Exercise and Nutrition After Breast Cancer Surgery
As many as 2.3 million American women have survived breast cancer or are currently fighting breast cancer. A key component to overcoming breast cancer is to take care of yourself following breast cancer surgery. Nutrition and exercise can help you regain your health after surgery.
Breast Cancer: Nutrition to Ease Symptoms
Nausea and vomiting are common after surgery. They are especially 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" called cachexia. This is a wasting away of muscle, organ tissue, and other lean body mass. It's often accompanied by weight loss and weakness.
Here are some ways 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.
Breast Cancer: Nutrition to Aid Healing
Good nutrition is also associated with a better chance of recovery from cancer. After breast cancer surgery, your body needs more than its usual supply of protein. It needs it to repair cells, fight infection, and heal incisions. Right after surgery, boost your protein intake without worrying about calories. It will aid your healing and help you regain your strength. If you need to lose weight, you can focus on that after your post-op recovery.
Here are some ways to increase your protein intake:
- Add protein powder or dry milk to meals.
- Add grated cheese to vegetables, potatoes, rice, and salads.
- Add high-protein snacks such as almonds, peanuts, and cheese to your diet.
Breast Cancer: Nutrition to Help Prevent Recurrence
Phytochemicals are chemicals found in plant foods. "Phyto" means plant. Some phytochemicals have been studied for their potential anti-cancer benefits and their ability to prevent recurrence.
Soy. Soybeans contain phytoestrogens. These are weak estrogen-like compounds. Soybeans (also called edamame), tofu, soy milk, and miso soup all contain these phytoestrogens. Some researchers think they can help protect against the kind of breast cancer that depends on estrogen for its growth. Experts agree that more research is needed to fully understand the role phytoestrogens might play in preventing breast cancer recurrence. In the meantime, ask your doctor whether eating a moderate amount of soy foods -- one to three servings a day -- is advised for you. It's possible it may interfere with hormone therapy or some other treatment. There is a link between estrogen levels and breast cancer growth. But how various hormone therapies, surgery, phytoestrogens from foods, and recurrence of cancer are all related is, as of yet, far from understood.
Antioxidants. Many vegetables, fruits, nuts, and other foods contain antioxidants. Examples of specific foods with antioxidants include broccoli, liver, and mangos. Antioxidants protect your cells from damage from "free radicals." These are atoms or groups of atoms thought to trigger cancer growth. Dietitians advise eating a balanced diet with a variety of fresh foods to provide antioxidants. That's better than taking high "megadoses" of vitamin C, vitamin E, or other antioxidants.
Beta-carotene. Beta-carotene gives carrots, apricots, yams, and other orange-colored vegetables and fruits their color. Results of studies examining the relationship between breast cancer and beta-carotene are inconsistent. But there are some studies that suggest that a diet high in beta-carotene-rich foods may reduce the risk of death 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 in some women. Studies haven't shown a consistent benefit, though.