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Breast Cancer Health Center

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Exercise and Nutrition After Breast Cancer Surgery

After you get a breast cancer operation, it’s more important than ever to take care of yourself. Good nutrition and exercise can help you regain your health.

Ease Symptoms

Nausea and vomiting are common after surgery, and you’re even more likely to have these symptoms if you've also had chemotherapy or radiation. Other symptoms 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:

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

Your Diet and Recovery

Protein. Your body needs more of it than usual after your operation. It needs it to repair cells, fight infection, and heal incisions. Here's what you can do to get more:

  • 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.

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

Soy. Soybeans contain phytoestrogens. These are nutrients similar to the estrogen in your body. Sources of them include soybeans (edamame), tofu, soy milk, and miso soup. Some researchers think they can help protect against the kind of breast cancer that needs estrogen for its growth, but others don't. Ask your doctor whether eating one to three servings of soy 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 have them. Good choices 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 them. It’s better for you than taking supplements.

Lycopene. This is one type of antioxidant. It puts the red in tomatoes and the pink in pink grapefruit. It might help fight breast cancer.

Beta-carotene. Carrots, apricots, yams, and other vegetables and fruits get their orange color from beta-carotene. Eating foods that have a lot of it may lower the risk of breast cancer returning, some studies suggest.

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