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Lifestyle Changes to Manage Breast Cancer
Lifestyle changes can help:
- Keep your body strong so you can get through your treatments.
- Optimize how your immune system works so you can fight against cancer.
- Make your outlook better, so you can enjoy life to the fullest.
- Avoid other problems that could make it harder for you to get better.
Smoking is linked to many cancers and other health problems. It can also make the chances of having problems from treatment higher. Smoking also slows the rate of healing.
When you quit smoking, the body starts to heal right away. Quitting will help boost your immune system to help fight the cancer and help you get better faster during treatment.
Limit Exposure to Estrogen
If you were told you have a hormone-sensitive breast cancer, you may need to limit foods with phytoestrogens. These are soy or soy-based products. Phytoestrogens are found in plants. But, when eaten, it acts like estrogen in the body. Soy milk, tofu, and edamame are common soy products. If you need help planning meals that will give you enough protein and vegetables, talk to a dietitian.
Reduce Your Risk of Infection
Cancer and its treatments make it harder for your body to fight infection. This may make them more frequent or take them longer to go away. This can happen with common ones such as a cold or the flu. To lower your chances of infection:
- Wash hands often. Hand washing is the best way to lower the chances of catching colds and flu. Carry hand sanitizer for times when you can't wash.
- Try to stay away from crowds, mostly during cold and flu season.
- Don't touch your eyes, mouth, and nose after touching surfaces or objects.
- Clean surfaces and objects often.
- Ask your doctor about getting vaccines for the flu and pneumonia.
Make Dietary Changes
A healthful diet can help your body and mind. Making healthy choices gives fuel to help your body work at its best. It also gives your body nutrition to help heal it faster. Eating the right foods will also make you feel better. This will also help you keep within a normal weight range.
Cancer and how it’s treated can make you feel less hungry. Make the most of the calories you eat. A dietitian can help you with common eating problems. They can also help you plan meals.
Exercise helps you keep your weight, modulates high levels of estrogen, and supports the immune system. If you have not been exercising on a steady basis, check with your doctor to choose a safe program. Exercise has many benefits. It helps with:
- Your fitness
- Boosting your energy level
- Making your immune system work better
- Boosting your spirits and outlook
Talk with a trainer to help you set goals. They will also help you do it safely, especially when starting out. While adding exercise, be sure to balance it with rest.
Fatigue is the most common problem with cancer and cancer treatments. To keep from getting overtired, work on tasks that need the most attention first. Allow others to help you with daily chores, shopping, and making meals. If needed, plan time to rest during the day.
Talk to your doctor if fatigue makes it hard for you to get through the day.
Cancer is a life-defining event that can be hard to handle. It can be overwhelming to think and worry about treatment, changes, and uncertainty. Be sure to rely on family, friends, and other people in your life. People who allow themselves to seek help while they are recovering from cancer can often have a better emotional balance. Other sources:
- Religious community
- Support groups for people with your type of cancer
- Professional support from social workers, psychologists, and/or psychiatrists who are trained to help support cancer patients and their families
Family and caregivers may also need support. Encourage them to seek support groups or counseling geared toward them.
Breast cancer found in advances stages can be harder to treat. Some people choose treatments to help ease symptoms. Others choose to fully stop it. For some people, it may be realistic to start end-of-life planning. Aspects may include:
- Choosing home or hospice care
- Financial decisions
- Advance directives—includes legal issues, like wills, hospital orders for your care, and power of attorney for medical care and finances
- Insurance coverage
If you need guidance, talk to your healthcare team. You can be referred to a trained professional to guide you through the process.
Breast cancer. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gynecology-and-obstetrics/breast-disorders/breast-cancer. Updated January 2018. Accessed December 10, 2018.
Breast cancer in women. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113654/Breast-cancer-in-women. Updated November 26, 2018. Accessed December 10, 2018.
Stay healthy. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/healthy.html. Accessed December 10, 2018.
Treatment option overview. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/breast/patient/breast-treatment-pdq#section/%5F185. Updated October 19, 2018. Accessed December 10, 2018.
Vadiraja HS, Raghavendra RM, Nagarathna R, et al. Effects of a yoga program on cortisol rhythm and mood states in early breast cancer patients undergoing adjuvant radiotherapy: a randomized controlled trial. Integr Cancer Ther. 2009;8(1):37-46.
4/16/2009 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113654/Breast-cancer-in-women. Korstjens I, May AM, van Weert E, et al. Quality of life after self-management cancer rehabilitation: a randomized controlled trial comparing physical and cognitive-behavioral training versus physical training. Psychosom Med. 2008;70(4):422-429.
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Nicole Meregian, PA
- Review Date: 12/2018
- Update Date: 12/10/2018