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Exercise and Nutrition After Breast Cancer Surgery

Taking care of yourself after breast cancer surgery is important to your health. Nutrition and exercise can help you regain your health after surgery.

Ease Symptoms

Nausea and vomiting are common after surgery. They’re more common if you've also had chemotherapy or radiation. Other symptoms after surgery include a loss of appetite or desire to eat, and "wasting syndrome," when your body wastes away from lack of nutrition. It's often accompanied by weight loss and weakness.

To ease symptoms of nausea after breast cancer treatment:

  • Eat several smaller meals throughout the day instead of three big meals.
  • Try protein shakes, yogurt, and liquid protein drinks instead of solid foods.
  • Eat simple soups, such as chicken with vegetables and broth.


Protein for Healing

Good nutrition helps you recover from cancer. After breast cancer surgery, your body needs more protein than usual. It needs it to repair cells, fight infection, and heal incisions.

  • Add protein powder or dry milk to meals.
  • Add grated cheese to vegetables, potatoes, rice, and salads.
  • Eat high-protein snacks such as almonds, peanuts, and cheese.

Right after surgery, boost your protein without worrying about calories. It will help you heal and get your strength back. If you need to lose weight, you can focus on that later.

Prevent Recurrence

Phytochemicals are nutrients found in plants. Some phytochemicals have been studied for their cancer-fighting benefits and their ability to prevent cancer from coming back.

Soy. Soybeans contain phytoestrogens. These are nutrients similar to the estrogen in your body. Soybeans (also called edamame), tofu, soy milk, and miso soup contain phytoestrogens. Some researchers think they can help protect against the kind of breast cancer that depends on estrogen for its growth, but others don't. Ask your doctor whether eating one to three servings of soy foods a day would help you. It's possible it may interfere with hormone therapy or some other treatment.

Antioxidants. Many vegetables, fruits, nuts, and other foods contain antioxidants. Foods with antioxidants include broccoli, liver, carrots, blueberries, and mangoes. Antioxidants protect your cells from damage. Dietitians say you should eat a balanced diet with a variety of fresh foods to get antioxidants. That's better than taking megadoses in supplements.

Beta-carotene. Beta-carotene gives carrots, apricots, yams, and other vegetables and fruits their orange color. Some studies that suggest that a diet high in beta-carotene-rich foods may lower the risk of dying from breast cancer.

Lycopene. Lycopene is what puts the red in tomatoes and the pink in pink grapefruit. It might also help prevent recurrence of breast cancer.

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