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Exercise and Nutrition After Breast Cancer Surgery

Breast Cancer: A Lifelong Anti-cancer Diet

Here are some guidelines you can use for planning an anti-cancer diet. You might also want to consider consulting with a registered dietitian. The dietitian can give you more personalized advice on the best diet and nutrition plan for you.

  • Choose low-fat protein, such as roasted chicken and baked fish, rather than steak, duck, sausages, or other high-fat meats.
  • Try to eat five servings of a wide variety of vegetables and fruits each day.
  • Avoid or eliminate processed meats linked to cancer. This includes meats such as bacon, bologna, hot dogs, ham, and smoked meats.
  • Choose whole-grain products like whole-grain bread and brown rice, rather than white bread and white rice.
  • Cut back or eliminate alcohol. Limit yourself to one to two drinks a day at most.

Exercise After Breast Cancer Surgery

Exercise has long been known to improve self-esteem, elevate mood, and create a sense of personal mastery and well-being. Exercise after breast cancer surgery is no exception. In addition, studies have shown a link between being overweight and breast cancer recurrence. So losing weight through exercise may help you restore your health and improve your outcome.

Fatigue often lingers for some time after surgery. It may be more pronounced if you've also had chemotherapy and radiation. Still, most experts advise some form of regular exercise, even if you start with short walks around the block. Exercise can actually boost your energy. And recent studies suggest that exercise after breast cancer surgery can lower the risk of cancer recurrence.

Breast Cancer: Goals for Exercise

1. Talk with your doctor before starting.

For the first days and weeks after breast cancer surgery, focus on protecting your incision. Also focus on protecting any other tender areas from bumping and bruising. Avoid carrying children or heavy groceries. Once your doctor gives you clearance to begin exercising, some precautions may apply. Consider seeing a physical therapist experienced with breast cancer. The therapists can help you improve your range of motion, strength, and flexibility in the affected arm and shoulder after surgery.

If you had a lumpectomy to remove a breast lump, or surgery to remove part of your breast (a segmental mastectomy), exercise precautions are usually minimal.

If you had surgery to remove the lymph nodes under your arm, you're at higher risk of lymphedema (swelling of the arm). This is especially true if you receive radiation. That's because fluids can't drain normally from your affected arm. Lymphedema can occur any time after surgery or radiation. You'll need to protect your arm from injury. You may also need to avoid exercises such as tennis, running, and some styles of yoga that use your arms for some time after surgery.

If you had a mastectomy, you may have more precautions than women who have had a breast-conserving surgery that removes less tissue. Also, if you go on to have breast reconstruction surgery, you may face several surgeries to finish the full reconstruction of your breast and nipple. That may mean you'll be restricted from exercise for a longer period of time.

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