Dr. Jenn Simmons returns to share an inside look at her functional medicine practice working with breast cancer patients. After discussing her background and personal journey in a her last interview with Dr. Conners, Dr. Jenn now shares some of the  specifics on her unique approach. She explains the wide range of specialized testing she utilizes including genetics, hormones, gut health, and more to get to the root causes behind an individual’s cancer. Dr. Jenn then walks through what she would do step-by-step with a new patient from the moment of diagnosis. Rather than rushing into conventional treatments, she helps patients slow down, reduce stress, and understand their options. Her personalized programs focus on supporting every aspect of the patient’s health through nutrition, supplements, detoxification, immune modulation and lifestyle changes tailored to the patient.

Dr. Jenn also gives an update on new projects she has launched, including her book, “The Smart Person’s Guide to Breast Cancer” and a podcast called Keeping Abreast with Dr. Jenn devoted to breast cancer support and prevention.

Also, don’t forget to register for Dr. Jenn’s brand new Breast Cancer Breakthroughs Summit (it’s free!) and is happening now!

2024 Breast Cancer Breakthroughs Summit Affiliate Banner-235-x-702

Breast Cancer Breakthroughs Summit with Dr. Jenn Simmons

1 in 8 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime…

Discover How to Prevent and Overcome Breast Cancer at the Breast Cancer Breakthroughs Summit

Especially for women who want to discover new therapies and preventative care for breast cancer so that they never fear the disease again.

About Dr. Jenn Simmons

Jennifer Simmons, MD, isn’t just an expert; she’s lived in the shadow of breast cancer her entire life and witnessed its impact on her family. She has dedicated more than two decades to treating women with breast cancer, taking an approach that goes beyond traditional medicine. Dr. Simmons’ mission resonates deeply: to guide women and families to appropriate resources after a breast cancer diagnosis and to ensure that these women can not only heal from breast cancer but truly reclaim their lives. With her dual perspective as an experienced breast cancer surgeon and someone with a personal connection to the disease, she bridges the gap between the medical community and the patient’s lived experience.

Stay tuned for Episode 43 (you can see all episodes on the Conners Clinic Live page!)

Listen to or Watch the Full Podcast Episode

Real Health and Keeping Abreast with Dr. Jenn Simmons | Conners Clinic Live #42

Transcript

Dr. Kevin Conners

Hello, everybody. This is Dr. Kevin Conners. Welcome to another episode of Conners Clinic Live. I have a special guest I’ve interviewed before, Dr. Jenn Simmons, who practices out on the east coast. Well, east coast to us, I guess Pennsylvania isn’t coast, but you practice in a way that’s different than most medical professionals because you originally practiced for years and years as a breast surgeon for breast cancer, and then you took a complete right turn and changed your whole practice into functional medicine for breast cancer patients. And that’s what we’re going to discuss today. Like, what do you do? And how could my listeners benefit from your type of practice? But first, before we get into that, let’s just have you kind of give a brief summary of your introduction again.

Dr. Jenn Simmons

Absolutely. And first of all, thank you for having me. I’m so happy to be here. I always love our conversations. I love that you said that I made a right turn because I literally made a right turn. So I come by being in the breast cancer space very naturally, very organically. I come from a breast cancer family. My first cousin growing up was a woman named Linda Creed, and Linda was a singer songwriter in the 1970s and 1980s. She wrote all the music for the Spinners and the Stylistics. She wrote 54 hits in all. And her most famous song was The Greatest Love of All. So she wrote that song in 1977 as the title track to the movie The Greatest, starring Muhammad Ali. But it really received its acclaim in March of 1986 when Whitney Houston would release that song to the world. And at that time, it would spend 14 weeks at the top of the charts. Only Linda would never know because she died of metastatic breast cancer just one month after Whitney released the song. I was 16 years old when my hero died, and her life, and ultimately her death, gave birth to my life’s purpose.

So I do the only thing I know how to do. I become a doctor. I become a surgeon. I become a breast surgeon. I become the first fellowship trained breast surgeon in Philadelphia. And I spend a really long time doing that and thinking that I’m really serving a purpose and serving my purpose. And I’m about 15 years into my career, and I’m running a very busy practice. I’m doing really novel things. I’m doing something called oncoplastic surgery, where I think I’m finding a silver lining for people and giving them the opportunity to correct what they don’t like about their breasts at the time of surgery. I’m also running the cancer program for my hospital, and I’m a wife and a mother and a stepmother and an athlete and a philanthropist. And I have all these balls in the air, and I think that I can do it all and have it all until I couldn’t. And I went from being probably one of the most high functioning people you’ve ever known to I couldn’t walk across the room. I didn’t have enough breath in my body to walk across the room. And I spend three days having a very intensive workup.

And at the end of those three days, I’m sitting in the office of my friend and colleague and physician, and he tells me that I need surgery and chemo, radiation, and I’m going to be on lifelong medication. And despite the fact that I say these things all day, every day, to people without hesitation or reservation, when the words are coming at me, I’m in Charlie Brown’s classroom. I mean, all I hear is, wah-wah wah-wah wah-wah, and my doctor told me, as I had told hundreds of women before that, maybe even thousands, if I don’t accept this treatment, I’m going to die. And I know that it is the standard of care. I mean, I am a physician who is running a cancer program. I know how this is treated. And yet something in me, call it God, call it universe, call it whatever you want to call it, told me that there was another way. So I go home, I leave, and I do what I tell everyone never to do. I go to Dr. Google. Now, this is 2016. And at that time, I think information was more available and more honest. I think that now if you try to search for the truth, it’s a very hard task, in that Google is highly curated and really, all the search engines, all the readily available search engines, you can’t really find the answers that you’re looking for.

You find the answers that they want you to have. But at the time, I was able to at least get a message that I needed to learn more about the meaning of food in your health. So as a conventional medical doctor, I had 15 hours worth of training around nutrition in my first year of medical school, and then never again. And I had four years of medical school, five years of residency, a year of fellowship. So I had a lot of training beyond my first year of medical school. And nowhere in that training did we ever discuss nutrition or nourishment. So I very reluctantly enroll in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, IIN. It’s a certificate program, and I must have called them no less than 20 times to ensure that I was actually going to learn something. Because after all, here I am, a physician, and what could I possibly learn.

Dr. Kevin Conners

Can I pause you 1 second? So here you have all this training in medicine. You are an accomplished surgeon leading a cancer center in a hospital, and then you end up with a serious diagnosis.

Dr. Jenn Simmons

Yes.

Dr. Kevin Conners

And that is the impetus that sparks, maybe there’s another way.

Dr. Jenn Simmons

Absolutely.

Dr. Kevin Conners

And you start investigating this possible other way, and you start to realize what little you actually know about nutrition and diet and other avenues of healing. But you are willing to be open minded, and maybe it’s the spark of the seriousness of your own condition that opens that up. Somebody once said that you won’t learn anything new unless there’s some sort of crisis or some sort of aha moment in your life.

Dr. Jenn Simmons

I mean, we really don’t learn through our successes. We learn through our failures.

Dr. Kevin Conners

Exactly.

Dr. Jenn Simmons

And the thing that I knew was that whatever I was doing wasn’t working, right? Like, I thought I was healthy because I wasn’t overweight, and I knew that my body was failing, so I knew that I had to change something. I didn’t know what the something was right. So this was really my journey to figure out what that something was. And I want to be clear. When I took this journey, this wasn’t about helping my patients heal from breast cancer. They weren’t even part of the equation, because you don’t know what you don’t know. Right? So I still, as I’m doing this, think I’m doing the right thing for my breast cancer patients. It’s just not me. And so one of the very first lectures is a man named Mark Hyman walks on the stage. He introduces himself as a functional medicine physician. Now, remember, this is 2016, so I had never heard of him. And all I can think of in my snooty booty head is I’m a physician for 20 years. There’s no such thing as functional medicine. What is this quack talking about? And then I remember that I’m sick and I’m there for a reason.

And so I check my ego at the door, and I tune in and thank God I did, because within 3 minutes of this man speaking, my whole world makes sense. And I know exactly why I got sick. I got sick so that I could be in that room on that day listening to him speak, because what he’s telling me makes my whole world make sense. And I know that not only am I on the wrong path for my own illness by focusing on the illness, but I’m also on the wrong path for my patients. Because in conventional medicine, all the focus is on sickness. All the focus is on disease. In breast cancer, all the focus is on the tumor. In any cancer, all the focus is on the tumor. But the tumor is not the problem. The tumor is the symptom of the problem. And until you embrace that, until you understand that, you cannot heal. And none of the traditional, I shouldn’t say traditional, let’s say conventional, none of the conventional modalities that we offer to people, that we subject people to, none of them have anything to do with healing. In fact, most of them make people a lot sicker.

And what made me not accept that for myself was exactly why I went on this journey. Because when you hear about what happens to you when you get chemotherapy, you think like, I’m already sick and you want to make me sicker? It just doesn’t make sense. And I didn’t think about it until I was feeling that pain.

Dr. Kevin Conners

Sure. Never is the cause addressed.

Dr. Jenn Simmons

I thought that it was a means to an end. Yeah. And so I spend the next three years immersed in the study of functional medicine, and everything I learn pulls me more and more in that direction. All the while I’m continuing to operate on people, I’m continuing to act as a surgeon while I’m on my own healing journey, but I’m not that typical surgeon. So I’m trying to talk to them about their diet and are they exercising and how’s their sleep. What is your message? What is your breast cancer diagnosis trying to tell you? And the vast majority of people looked at me like I had ten heads, right? Because they’re not accustomed to thinking this way. And they don’t really, most people, unfortunately, most people, they just want the pill or the knife or the drug or the procedure. They don’t want to take control, they don’t want to engage, they don’t want to own it. And that’s fine.

Dr. Kevin Conners

They’ve been indoctrinated as well, right?

Dr. Jenn Simmons

Of course.

Dr. Kevin Conners

Just like you’ve been indoctrinated through school. The pharmaceutical industries, we have to give them credit, have done a wonderful job of propaganda.

Dr. Jenn Simmons

Amazing. Yes. So I realized at the end of that journey, I healed myself. By the grace of God, I healed myself. I learned what my body likes and what my body doesn’t like. I walk a very tight line because I want to be well, because I don’t want to be sick. And there is no cake or drink or night out or none of those things are as important to me as my health. And once I rung that bell, especially once I did that for me, I knew I couldn’t offer less to my patients. And so I left surgery mostly because the hospital was paying me to operate. Right? They weren’t paying me to counsel people. They weren’t paying me to talk to them for hours about how they can recapture their health. They were paying me to be in the operating room, and that wasn’t where I was making the biggest impact. Right? Because unless you get to the root cause, unless you help people to correct their course, all I was doing in the operating room was delaying the next manifestation. Right? I was either delaying recurrence or I was delaying the next disease that is going to happen unless you deal with why the disease happened in the first place.

Dr. Kevin Conners

Well, modern medicine does not look at cause whatsoever.

Dr. Jenn Simmons

No.

Dr. Kevin Conners

Now, this is a ginormous flip flop for you. It is having to leave the hospital, start your own practice, and then decide what that practice is going to be focused on. I mean, most doctors that go into, they have years of decision and thought process and philosophy that got them to the point of how they’re going to run their practice. This happened in a relatively short period of time for you.

Dr. Jenn Simmons

It did.

Dr. Kevin Conners

When did you open up your own practice, and how did you decide to focus on what you’re doing?

Dr. Jenn Simmons

Yeah. So I opened my practice, Real Health MD, in 2019. And I think in the beginning, when you train in functional medicine, you kind of become a jack of all trades. I mean, you learn that you can help people with a lot of chronic issues. But breast cancer was always my calling. It’s always my space, and it remains my space. And I’m so grateful that God gave me this purpose. Everything I have is from God. God gave me this purpose. And I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be a trusted guide for women on a breast cancer journey. And the impact that I am able to make as a functional oncologist, as an integrative oncologist, is so much greater than my work as a surgeon. That was an amazing time and an amazing privilege, and I did that for 20 years. But my work now, when I help a woman heal from breast cancer, I don’t just help her, I help her spouse, her partner, her children, her parents, her friends, her community. Because once you get healthy and once you know what it feels like to truly be well, you can’t keep that inside.

That radiates from you, and that just grows. And so I am so humbled by the role that I have been able to play in people’s lives, in people’s healing, in just allowing them the opportunity to live their best lives through the window of a tragedy. It’s the most amazing privilege. And I thank God every day that he put me here for this.

Dr. Kevin Conners

Well, let’s get to the nitty gritty. Let’s say we want to know what you do for people. Let’s say you get a call from somebody. A gal in Philadelphia was just diagnosed with breast cancer, doesn’t have the full specs yet, but they’re already pushing them, as you know, instantly into the chemotherapy radiation surgery pathway. What would you do for them?

Dr. Jenn Simmons

So the first thing I tell people is to slow down and take a breath. The conventional medical model scares you and tells you that you have to act immediately. They do that very intentionally. They don’t want to give you a lot of time to think because they don’t want you to consider other options. They want to sign you up and get you through. Cancer care is big business. And that is not to say that the providers don’t care. They do. And that they’re not doing their jobs well. They are, but their jobs are to operate and to give chemotherapy and to give radiation. And that’s what they’re trying to do, and they’re trying to do that really well. The problem is, that’s not the solution for you. And with rare exception, the exceptions are an inflammatory breast cancer. Or if someone has brain metastasis and it’s like a space occupying issue where they’re seizing or herniating or something along those lines, or you’re in intractable pain from bone mets, those are emergencies, and those need intervention right away. But that is the absolute, absolute minority. And the vast majority of people have plenty of time to learn about the disease, to learn what it means, to learn what it is, and then to figure out what the best solution is for you.

And what we all need to understand is breast cancer and all cancers, for that matter. Cancer is a normal response to an abnormal environment. Something is telling those cells that they are unsafe, that they have to go into survival mode. We are all the same in that we are all about survival, and that is what procreation is about, survival of whatever organism, person. That’s what procreation is about. It’s about survival. And with cancer, something is making those cells feel unsafe. Now, to be clear, people with breast cancer don’t have a bad breast, and those breast cells are not a foreign invader. Your cancer is a part of you. It’s the part of you that doesn’t feel safe. And certain organs are definitely more sensitive to environmental disturbances. The breast cells happen to be one of the more sensitive cells, thyroid cells, also sensitive. And so the more sensitive cells, the more cancers we’re going to see in those organs. But it has nothing to do with the breast necessarily. Right? It’s not the environment of the breast, it’s the entire environment that has undergone a shift. And so what I help people to do is identify, what was that shift?

Is it trauma? Is it stress? Is it mold? Is it viruses? Have you had a chronic illness? Are there food sensitivities? Are you not eating in the right way for you? Are you not exercising enough, not moving enough? Being sedentary is very dangerous. Are you moving too much? Over exercising causes a lot of inflammation, but with a chronic disease, there is going to be a common denominator, maybe more than one. But something is driving inflammation, something is changing the chemistry, and cancer is just responding to that chemical shift.

Dr. Kevin Conners

So helping people understand the systemic issue underneath the cancer, which is just the tip of the iceberg of that person’s health issue, is the key, is getting to some deeper causes for you. So you do some different labs, I take it?

Dr. Jenn Simmons

I do. So I run both general labs because the ranges that we as conventional medical doctors accept are huge. And that’s because conventional medical doctors don’t really know how to optimize your health. And so they don’t know optimal levels. They only understand failure. But if you have diabetes, you don’t go from being not diabetic one day to diabetic the next, right? There is an entire range that usually takes about ten years to become diabetic. And so in that time, all along the way are opportunities to correct. So I order general labs. I look at them through a functional lens. So let’s take your white blood cell count, for instance. I think, like, the acceptable range on lab core or quest would be 3500 to 10,000, let’s say. But I know that someone who’s walking around with a white blood cell count of 3500 is immunocompromised. Right? And cancer is a balance between your body, your exposures, and your immune system. So if your immune system is exhausted because it’s been working around the clock, because it’s challenged somewhere else, like you have digestive issues, or you’re exercising too much, or you’re being exposed to mold or parasites or pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, glyphosate, whatever it is, if something’s taking out your immune system, it can’t do the surveillance that it needs to do.

And in our body, we are constantly reproducing our cells and we’re going to make mistakes, right? We are going to make reproduction mistakes. Those mistakes are actually cancer cells, and an intact immune system will be able to recognize those cancer cells in their infancy and destroy them. But if you are immunocompromised because you have gluten sensitivity and you don’t know it, and you’re eating bread every day, that immune system is not going to be able to do its job somewhere else. And so this is what’s happening all day, every day. So I look at a CBC, a complete blood count through a completely different lens, and when I see a white blood cell count of 3.5 or 4 or 4.5, I know that this person has an immune challenge, and I have to figure out what that immune challenge is. Another example is thyroid health. So there are lots of cities that have fluoride in the water. Most people are still using fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride will replace iodine in thyroid hormone. And so you can have normal levels of thyroid hormone and have a lot of thyroid dysfunction because your iodine has been replaced with fluoride, if you have thyroid dysfunction, you are three to four times more likely to get breast cancer than if you don’t.

So lots of people are walking around with hypothyroidism. They’re not adequately treated or they’re improperly treated, and their labs are normal because their physician doesn’t know how to read it or doesn’t know that they could be walking around with thyroid hormone that has fluoride instead of iodine. And these people are then just going on to the next manifestation. Unfortunately, I only get to see them once they’ve developed the disease. So I definitely order labs, just like your primary would, but I look at them through a different lens and then I order functional labs. I’m looking at gut health and I’m doing microbiome testing. I’m looking at metabolic health and doing testing of your mitochondria to see how healthy your mitochondria are. Since cancer is mitochondrial dysfunction and the mitochondria are the energy generating units of the cells, and we need to make sure that they are functioning properly and there are lots of things in our environment that will interfere with that. I’m looking at hormone balance. I’m looking at what are your hormone levels? Not only how are you making them, but how are you clearing them? Do you have enough hormone? Because the vast majority of the breast cancers that we see are in the postmenopausal population, so we’re not talking about hormone overload causing cancer, but instead it’s the withdrawal of the hormones that have the greatest negative effect.

And that’s when we are developing breast cancers. And then I’m looking at your DNA, I’m doing gene testing to see how we can best nurture your nature. Because we all have a gene code and this doesn’t mean that we are destined to be something. Because your genotype isn’t always your phenotype. So what your genes say isn’t always how you look, but there are ways to support your genes to get you optimal health. And so I’m looking at all of these things and I’m creating a life plan for people so that they can have the health that they deserve to have. And most of them, most of my patients have better health after their breast cancer diagnosis and after working with me than they ever had their whole lives before. And for the first time, they know what it feels like to be healthy.

Dr. Kevin Conners

Well, it sounds like you’re taking a big picture approach in a world where the practice of medicine has become more and more tuned into, oh, you have a UTI, go to the urinary tract specialist, oh, you have stomachache. We need to get you to a gastrointestinal and you can’t really treat the body that way because our systems aren’t separated from one another. They all have to work together. So you know that I love your approach and that’s why we’re talking and why I think this is the only way to really help a person is to look at the whole person. How can people get in contact with you?

Dr. Jenn Simmons

So my website is realhealthmd.com and then you can follow me on social media I’m @DrJennSimmons and my Jen has two N’s. I have a Facebook group that people are welcome to join called Keeping Abreast with Dr. Jenn. And my podcast launched last month, also called Keeping Abreast with Dr. Jenn. And you can get that anywhere that you get your podcast. And super exciting that my book is coming out in a couple of weeks called the Smart Person’s Guide to Breast Cancer and so that will be available to everyone.

Dr. Kevin Conners

Well, it’s so exciting to see what you’re doing. I am just anxiously waiting for your book and can’t wait to read that. And I just applaud everything you’re doing. We’re going to try to push people to your information. I just think that the more educated a person is, the more wisdom you have at your disposal to make better decisions.

Dr. Jenn Simmons

That is for sure. True. When you know better, you do better.

Dr. Kevin Conners

Yes. Thank you, Dr. Jenn. I appreciate you being on. And we’ll have you on again, I hope.

Dr. Jenn Simmons

My pleasure. So happy to be here.

Dr. Kevin Conners

All right, bye.