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  • Writer's pictureSurviving Breast Cancer

Diet and Breast Cancer

Because of early detection strategies and advances in cancer treatments, survival rates among those diagnosed with breast cancer are improving. With more women (and men) living longer, more research is starting to emerge on how a healthy lifestyle reduces mortality and improves quality of life. Maintaining a healthy weight, eating well, and moving your body also has a positive effect in fighting fatigue, stiffness, and other side effects brought on by breast cancer treatment. Additionally, much of this research centers around how diet, nutrition, and exercise, can have either protective or risk-increasing effects. It’s important to note that the word “diet” simply refers to what one eats, and not necessarily dieting to lose weight. Below we share insights on foods you may want to either incorporate or avoid to maintain or enhance your health after a breast cancer diagnosis.

“[Many] studies make it seem possible that if you had no sugar in your diet it could help stop cancer developing or growing. But all our other cells also need glucose to survive, and there’s no way of letting just the healthy cells get the amount of glucose they need while starving the cancer cells.

Perhaps the most important prescription for cancer patients is to limit the amount of sugar in our diet, read our labels, enjoy simple unprocessed foods, and follow the advice of our nutritionist/oncology team to focus on getting the nutrients you need to stay strong during and after treatment. In short, eat the healthy sugars found in fruits and veggies while shying away from the cookies, cakes, and processed cereals.” Read More

“Research tells us that individuals that follow five essential habits—eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, keeping a healthy body weight, not drinking too much alcohol, and not smoking—live more than a decade longer than those who don’t. Maintaining these practices may help us live longer and potentially protect us from diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a magical diet that guarantees protection against breast cancer or any foods that can cure cancer. However, some foods can make your body as healthy as possible, boost your immune system, minimize your risk, and even some that may control the side effects of treatments.” Read More.

“Natural soy foods contain phytoestrogens, plant-based estrogen compounds. Since estrogen is linked to certain types of hormonal breast cancer, many individuals fear that soy can increase their risk for breast cancer development. There have been several research studies conducted to assess the association between soy consumption and breast cancer development; animal studies have primarily established a positive correlation between soy consumption and breast cancer, but human population studies have not produced this same result.” Read More.

Foods that may alleviate insomnia include poppy seeds, pumpkin seeds, butternut squash seeds, herbs like valerian and lavender, and honey. Ginger is also great for nausea. Read More.


From Around The Web

“Lifestyle factors and the survival after breast cancer

In this report from our Continuous Update Project (CUP) – the world’s largest source of scientific research on cancer prevention and survivorship through diet, nutrition and physical activity – we analyse global research on how certain lifestyle factors affect how likely it is that a person will survive after developing breast cancer. There is some evidence of links between better survival after breast cancer and:

Studies have found that diets high in meat, alcohol, and certain types of fat can increase risk of breast cancer, while diets high in fiber, vitamin D, and phytoestrogens (which can be found in soy, for example) can have protective effects.

“Epidemiological studies have reported conflicting results regarding the association of dietary fat with breast cancer risk. Diets high in polyunsaturated fat have been reported to increase the occurrence of mammary tumors in animal models. ... Fat from different types of food may have different effects on risk of breast cancer. For example, intake of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) from fruit and vegetable oils is inversely associated with risk of breast cancer.” Read More.

Two recent studies found that “overall, breast cancer survivors who eat a diet high in vegetables and low in fruit juice and carbohydrate-packed diets have a lower risk of dying during an average of almost a dozen years after their treatment ended. ... The [first] 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 Maryam Farvid, PhD and her colleagues teased this finding apart, it was the overall vegetable intake that appeared to drive the survival link with the greatest effect 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.” Read More.

Breast cancer treatments like chemo and radiation can include side effects like nausea, mouth sores, and loss of appetite. Therefore, it is important to make sure you are actually eating enough during this time so that you can maintain your energy and a healthy body weight. Foods you should consider including:

  • Whole, nutrient-dense foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and proteins

  • 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 don‘t feel like eating solid foods

  • High fiber foods like whole grains, flax seeds, legumes, vegetables and fruits to treat constipation

In certain situations determined by your doctor, you may need to avoid or reduce your consumption of specific foods and beverages, including:

  • Alcohol could interact with the cancer drugs you take. There is also some limited evidence that drinking alcohol may increase the risk of recurrence and mortality for existing breast cancer.

  • Spicy, crunchy, or acidic foods. These may increase mouth soreness, which is a common chemotherapy side effect.

  • Undercooked foods. If you have breast cancer, you’re at a higher risk of developing infections. Avoid raw foods like sushi and oysters during your treatment. Cook meats, fish, and poultry to a safe temperature before eating them.

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