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Why Dr. Oz cares about breast cancer research and you should, too

An interview with Dr. Mehmet Oz, cardiothoracic surgeon, bestselling author, Columbia University professor and host of the Emmy® award-winning TV show, “The Dr. Oz Show.”

At the 21st annual Celebrating Women event, Dr. Oz sat down with our own Lucy Wallace, MD, co-medical director of the Breast Cancer Research and Treatment Center at Baylor Scott & White Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center – Dallas, to discuss all things breast cancer and women’s health. This year, supporters of all kinds — donors, researchers, physicians, patients, survivors and loved ones — attended virtually. Proceeds from the event benefit breast cancer research, diagnosis and treatment at Baylor Scott & White.

Dr. Oz shared his passion for women’s health, why breast cancer prevention and early detection matter, and how women can make changes to positively impact their health and their lives.

Q: How important is philanthropy in discovering new and better ways of diagnosing and treating breast cancer?

Dr. Oz: “When you have purpose in your life, because you’re doing things for others, the person who benefits the most is you. Philanthropy is wonderful in part because it has that underlying and beautiful silver lining.

The additional benefit of philanthropy is that it allows organizations and people like yourself who are working their tails off on their day job to be able to go a little further, a little extra.

Philanthropy allows us to smooth over the rough edges of our research facilities and our clinical endeavors to ensure that people get the best care possible. But at the same time, research provides resources to ensure we can do that bit of research that changes what everyone does every single day. So it’s doubly beneficial. And Celebrating Women, of course, does it in an elegant and very successful fashion, which is why I’m proud to be here today.”

Q: COVID-19 has been the top health concern this year, but breast cancer doesn’t quarantine. What would you like to say to women who may have delayed getting a mammogram?

Dr. Oz: “Getting your mammogram, doing your screening procedures of all types, dealing with just basic routine care that is preventative in nature is mission critical. And in a time when everyone is taking their eye off that ball because they’re focused on COVID-19, it’s incumbent upon all of us to make sure they yell from the rafters that we need to get back into the basic prevention techniques and schedules that were working so beneficially before.

I think if we can use this altruism of this endeavor to open the eyes, ears and minds, and allow us to once again engage a medical system that is designed to save lives, we’ll all benefit for it.”

Related: What to consider before postponing your cancer screening

Q: What foods are really great at reducing inflammation or boosting the immune system if you’re healthy, but also if you’re battling cancer?

Dr. Oz: “It’s so easy to say, ‘These 50 things will cure cancer.’ I mean, if they really cured cancer, we’d all be prescribing them. So, I recognize how difficult this research is. But more and more of the medical community is agreeing that a fair number of cancers we’re suffering through could be benefited if we ate the right foods and lived the right lifestyle. A lot of disease could be reduced, at least the burden of it could be mitigated, if we take advantage of these tips.

So, I’ll give you a couple foods that I would recommend adding to your diet.

  • Nuts. My favorite food by far are nuts. I’m talking about real tree nuts like walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, pistachios and brazil nuts that have selenium in them. All of them actually are linked to cancer-reducing diets.
  • Tomato sauce. Lycopene is a rich cancer starver. It’s most found, by the way, in San Marzano tomatoes. It’s sort of interesting that lycopene is better absorbed when you have your tomatoes with olive oil.
  • Purple potatoes, as called the fruit of the Incan kings, are rich in anthocyanins, which starves and kills cancer cells.
  • Matcha green tea has been shown in several studies, and specifically in breast cancer, to cut off the fuel lines to cancers. And without the fuel, the cancer cells, especially the stem cells, don’t function very well and they die.”

Q: What about practices like mindfulness or journaling?

Dr. Oz: “The role of stress has been difficult to measure, but it always tilts against you if you can’t manage it correctly.

We basically have three factors that influence our life. There’s the chaos of the crazy world that’s always changing, there’s the order you’re trying to create in that world, and there’s your role to bridge those two. It’s not like chaos is bad, because chaos is creativity and it’s new opportunities and things you didn’t plan. Order can be suffocating if you have too much of it. So, your job is to have one foot in chaos, one foot in order and navigate that.

If you have a way of calming yourself while you’re in the midst of that balancing act, then you can do it for longer, you’ll be happier in your life, and the stress will no longer be seen as a negative, but something that builds you and makes you better.

I personally meditate daily. If I can get 20 minutes, it’s great. Allow yourself just to sense the moment for a few minutes a day.

The other lifestyle tip is exercise that allows you to meditate in your body. The best for me is yoga because as I limber my body up, I loosen my mind. With your body relaxed, your mind will let go for a second. And if you’ve got great music that you enjoy, a meditation tape or just quiet, it’ll take you to a place of zen. Even those few minutes will elevate you for the rest of the day.”

Related: A simple guide to mindfulness for beginners

Q: Have you noticed any silver linings in your own life as a result of COVID-19?

Dr. Oz: “Slowing the planet down around me allowed me to slow down and focus on things that are really important. It allowed me to spend more time where I should have spent it to begin with, looking at what life’s really about. I think there are a lot of people now who have sort of pulled back from the usual commercial focus of life.”

Q: What’s your hope for the future? What would getting a breast cancer diagnosis look like for a woman 20 years from now?

Dr. Oz: “Twenty years from now, I think we’ll actually look in your blood and identify markers, not just for cancer, but pre-cancer — immune changes that mean you’re prone to developing more aggressive cancers.

We could intervene even without having to do mammography. And many of the therapies would hopefully be based on modulating hormonal drivers, helping people figure out exactly what their true risks are. We can minimize the number of people who have procedures and just focus on the cancer diagnoses that are most devastating.

And I’ll tell you something that you might not expect me to say — some of the research we’re doing on COVID-19 to understand molecular drivers of our immune system will directly benefit breast cancer research. In fact, all cancer research.”

Related: Why Kristin Chenoweth dreams of a world without breast cancer

About Celebrating Women

Celebrating Women is known as the premier breast cancer luncheon for the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Over the past 20 years, Celebrating Women donors have raised more than $35 million for the nearly 18,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer each year in Texas. Thanks to this generous support, Baylor Scott & White Health has been able to make significant investments in patient-centered care, advanced technology and innovative research to better serve patients battling this disease.

Together, we can find a cure for this disease that affects so many women and families in our community. Join the movement to end cancer today.

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Why Dr. Oz cares about breast cancer research and you should, too