boston Red Sox gear to work or school on Monday, April 13 when the Sox take on the Washington Nationals at Fenway Park in the home opener.

The top fundraising workplace and school (K-12, college, or university) will win a visit from a Boston Red Sox player this spring.  There will be another opportunity to win:  all teams that raise $5,000 or more (workplace or school) will be entered to win a visit from a Boston Red Sox player.

“We’re proud to support the Rally for the Jimmy Fund as we move closer to Opening Day,” said Geoff Chapin, CEO and founder of Next Step Living. “In the spirit of the cause, Next Step Living formed its own team and will be proud to sport our Red Sox attire in April. We encourage others to create their own rally teams to support cancer care and research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.”

“We’re honored to have the support of local Red Sox fans coming together to support Dana-Farber’s mission by participating in Rally for the Jimmy Fund,” said David Giagrando, assistant vice president, corporate partnerships at Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fund. “We’re looking for everyone to fundraise with us as we head toward Opening Day at Fenway Park and hope you will join us to hit this season ‘out of the park’ for the Jimmy Fund.”

Since 2006, Rally for the Jimmy Fund has raised more than $4 million to support adult and pediatric patient care and cancer research at Dana-Farber. To start or join a Rally team or to learn more, please visit www.RallyForTheJimmyFund.org.

The Jimmy Fund (www.JimmyFund.org) solely supports Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, raising funds for adult and pediatric cancer care and research to improve the chances of survival for cancer patients around the world. It is an official charity of the Boston Red Sox, as well as the official charity of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, the Pan-Mass Challenge, and the Variety Children’s Charity of New England. Since 1948, the generosity of millions of people has helped the Jimmy Fund save countless lives and reduce the burden of cancer for patients and families worldwide.

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute launches video series for patients and survivors

The series is called ‘Eating Well During Cancer’

BOSTON –– March is National Nutrition Month and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute has created a Web-based video series that explores how diet can help support health and wellbeing during and after cancer treatment.

Eating Well During Cancer features Dana-Farber nutrition specialist Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN, who hosts this six episode series. Topics include managing chemo-related side effects through diet, good foods to eat and foods to avoid during treatmentstrategies for maintaining a healthy weight, and why getting vitamins and nutrients from food is generally better than from supplements.

“We know that eating well can be a challenge during cancer treatment,” says Kennedy, “but it’s so important and can have a very strong impact on everything, from helping to increase your energy level, to supporting your immune system, and managing side effects from treatment.”

The series also features tips for meal planning, recipes with video demonstrations, and answers to questions posed to Dana-Farber nutritionists by patients during and after their cancer treatment.

Five things parents of children with cancer should know

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and Lisa Diller, MD, chief medical officer of Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, advises parents to remain positive if their child is among the 12,000 children in the United States diagnosed with cancer each year. Thanks to advances in research and treatment, the five-year survival rate is 83 percent for all childhood cancers combined, up from 58 percent in the mid-1970s.

1. Although many signs and symptoms of cancer – fever, bruising, headaches – are normal in healthy children, pediatricians are extremely skilled at distinguishing the usual bumps and pains from concerning ones. By evaluating the character, duration and severity of symptoms – as well drawing on their own instincts – they know which symptoms require additional evaluation and promptly order the appropriate tests.

2. The need for specialized pediatric oncologists, pathologists, radiologists and surgeons cannot be overstated, nor can the importance of seeking treatment at a center specializing in pediatrics. Not only do clinicians trained in pediatrics understand the needs of a child’s developing body, but cancer also presents differently in children and adults.

3. Physicians act quickly when a child is diagnosed with cancer. Using leukemia as an example, oncologists often receive a late afternoon call about a child seen in the office earlier in the day whose blood count results suggest leukemia. Typically, the oncologist sees the child in the emergency room the same day. Depending on the child’s condition, s/he will either be seen in an outpatient facility or admitted to a hospital. In either case, s/he will undergo several days of preliminary tests, which may include scans, biopsies and blood work. A team of pediatric specialists, including an oncologist, surgeon, radiation oncologist, pathologist and radiologist, will make a final diagnosis and design a treatment plan.

4. Primary care providers play a critical role before, during and after treatment for cancer. During treatment, they often assist with outpatient care by monitoring blood counts and nutrition levels or providing nursing support. Pediatricians are also an integral part of a child’s return to normal life, starting with the two-year transition period after treatment during which the focus is on the risk of recurrence and side effects of therapy. Communication between the oncologist and the pediatrician is essential, especially concerning well-child care, growth and immunizations. Eventually, the focus shifts from risk of recurrence to risk of late effects of chemotherapy and radiation.

5. Seek information from the websites of reliable cancer institutions, such as the National Cancer Institute and theAmerican Society of Clinical Oncology. The nearest medical facility that offers cancer treatment will not only have books and videos but will also have resource specialists to meet with parents and children.

 

ALA helps students with asthma return to school

Lung Association Recognizes Asthma-Friendly Schools and Offers Back-to-School Checklist for Students with Asthma

Waltham – Families across the nation are beginning to prepare for the new school year. A new school environment can sometimes be difficult for children with asthma. This back-to-school season, the American Lung Association highlights tips for families of children with asthma and stresses the importance of crafting a plan to properly manage asthma in a school environment.

“Asthma is a serious chronic disease that affects millions of children,” said Jeff Seyler, President & CEO of the American Lung Association of the Northeast. “Asthma symptoms can often be exacerbated at this time of year and it is important for parents to work with their healthcare provider and school personnel prior to the first day of school on controlling their child’s asthma. We must do all that we can to prevent asthma attacks and missed school days.”

Asthma is one of the most common chronic childhood disorders in the nation. It affects an estimated 136,267 Massachusetts children under the age of 18. It is also one of the primary illness-related reasons that students miss school, accounting for more than 10 million lost school days each year. Asthma is the third-leading cause of hospitalization for children under 15. In 2011, more than half of people with current asthma experienced at least one episode, or attack—with children 39 percent more likely than adults to have an asthma episode.

As part of its Asthma Friendly Schools Initiative (AFSI) the American Lung Association launched the Asthma-Friendly Schools Champions Awards earlier this year with support from the Environmental Protection Agency and Genentech Pharmaceuticals. The AFSI Champion Awards recognize schools that have taken positive strides to create a healthier learning environment using the strategies outlined in the Asthma-Friendly Schools Initiative.

In preparation for the school year ahead, the American Lung Association urges parents who have children with asthma to complete the following checklist:

  • Step 1 – Learn about asthma

The American Lung Association has many free resources to help you and your child learn how to keep asthma in control.

  • Visit www.lung.org/asthma to learn about asthma and asthma management. Be sure to watch the short animation What is Asthma? to learn what happens in the airways during an asthma episode.
  • Asthma Basics is a 50-minute online educational tool for people with asthma or anyone who provides care for someone living with asthma. It teaches how to recognize and manage asthma symptoms, how to identify and reduce triggers, how to create an asthma management plan and how to respond to a breathing emergency.
  • Visit Lungtropolis along with your 5-10 year old child. You’ll find action-packed games designed to help kids control their asthma—plus advice for parents.
  • Step 2 – Talk to the school nurse

Together, you and the school nurse, along with your child’s healthcare provider, can work to reduce asthma triggers and manage symptoms while in school.

  • Ask the school nurse to explain and provide all of the required forms you and your child’s healthcare provider need to sign and complete, including an asthma action plan.
  • All 50 states and the District of Columbia allow children to self-carry and use their asthma inhalers while at school. Each law is different; visit www.breatheatschool.org and click on your state to learn more.
  • Discuss your child’s asthma triggers and steps to reduce them in the classroom.
  • Ask about the school’s asthma emergency plan, and if coaches, teachers and staff are trained in how to recognize asthma symptoms and respond to a breathing emergency.
  • Step 3 – Schedule an asthma check-up

Each school year should begin with a visit to your child’s healthcare provider for an asthma check-up. This check-up is the best time to make sure your child is on the right amount of medicine for their asthma, to fill-out any forms required by the school and to create an asthma management plan as described in Step 4. Kids with asthma should visit their healthcare provider every three to six months, depending on how often your child is having symptoms.

An asthma action plan is a written worksheet created by your healthcare provider and tailored to your child’s needs. The plan includes a list of their asthma triggers and symptoms, the names of their medicines and how much medicine to take when needed. The plan also explains the steps to take to manage an asthma episode and a breathing emergency. An asthma action plan should always be on file in the school nurse’s office and easily accessible to anyone who may need to help your child use their inhaler.

  • Step 5 – Get a flu shot

On average, 1 out of 5 Americans suffers from influenza (flu) every year. Respiratory infections such as the flu are one of the most common asthma triggers. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone over the age of six months get a flu vaccination. The best way to protect your family from the flu is for everyone to get vaccinated.

For additional information on asthma and children, including a downloadable version of this checklist with even more details, visitwww.lung.org/asthma or call the Lung HelpLine at1-800-LUNG-USA.

Fight cancer with food

By Jonny Imerman

This week is Men’s Health Week — a good time for men of all ages to kick-start healthy habits. In my 20s, I survived two bouts of testicular cancer. Since that time, I’ve helped create a one-on-one cancer support organization, Imerman Angels, that connects someone fighting cancer with a person who’s been in the same shoes and survived. It gives me so much joy to give back. However, for years my own body didn’t feel its best. Last year, I went vegan, and I’ve never felt better.

I’m not here to lecture. I ate meat and dairy products for years, so who am I to judge? We cancer survivors should never judge regardless; we’re happy just to be here still. But I hope that by hearing about my experience, you’ll feel a little more empowered to take your health into your own hands.

One of the turning points that helped me decide to go vegan was listening to leukemia researcher Dr. Rosane Oliveira—herself a vegan—from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign speak about how dietary changes can help people lead healthier lives. I learned that research has linked the standard American diet—full of cholesterol and saturated fats—with serious illnesses, including cancer, while vegetarians have been shown to have a much lower cancer risk.

Animal proteins and saturated fats found in meat promote the growth of cancer cells and increase our risk for certain types of cancer. Cornell professor T. Colin Campbell’s China Study concluded that proteins from animal foods are the most cancer-causing substances ingested by humans. The study also found that casein, the primary protein in cow’s milk, “turns on” the growth of cancer cells. A link has even been discovered between dairy products and testicular cancer, which makes me even more confident in my decision to dump dairy.

Vegan foods, in contrast, help fight cancer. A study of men diagnosed with prostate cancer found that a diet rich in plant foods can slow or even halt the progression of the disease. Dark, leafy veggies like spinach and kale and fruits like blueberries are loaded with cancer-fighting antioxidants, and beans, whole grains, and other fiber-rich foods help rid your body of excess hormones that can contribute to cancer growth.

Vegan eating has other benefits, too. Following my treatment, I felt so tired and beaten down—my immune system was rattled. Now, even though I regularly meet and shake the hands of many people, I haven’t been sick once (and for people with cancer, an immune system boost can make all the difference). I feel great, I’m strong in the gym and my energy levels are high.

I also love animals, and it feels good knowing that the food I’m eating doesn’t contribute to their suffering. Another turning point for me was watching the video that Sir Paul McCartney narrated for PETA, “Glass Walls,” which includes undercover video footage showing how animals are slaughtered, suffering and in pain. There seems to be a great synergy between cancer survivors, who value their lives and health so highly because they are lucky to be alive, and people who choose to eat compassionate and healthy vegan foods.

You don’t have to take my word for it about the advantages of eating vegan, though. Try it for yourself. Healthy vegan foods provide all the nutrients that we need, so there’s nothing to lose and plenty to gain.