Staying Healthy with Breast Cancer
Once you receive a breast cancer diagnosis, you may be wondering what you can do to stay as healthy as possible. Diet, exercise, and emotional wellbeing all play a role. The good news is, many of the things you did to stay healthy pre-cancer will be helpful to you during your treatment.
A healthy diet is important for fueling your body and helping you feel your best during treatment. Drink plenty of water -- experts recommend roughly 64 to 96 ounces (8 to 12 8-oz. glasses) per day -- and aim for a diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein.
Some foods, such as sugar and alcohol have previously been linked to breast cancer diagnosis, spread, or recurrence, but the evidence is inconclusive in most cases. These foods can be consumed in moderation, though alcohol should be kept to no more than one alcoholic beverage per day.
Keep an eye on your weight by weighing yourself one or two times a week. If the numbers are consistently trending down, speak with your doctor. Avoiding excess weight post-treatment is one of the best things you can do to reduce the risk of your cancer coming back. Conversely, obesity has been shown to be associated with worse outcomes for patients with breast cancer. If your BMI is over 29, please work with your treatment team to reduce your weight safely.
Breast cancer treatment can be physically grueling, but it’s important to exercise if you feel able. Even one or two 10 minute walks a day can have a positive impact on the effectiveness of your treatment and your overall wellbeing. Speak with your doctor to determine what type of exercise is appropriate for you, depending on your pre-cancer activity level and your treatment plan.
After your treatment, continued exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight and can even reduce the risk of developing lymphedema -- a condition common in breast cancer patients and survivors that causes lymphatic fluid to build up in the fatty tissues under the skin. For all of us, best health is achieved with a minimum of 30 minutes per day of physical activity that keeps your heart rate in your “aerobic Zone” continuously. Consult your Beebe Team to learn what your “aerobic Zone” heart rate is.
Social and Emotional Wellbeing
Taking care of your body during and after treatment is important, and taking care of your mental and emotional health is too. Your breast cancer journey is extremely personal, so do what feels best for you -- whether that’s to share your diagnosis on social media and post regular updates, or just to tell a few close friends and family. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need: rides to and from treatment, someone to join you for a walk, or a supportive listener. Many people with breast cancer find it helpful to talk with someone who’s “been there,” so consider joining a support group or reaching out to a friend who’s a survivor. Beebe offers many resources to help you feel your best during treatment.