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Breast Cancer Survivors: Nutrition and Fitness Tips

Eat foods that are cancer-protective to help prevent a recurrence, and get back into exercise to lose extra pounds.

After Breast Cancer: Getting Back into a Fitness Routine

Now, what about exercise? You're probably ready to be more active, and you may even have gained some weight, probably somewhere between five and 30 pounds during breast cancer treatment. Just one example: A study presented to the 11th Annual Research Conference on Diet, Nutrition, and Cancer in 2001 found that about a third of women gain weight after three months of chemotherapy, and more than half gain weight after six months.

The reasons are complicated, according to Marisa Weiss, MD, a leading oncologist and founder of Breastcancer.org.

First, you're probably getting less exercise during breast cancer treatment than you usually do, she says. Second, if you haven't gone through menopause already, chemotherapy is likely to put you in at least temporary "chemopause," slowing down your metabolism. Many of the drug cocktails that oncologists use to help fend off nausea and vomiting during chemotherapy include steroids, which can also "pump you up" in ways you don't want.

For this reason, and a host of others, exercise plays a key role in your recovery from breast cancer. In addition to helping you take off your "chemo weight," studies show exercise helps reduce fatigue, improve energy, and combat depression in women with breast cancer. Exercise also helps lower a woman's risk of developing breast cancer, and may also improve the odds against your cancer's coming back.

Ideally, you were keeping up with some sort of exercise program during your treatment for breast cancer. But even if the fatigue and other side effects kept you from exercising during treatment, you can still get started now and reap the benefits.

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