If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, consuming a healthy diet in addition to adopting a healthy lifestyle can play an important role in your overall treatment plan.
While there is no single nutrient that will prevent breast cancer or eliminate the risk of cancer recurrence, consuming a wide variety of foods will help to promote healthy immune function, help to maintain energy and strength during treatment and help to promote healing. After treatment is complete, eating a healthy diet combined with healthy lifestyle choices will help to keep your cancer risk as low as possible and help you to stay well.
This is the first post from the Breastlink breast cancer nutrition series on Eating Well to Stay Well.
The Importance of Eating Well During Breast Cancer Treatment
Once breast cancer treatment has begun, patients may find it more difficult to consume all of the nutrients their bodies need. Cancer as well as cancer treatments, may affect how a patient feels and some patients may experience unpleasant symptoms or side effects.
Tailored treatment plans for breast cancer might include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and/or hormonal therapy. Although designed to kill cancer cells, some of these treatments can also harm healthy body cells affecting the way a patient feels.
Common side effects might include loss of appetite, changes in taste or smell, weight loss or fatigue. A healthy diet and lifestyle will help to minimize these side effects.
Recommendations for breast cancer patients and survivors include:
- Consume a healthy diet that includes a wide variety foods including fruits and vegetables, lean meat, fish or poultry, low or non-fat dairy, whole grains and beans, peas or lentils.
- Eat foods low in fat.
- Eat foods low in sugar.
- Limit consumption of alcohol.
- Maintain a healthy body weight.
- Be physically active for 30 minutes every day.
Maintaining a healthful diet during breast cancer treatment is important to promote healing and to enhance a sense of wellbeing. Following a healthy diet during treatment can help you to:
- Restore energy and strength.
- Tolerate side effects.
- Reduce risk of infection.
- Recover more quickly.
Patients undergoing treatment might consider working with a member of their treating team to establish goals that will help to achieve a healthy body weight and to consume a diet that promotes healing and good health.
Eating Well to Stay Well for Breast Cancer Survivors
A healthful diet plan plus an active lifestyle can help breast cancer survivors to live long and healthy lives. Studies have shown that good nutrition combined with being physically active not only helps to reduce cancer risk but also helps to reduce risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and stroke.
Many breast cancer patients and survivors are anxious to learn what changes they can make to be as healthy as possible. In our modern society we have access to an enormous amount of information and advice, much of it inconsistent, regarding the best foods to eat or not eat, a seemingly endless array of diet plans, whether to include nutritional supplements or not and various exercise programs – cardio, aerobic, resistance or core, it is just overwhelming!
For this reason, we believe it is important for breast cancer patients and survivors to consult with their treatment team to develop healthy diet and lifestyle goals that will contribute to maintaining a healthy body weight and promote a physically active lifestyle.
Healthy nutrition is one key to a healthy lifestyle | Breast Cancer Nutrition
Although it should be stressed that there is no single nutrient or diet that will prevent breast cancer or eliminate the risk of recurrence, your healthy lifestyle goals should include a healthy nutrition plan. As each woman is unique and every patient experiences breast cancer differently, you are empowered to make informed lifestyle and nutrition decisions that are tailored to your exact priorities.
In the next post on Breastlink’s Eating Well to Stay Well series, we will explore the role that individual nutrients play in breast cancer. For more information on Breastlink Nutrition Services, please look here.
For more information about the Breastlink nutrition education and counseling services, including additional breast cancer nutrition advice, please visit our Breastlink Nutrition Program page.