Diet Also Supports Cancer Treatment
Eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise promotes overall health, especially when you have breast cancer. While there is no sure-fire method to prevent breast cancer, incorporating foods with cancer-fighting properties into your diet can help reduce your exposure to ingredients that may increase the risk of recurrence.
This article offers tips for eating a plant-based, whole food diet for a well-rounded eating plan to help reduce your risk of breast cancer recurrence.
Foods To Limit Or Avoid:
Theres evidence that avoiding fatty foods, like fried foods and packaged snack foods, is one way to help manage weight and overall health and as a result, maybe even breast cancer.
High body fat increases the mortality risk in breast cancer survivors, explains Generose. Decreasing your intake of saturated fats, like those in red meats, butter and baked goods, can decrease fat levels and inflammation in your body.
In small or moderate quantities, alcohol namely red wine does have some health benefits, such as lowering stress, lowering the risk of heart disease and reducing the risk of Type 2 diabetes.
In large quantities, however, alcohol is directly linked to breast cancer . Women should keep it to no more than one drink per day, as there is strong evidence that consuming large amounts of alcohol daily increases your risk of breast cancer, says Generose.
In all meal plans, its recommended that you limit your intake of red meats, like beef, lamb and pork, and processed meats, like bacon and hot dogs.
You dont need to swear off all red meat for good, but reducing your intake can have positive effects on your health and may reduce your risk of cancer, says Generose.
The recommended amount of red meat is three portions per week, or a total of 12 to 18 ounces or less.
Try to choose lean cuts of meat or poultry, and add more fish to your diet, adds Generose.
Eating For Breast Cancer Reduced Risk And Improved Survival
These studies are observational and both have limitations, such as recurrence or another disease may have affected what the women ate. The majority of the participants were also white, so the findings may not be applicable to other racial/ethnic groups.
Taken together, the research suggests that women diagnosed with breast cancer may benefit from eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables and eating less rapidly-digested foods sources, such as whole grains and non-starchy vegetables, says Brockton. This advice is consistent with AICRs 10 Cancer Prevention Recommendations that apply to cancer survivors too.
AICRs Breast Cancer Survivorship CUP Report also found indications that being physically active after a breast cancer diagnosis improved survival. The 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee report found evidence that physical activity both before and after a cancer diagnosis improved survival among people diagnosed with breast and several other cancers.
To lower risk of developing breast cancer, AICR research shows that avoiding alcohol, staying a healthy weight and being physically active can all lower risk. Although research is unclear if these habits prevent recurrence. These lifestyle habits also lower the risk of heart disease.
Here is where you can read more about the research on breast cancer survival.
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Tips To Prevent Breast Cancer
Its possible to prevent breast cancer by making a few changes in your life. Lets go over them.
- Manage your weight: Keep a check on your weight. Breast tumors are more common if youre overweight or obese.
- Begin a daily fitness routine: Staying active helps you fight against breast cancer development. You can start small with a short morning yoga ritual.
- Abstain from drinking: Drinking more than 3 glasses a week can increase your risk of chest tumors.
- Quit smoking: Nicotine has destructive health effects for women. Avoid smoking to reduce the risk of breast cancer.
- Ditch hormone therapy: Unnecessarily delaying menopause and increasing estrogen can put you at the cancer target.
- Move out of polluted areas: Exposure to pollution and radiation also makes you prone to developing breast cancer.
Apple Juice May Increase Risk Of Dying And Veggies Lower Risk
The first study, published in Cancer Research, focused on fruit juices along with fruit and vegetable intake.
The paper found that women who ate the greatest amounts of fruits and vegetables after their breast cancer diagnosis had an overall lower risk of dying during the course of the study compared to those who ate the least amounts. When Farvid and her colleagues teased this finding apart, it was the overall vegetable intake that appeared to drive the survival link with the greatest affect pointing to cruciferous and green leafy vegetables. Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts.
Fruit intake by itself did not show a link with mortality.
Women who ate, on average, almost a full serving of cruciferous vegetables daily had a 13 percent lower risk of dying from any cause during the course of the study, compared to those who ate almost none of these vegetables. And women who ate, on average, almost two servings of leafy greens daily had a 20 percent lower risk of dying, compared to those who ate close to none. This link was found after taking into account womens physical activity, smoking, weight change and other risk factors.
There was no link between mortality and orange juice.
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What Are The Signs Of Breast Cancer
After you hit 40 years, yearly mammograms can help detect any signs of breast cancer.
Before that, you should make a habit of doing monthly breast self-exams to notice cancer at the early stages.
Need help? Ive created a FREE step-by-step guide on how to do your breast self-check once a month.
Here are some common symptoms of breast cancer you should look out for:
- Painless lump in the breasts
- Swelling or lump near or inside armpits
- Unusual nipple discharge
- Pain and redness around the nipples
- Flaky skin around the nipples
- Change in the breast shape
If you notice any of these warning signs of breast cancer, get it checked immediately.
Eat To Beat Breast Cancer: Six Foods To Choose
Courtesy of Dr. Kristi Funk, Pink Lotus Breast Center
One of the mightiest weapons in the fight against breast cancer may be the fork. Food can play a key role in reducing the odds of getting breast cancer or having a recurrence. While science suggests a healthful plant-based diet can reduce breast cancer risk, certain foods seem to be particularly good at defending against breast cancer, while others are risky. Here are six foods to chooseand six to lose.
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There Is No Perfect Diet
Some people might find it reassuring to be handed a special cancer diet: a firm list of what foods to eat and not eat after a cancer diagnosis. But nutritionists say there is no such thing as a fool-proof, cancer-busting diet, despite many popular claims that people with cancer should absolutely avoid refined sugar, alcohol, and other forbidden foods that frequently pop up in a Google search.
Instead, nutritionists advocate for a well-balanced diet rich in vegetables and fruits that satisfy the senses and serve up healthy nutrients. That approach can also help avoid excessive weight gain, which research has linked to certain kinds of cancer.
While there are absolutely so many things you can do with your everyday diet to help support your immune system and help support your body, we want to get away from the mindset that there is one prescriptive diet that everyone should follow, says Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, LDN, CSO, co-founder and director of nutrition at Wellness Guides Personalized Nutrition & Fitness Coaching, in Boston.
Shopping And Cooking During Treatment
Simple tasks like shopping and cooking can seem exhausting during your treatment and as you recover. Try to accept any offers of help, even if youre used to coping on your own. You can also take advantage of online shopping or ask local shops if they have a telephone ordering and delivery service.
Its important to have fresh food in your diet, but if you can’t shop regularly, frozen and tinned fruit and vegetables are full of nutrients and can be eaten every day. Choose tinned fruit in juice rather than syrup and tinned vegetables that have less salt.
Find out more about coping with fatigue during and after treatment.
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Breast Cancer Food Guide
There is no specific diet that is recommended for people with breast cancer. Your nutrient needs may vary depending on many factors that include other medical diagnoses, your body weight, nutrient deficiencies, medications, and any symptoms that youre currently experiencing.
Your healthcare team, including a registered dietitian who specializes in oncology nutrition, can help you come up with an appropriate eating plan specific to your needs and overall health. The following foods are based on general recommendations to maintain overall health while living with breast cancer:
- whole, nutrient-dense foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, protein sources like chicken and turkey, fatty fish like trout or salmon, and plant-based proteins sources like lentils and nuts
- foods high in healthy fats and protein. If you need to maintain or gain weight, incorporate sources of healthy fat like nuts and seeds, avocados, and olive oil as well as protein sources like eggs, chicken, lentils, and fish. Protein-rich foods are especially important for maintaining muscle mass.
- blended liquids such as milkshakes, smoothies, juices, or soups for those times when you dont feel like eating solid foods
- high fiber foods like whole grains, flax seeds, legumes, vegetables and fruits to treat constipation
Cruciferous Vegetables For Breast Cancer
Cruciferous vegetables like brocolli, Cauliflower, cabbage, garden cress, bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts and other similar green vegetables can help beat breast cancer.
These vegetables contain an anti-inflammatory compound known as sulforaphane, which has been found to eliminate breast-cancer-causing chemicals and inhibit the growth of human breast cancer cells. To boost your intake of the anti-cancer compound, lightly steaming the veggie is the best way to reap the most bioactive nutrients from your food.
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Other Amazing Foods To Fight Breast Cancer
Here are some other incredible foods you should add to your breast cancer prevention diet.
Im sure many of you add mushrooms as pizza toppings, pasta, and salads. But did you know mushrooms can also prevent breast cancer tumors?
According to Dr. Joel Fuhrman, mushrooms limit estrogen production. High estrogen levels in your body can contribute to cancer growth. So even eating one mushroom a day can rescue your risk of breast cancer by a whopping 60%!
Both fresh and dried mushrooms are good enough to eat.
70. Olive Oil
Among the many health benefits of olive oil, is its ability to kill breast cancer cells.
According to a 2015 research in JAMA, women who ate Mediterranean diets with high amounts of olive oil had a 68% reduced risk of breast cancer compared to those who didnt. Thus, extra virgin olive oil is one of the best breast cancer prevention foods.
Mediterranean salads are delicious! Worth trying.
71. Sesame Oil
Similar to eating sesame seeds, sesame oil is also a remarkable food to prevent breast cancer. It contains phytoestrogens that can kill tumor cells by regulating estrogen levels.
72. Flaxseed Oil
Flaxseed seed oil carries high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which makes it a must-have anticancer food.
73. Fish Oil
Another super important breast cancer-fighting food is fish oil.
Fish oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which experts claim is 8 times more effective in preventing cancer tumor growth than other diets for breast cancer.
Eat Better To Feel Better
Lynne Richmond, 55, a public relations professional in Washington, D.C., met with a nutritional counselor after she was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer 2 years ago. At first, they focused on strategies to help with chemotherapy side effects, but now that she is in what she calls survivor mode, her focus is on eating healthy for life.
I didnt think there was a magic fix. But I thought eating better could give me a better chance of survival than if I didnt do anything, Lynne says. The plan includes staying away from packaged foods, carbs, and sugary desserts as much as possible, and she tries to skip the alcohol, too. She likes leafy greens such as spinach and kale, and blueberries and other fruits that are high in antioxidants.
For Sheryl Greene, 51, of Roanoke, Virginia, a 2012 stage II breast cancer diagnosis led to a change in shopping habits. She reflected on what she ate, helped by nutritional counseling she received as part of her cancer care. She realized that she ate a lot of canned foods and not enough foods she prepared herself. High-fructose corn syrup, a refined sugar, was in many of her packaged food choices.
Now Sheryl shops almost entirely on the perimeter of the grocery store, where fresh foods are, and avoids the middle aisles. She also likes farmers markets and looks for food marked organic.
Sheryl hasnt gotten used to the unwanted food advice from people who know her cancer history. Some make comments about what she should and should not eat.
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How Does Cancer Treatment Affect Your Diet
Treatments such as chemotherapy and some forms of radiation therapy can cause a variety of side effects, including:
- Constipation, which can cause discomfort and further reduce your desire to eat
- Diarrhea, which can drain your body of nutrients
- Fatigue, which means youre less active, so you burn fewer calories and dont feel as hungry throughout the day
- Loss of taste, which can make food unappealing
- Nausea and vomiting, which might reduce your appetite and cause weight loss
Sometimes it also depends on the specific type of cancer you have, explains Rajagopal. Treatment for breast cancer and blood cancers often involve steroids. Steroids can actually increase your appetite and increase your blood sugar levels, which might lead to insulin resistance and weight gain. So instead of losing weight, its possible to gain quite a bit of weight from the combination of medications and a more sedentary lifestyle during cancer treatment.
Some people also have hormone therapy after chemotherapy for breast cancer or endometrial cancer. The drugs suppress production of estrogen, a hormone that plays an important role in metabolism. If your metabolism slows down, you may put on weight.
People with pancreatic cancer often find it difficult to maintain their weight. Since the pancreas isnt functioning the way it should, they may not be able to digest food normally. This can lead to weight loss or malnourishment.
Red And Processed Meat
Studies, such as the UK Womens Cohort Study, show that red and processed meat, like hot dogs and bacon, can increase breast cancer risk. The Nurses Health Study II found that premenopausal women who ate the most red meat had a 97 percent higher risk of a common type of breast cancer. The NIH-AARP Study involving nearly 200,000 women found a 25 percent higher risk for breast cancer in those eating the most red meat, compared to those eating the least.
As a doctor, I want people to know that they already wield some of the most powerful tools to help take control over the risk of cancer: the fork and knife.
Neal Barnard, MD, FACC, President, Physicians Committee
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How Can I Improve My Immune System
Following a balanced diet and exercising regularly can help make sure your body is strong enough for treatment.
The following are other ways to support your body and immune system:
- Avoiding smoking or other tobacco use.
- Getting enough sleep.
- Staying at a healthy body weight.
- Limiting how much alcohol you drink.
- Managing your stress level.
- Managing your blood pressure.
- Washing your hands properly.
During chemotherapy treatment, its important to follow food safety precautions, such as cooking meats thoroughly and avoiding unpasteurized foods. This will help your body if your immune system cant fight off infections as well as it should.
Two New Studies Suggest Diet Can Help Breast Cancer Survivors Live Longer
Mya R. Nelson is a science writer for American Institute for Cancer Research.
Can breast cancer survivors diets help them live longer? Two new studies both partially funded by AICR suggest yes. The research yields important insights into an area that has previously given inconclusive findings.
Today, more women than ever before are surviving breast cancer and that has led to increased research into how diet may play a role in survival. Breast cancer survivors are at increased risk of developing another breast cancer and cardiovascular disease, which increases risk of mortality. In 2014, AICRs systematic review of the global evidence found there was not enough evidence to conclude that diet affected breast cancer survival.
Some research conducted in recent years has hinted that a healthy diet can improve survival, such as these papers AICR has written about here and here. However, there is a critical need for more and better research, says Nigel Brockton, PhD., AICRs Vice President of Research.
Many of the estimated 3.8 million breast cancer survivors in the US are eager for reliable dietary advice that can help them live longer, healthier lives, said Brockton. AICR funded this research to help provide some of those answers.
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Breast Cancer A Personal Story From Amber
Amber was ten years old when her mother was initially diagnosed with breast cancer. It wasnt even her first run-in with the big C, as shed been diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma almost twenty years prior. Even so, it was different the second time around. She wasnt a lonely teenager anymore, living on her own. At her second cancer diagnosis, she was 34, young for a breast cancer patient. She had three little girls. Ambers little sisters were all of three and five years old at the time, hardly more than babies.
That was the hardest part for her, explaining cancer to those tiny little girls. She ultimately allowed Ambers father to do most of the talking. She kept trying to get the words out, but she had to keep stopping. It was as if shed lost control of so many parts of her life too quickly.
Ambers family needed to feel as though they could still make their own choices separate from that cancer made for them. The one choice they made that night was to laugh. It may seem callous. Amber reminisces, Youd have to know the set of bizarrely macabre individuals that I call family to understand that likening my mothers upcoming radical, double mastectomy to her morphing into the wife of Frankensteins monster was hilariously funny at the time. Laughing was our only way to avoid crying. The second choice we made was to fight in every, single way we could.