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Managing Your Medical Care: Breast Cancer: Once A Treatment Decision Is Made

Adopt A Cancer Prevention Diet And Lifestyle

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Controlling your diet and lifestyle helps gain a sense of control and empowerment. It may also help get your body into the best condition to fight cancer.

  • Eat nutritiously
    • People who eat well are better able to cope with side effects of treatment. You may even be able to handle higher doses of certain drugs.
    • Keep your comfort foods for once in a while (say once every few days or once a week). The goal is to eliminate unhealthy foods or to keep them to a bare minimum.
    • The American Cancer Society recommends:
      • Vegetables and fruits: Eat at least 5 servings of vegetables (including legumes, or peas and beans) and fruits each day. Try to eat those with the most color (a sign of high nutrient content). These foods are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and many other substances that work together to lower risk of many cancers, including cancers of the lung, mouth, esophagus, stomach, and colon. Not only that, if prepared properly, vegetables and fruits are usually low in calories, so eating them in place of higher-calorie foods can help you control your weight.
      • Whole grains: Aim for at least 3 servings of whole grains each day. There are easy ways to add whole grains to your diet -- eat oatmeal at breakfast, choose 100% whole-wheat bread or wraps for your lunchtime sandwich, use brown rice at dinner instead of white.
      • Processed and red meats: Cutting back on processed meats like hot dogs, bologna, bacon, and deli meat, and red meats like beef, pork, and lamb may help reduce the risk of colon and prostate cancers. These foods are also high in saturated fat, so eating less of them and eating them less often will also help lower your risk of heart disease.
    • If you have a question about what eating well in general means, one credible source of information is the United States Department of Agriculture's web offsite link
    • Ask your cancer doctor, a nutritionist or dietitian if there are foods you should start eating or avoiding that would make your treatment more effective or easier.
  • Make sure both food and water are safe. For example, practice proper techniques when handling or storing food. For helpful information, see: Food SafetyDrinking Water Safety 
  • Get exercise.
    • Exercise has many benefits. For instance, exercise helps your body's healing function operate at its best. On the other hand, too much exercise can impact your treatment. Speak with your doctor about the right amount of exercise for you.
    • Exercise does not have to be in a gym. Even brisk walking is helpful. 
    • If you belong to a gym:
      • Take precautions to avoid unnecessary infection. Gyms can be a hot house for bacteria.
      • Ask your doctor how long you will be unable to do your usual exercises. Most gyms will place a membership on hold for medical reasons so you don't pay for the time. 
    • If platelet counts become low: Avoid high-risk sports to prevent bleeding from injuries or rough contact.
  • Get rest and appropriate sleep.
  • If you smoke use your diagnosis as a wake up call to quit.  
    • By quitting at the time of diagnosis, a patient can improve the body’s response to treatments, lessen complications and side effects, decrease the risk of recurrence and enhance survival
    • Once you stop smoking because of cancer therapy, consider stopping for good. Cancer patients who smoke have a lower survival rate than nonsmokers. Also keep in mind that tobacco is a known risk factor for at least 15 different types of cancer.
    • For information about quitting, click here.
  • Avoid excessive use of alcohol.
  • Try to keep a positive attitude. We're not suggesting you become a pollyanna. Work at keeping the focus on the half full side of the glass. For information about keeping a positive attitude, click here.
  • Think about getting a pet. It doesn't have to be a dog or a cat to help you feel better. You can get a dog for a short term by being a foster home for an animal at a local shelter.

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