Written by Yolanda Baruch @Yobwrite
Rosa Contreras-Tessada serves as the head nutritionist for Oasis of Hope Hospital, supervising the nutrition program for all the hospital's cancer patients. Rosa is the granddaughter of Oasis of Hope founder, Dr. Ernesto Contreras Sr. and daughter of current Director Dr. Francisco Contreras, M.D. She leads the Breast Cancer Treatment Center's all-female staff at Oasis of Hope Hospital, offering a holistic approach to breast cancer that focuses on the whole person. The breast cancer center has a multidisciplinary team of leaders, including an oncologist, palliative care specialist, clinical nutritionist, psychologist, art therapist, and cooking teacher. Under Rosas's leadership, breast cancer patients have an amazing one-year, 100 percent survival rate for women with advanced-stage breast cancer who go there for treatment first, and a five-year 75 percent survival rate.
Rosa Contreras-Tessada, Team Lead, Breast Cancer Treatment Center
This October, with Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2021, Oasis of Hope Hospital is opening a Breast Cancer Treatment Center with an all-female multidisciplinary team to offer women a holistic treatment approach.
Rosa Contreras-Tessada, who currently serves as the head nutritionist for the hospital's cancer patients, will lead the team.
Entryway of the Oasis of Hope Hospital with Staff.
"The psychological and spiritual needs of the patient are fundamental and as worthy of attention as the physical needs," says Rosa, "We also focus on nutrition because we've found our natural immune systems are the most potent, God-given, cancer-fighting defenders we have available to us. Making a few intentional substitutions to the foods you buy and consume can make all the difference in your overall health and long-term wellness."
Art Therapy with Ana Karehn.
YV Media Correspondent Yolanda Baruch caught up with Rosa to discuss practical nutrition and lifestyle tips to prevent cancer.
Under your leadership, breast cancer patients have an amazing one-year, 100 percent survival rate for women with advanced-stage breast cancer who go there for treatment first, and a five-year 75 percent survival rate. Can you speak to the strategies you use to attain these results?
Rosa: We've been around for 67 years, my grandpa started this, and we've seen amazing results with women with early-stage, even if it's advanced cancer. We treat body, mind, and spirit. Our protocols have changed for alternative treatments but also diet. You treat the three of them, and it does make a complete difference. You can't treat one thing and not another. So that's probably the best thing we do, we treat all of it together, and we've seen amazing results.
You stated that the patient's psychological and spiritual needs are fundamental and as worthy of attention as the physical needs. What do you do to meet these needs?
Rosa: One of the biggest things is we have a pastor and a psychologist on site [and] treat body, mind, and spirit because they are all connected. We've all gone through things, we've all had different experiences in life, and with a lot of those things that we keep or are going through, all of that stress, sadness, you don't realize that our bodies feel all of that and take things in. So being able to talk to somebody as a nutritionist and grow in your spirituality makes a huge difference when you treat [body, mind, and spirit] together.
As a nutritionist, what cancer-fighting foods should be a part of every woman's overall health and long-term wellness diet?
Rosa: Always greens; greens make a huge difference, soups, smoothies, and green juices. Try to have greens with every meal and add great organic vegetables and fruits. Spinach, herbs, even romaine lettuce are great; broccoli, all of your cruciferous vegetables are great for cancer-fighting foods. Also, your spices make your food taste different. Even if you eat a grape tomato salad and a spice to it, it will taste different. I love to use different spices and herbs.
What are some other measures women can implement to prevent breast cancer?
Rosa: One of the things we see, is that women who exercise have a lower cancer rate. For women that always exercise, it is easier for them to maintain a different type of lifestyle. When we say exercises, people think they have to do CrossFit, but it's just you can walk in the mornings, look at the sunset and take out your dog for a walk, or if you have kids, play some ball. Having a lifestyle where you are doing something every day, even if it's not a full-on CrossFit. I like Pilates or just a good walk or going on a hike, just being active is good. Even if you have a lifestyle where it is harder for you, then park your vehicle far and take the stairs, there are many ways to do a little exercise but at least half an hour a day.
What are some ways women can improve their education about breast cancer?
Rosa: Be proactive and say this is something that happens to a lot of women and have that responsibility in saying I should be checking myself. Even if you see a doctor and are just asking questions, "Hey, this is changing, I've been feeling this way." It's always good to take that responsibility and say, "Can you teach me exactly how I should be checking myself?" I do think it's important to say, "How do I check correctly?" [like] always go all the way to your armpit. Even now, we see younger women sometimes getting cancer, so it's good to talk about it and never be scared about it. I know every time you hear [word] cancer, people get very scared, but I think as things are more in the open where we can talk about [it]. I think instead of being scared people can feel more responsible and even say 'if I have this, it doesn't mean that it's a death sentence like before'. If we get it early, there's many ways to treat it for a great result.
How often should women self-check their breasts?
Rosa: I always say if you are in your thirties, once a year or once every six months. When you get in your forties and fifties, every three months, if you are in the shower and you can check. Always remember that sometimes it's a discoloration; it's okay to ask and say, "Hey, I have this, and I don't know if it's something" never be afraid to ask. If you see a lump, feel a little bump, or see a change in color, go and check it out.
What are some of the risk factors that affect a woman's chances of getting breast cancer, and how can they lower those risks?
Rosa: Your diet, definitely having a healthier diet, will make a huge difference. I don't like to use the word 'diet'; it's more like having that lifestyle where you choose to buy organic vegetables. I'm going to have more days that are vegetarian. In my family, we have Meatless Mondays and Wednesdays, we try not to eat as much red meat. We try to incorporate more fish, and it should always be wild-caught. If it is meat, it should be grass-fed, just starting to learn and say what I buy I want it to be good. I want it to be healthy. Remember that it's our fuel, so everything that we put into our bodies it's very important that it's healthy. The cost is higher, but it won't be higher on your medical bills.
The Oasis of Hope Hospital is located in Tijuana, Mexico, right on the border of San Diego.
For more information visit www.oasisofhope.com