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Breast Cancer Health Center

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Exercise and Nutrition After Breast Cancer Surgery

A Lifelong Anti-Cancer Diet

A registered dietitian can give you advice on the best diet and nutrition plan for you. But here are some guidelines to get started.

  • Eat low-fat protein, such as roasted chicken and baked fish, rather than steak, sausages, or other high-fat meats.
  • Eat five servings of a wide variety of vegetables and fruits each day.
  • Avoid processed meats linked to cancer. These include bacon, bologna, hot dogs, ham, and smoked meats.
  • Eat whole-grain bread and brown rice, rather than white bread and white rice.
  • Cut back on alcohol. Limit yourself to one drink a day if you're a woman or two if you're a man.
  • Talk to your doctor about any diet changes you're making, especially when recovering from surgery or when getting chemotherapy. You don't want to starve your body of important nutrients that it needs to recover.

Exercise After Surgery

A good aerobic workout improves your self-esteem, mood, and health. And after breast cancer surgery, you’ll need to be active. Being overweight is linked to breast cancer coming back. Losing extra pounds through exercise may help you restore your health and improve your chances of avoiding more cancer.

Fatigue often lingers after surgery. It may be worse if you've also had chemotherapy and radiation. Exercise can boost your energy. Most experts say some form of regular exercise is good, even if you start with short walks around the block.

Here are some tips:

Protect yourself. For the first days and weeks after your surgery, you’ll need to focus on protecting your incision and any other tender areas. Don't carry heavy things like children or groceries.

Talk with your doctor before you start exercising. Once your doctor says you can, start slowly and carefully. Think about seeing a physical therapist experienced with breast cancer. A therapist can help you improve your range of motion, strength, and flexibility.

If you had a lumpectomy to remove a breast lump, or surgery to remove part of your breast (a partial mastectomy), you can get back to exercise fairly quickly with your doctor's OK.

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