According to traditional Chinese medicine, breast cancer prevention is all about encouraging blood and chi (energy) to flow unencumbered throughout the body. Breast massage specifically targets circulation flow through the lymphatic system, the huge network of vessels that run through the body and purify the blood. As a preventive measure, a healthy woman should massage each breast a total of 100 times in a circular motion (both clockwise and counterclockwise) every couple days or so. Women with cancer should do so daily, upping the count to 200 times. It is advisable for women with cancer to ask their health care practitioners about a light massage called Manual Lymphatic Drainage, which can further clear the lymph system.
Massage doesn’t stop with the breasts, though. Regular whole-body massage and shiatsu activate the body’s meridians, or energy pathways. Exercise such as yoga, tai chi, and qi gong help massage the body from the inside. All people with cancer should learn medical qi gong, a specialized model designed to address this disease. The autumn 1999 issue of Qi Journal (www.qi-journal.com) had a wonderful article by Jerry Alan Johnson, Ph.D., illustrating this technique.
In addition to massage, cardiovascular exercise like running, cycling, or fast walking moves energy and promotes blood flow, which in turn can prevent cancer. These two factors are intertwined: energy moves the blood; blood stores the energy. If one gets stuck, the other does too, and this can lead to disease. Aerobic movement encourages circulation to all parts of the body, breasts included.
Avoiding underwire bras and going braless also reduces constriction in the breast area. Also, avoiding tight jeans, tops, or any other article of clothing that inhibits the natural flow of energy. Tight clothes around the waist area can also contribute to other complaints like fibroids or endometriosis, also due to blocked energy flow.
Claudette Baker, L.Ac., is a national board-certified acupuncturist (NCCAOM) and president emeritus of the American Association of Oriental Medicine. She has practiced in Evanston, Illinois, for the past 15 years, specializing in women’s health.