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Breast Cancer: Combating Cancer-Related Fatigue

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What About Nutrition?

Cancer-related fatigue is often made worse if you are not eating enough or if you are not eating the right foods. Maintaining good nutrition can help you feel better and have more energy. Here are some strategies to help improve your nutritional intake:

  • Meet your basic calorie needs. The estimated calorie needs for someone with cancer is 15 calories per pound of weight if your weight has been stable. Add 500 calories per day if you have lost weight. Example: A person who weighs 150 pounds needs about 2,250 calories per day to maintain his or her weight.
  • Get plenty of protein. Protein rebuilds and repairs damaged (and normally aging) body tissue. The recommended daily allowance of protein for adult women is 46 grams per day and for adult men is  56 grams per day. The best sources of protein include foods from the dairy group (8 ounces milk = 8 grams protein) and meats (meat, fish or poultry = 7 grams of protein per ounce).
  • Drink plenty of fluids. A minimum of eight cups of fluid per day will prevent dehydration. Fluids can include juice, milk, broth, milkshakes, gelatin and other beverages. Of course, water is fine, too. Beverages containing caffeine do NOT count. Keep in mind that you'll need more fluids if you have treatment side effects such as vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Make sure you are getting enough vitamins. Take a vitamin supplement if you are not sure you are getting enough nutrients. A recommended supplement would be a multivitamin that provides at least 100 percent of the recommended daily allowances (RDA) for most nutrients. Note: Vitamin supplements do not provide calories, which are essential for energy production. So vitamins cannot substitute for adequate food intake.
  • Make an appointment with a dietitian. A registered dietitian can provide suggestions to work around any eating problems that may be interfering with proper nutrition (such as early feeling of fullness, swallowing difficulty, or taste changes). A dietitian can also suggest ways to maximize calories and include proteins in smaller amounts of food (such as powdered milk, instant breakfast drinks and other commercial supplements or food additives).

What About Exercise?

Decreased physical activity, which may be the result of illness or of treatment, can lead to tiredness and lack of energy. Scientists have found that even healthy athletes forced to spend extended periods in bed or sitting in chairs develop feelings of anxiety, depression, weakness, fatigue, and nausea.

Regular, moderate exercise can decrease these feelings, help you stay active and increase your energy. Even during cancer therapy, it is often possible to continue exercising. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind.

  • Check with your health-care provider before beginning an exercise program.
  • A good exercise program starts slowly, allowing your body time to adjust.
  • Keep a regular exercise schedule. Perform moderate-intensity exercise at least 150 minutes a week.
  • The right kind of exercise never makes you feel sore, stiff or exhausted. If you experience soreness, stiffness, exhaustion or feel out of breath as a result of your exercise, you are overdoing it.
  • Most exercises are safe, as long as you exercise with caution and you don't overdo it. The safest and most productive activities are swimming, brisk walking, indoor stationary cycling and low impact aerobics (taught by a certified instructor). These activities carry little risk of injury and benefit your entire body.

WebMD Medical Reference

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