Going through treatment for breast cancer changes you. It can change your perspective on health and life, too. As a breast cancer survivor, you might have renewed energy to take charge of your health — or you might just need a break! Wherever you are in your recovery, it’s important to take care of yourself.
Making healthy lifestyle changes is a good place to start. The key is focusing on health factors that are in your control instead of worrying about risks that you can’t control.
- Eat a healthy diet. Good nutrition is one of many factors that can affect the immune system and your overall health. Fill your plate with vegetables, fruits, lean protein and whole grains. Also, make sure that you’re getting enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet. If you have questions about nutrition or if you’re facing challenges with eating, talk to your doctor or get help from a registered dietitian. “Aim to maintain a healthy weight after a breast cancer diagnosis,” said Sarah Deen, clinical dietitian and certified specialist in oncology nutrition at the Georgia Cancer Center at Augusta University. “Key strategies that can help include keeping active, watching your portion sizes and limiting the calories and fat that you eat. It’s also important to choose a variety of foods from all food groups to ensure that you get enough vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients.”
- Get exercise. Getting back into an exercise routine (or starting one) can be very beneficial for survivors. Talk to your doctor before starting an exercise regimen and start slowly. Aim for 150 minutes of aerobic activity every week, as well as strength training exercises at least two days a week.
- Limit or avoid alcohol. Women should limit alcohol consumption to no more than one drink per day. Research suggests that women who drink regularly (two to five drinks daily) have a higher risk of breast cancer compared with women who drink one drink per day or none.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking and chewing tobacco increase your risk of many kinds of cancer. Quitting helps to reduce your risk of cancer returning. Your doctor can help you devise a plan to quit smoking.
- Seek support. Coping with changes after treatment can be stressful, and some breast cancer survivors experience feelings of depression. Talk to your doctor if you’re feeling stressed, anxious or depressed. Join a support group for cancer survivors, and reach out to friends and family for social support as well.