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Everyday Ways to Boost Your Health After Breast Cancer

Article date: October 11, 2013

New drugs, new diagnostic tools, and new treatments mean more people are living long after a breast cancer diagnosis. And it’s no surprise that many breast cancer survivors want to know what they can do to help improve their health after facing the disease. The good news is, there are a host of everyday habits that can help you stay healthier, feel better, and even reduce your risk for having cancer again in the future. The guidelines below can help you make these critical healthy habits a part of your routine.


Take control of your weight. Being overweight or obese increases your risk of a number of health problems. For people with breast cancer, being obese has been linked to an increase in the chances that cancer will return. That’s why getting to and staying at a healthy weight is so important. If you’re carrying extra weight, small changes, such as cutting down on high-calorie foods and sugary beverages, can be a good way to kick start your path to a healthy waistline.

Move your body. Studies have shown time and again that exercise is a crucial part of healthier living and reducing overall cancer risk. For breast cancer survivors, exercising after diagnosis has been specifically linked to a lower risk of dying from the disease and a lower risk of breast cancer recurrence. The American Cancer Society recommends cancer survivors get at least 150 minutes of exercise each week, which should include strength training at least 2 days a week. If you need motivation to hit that mark, look for ways to make exercise fun, such as joining a recreational sports team, taking part in a charity walk, or simply playing a game of tag or basketball with your kids. Be sure to clear your activity with your doctor, particularly if you have lingering side effects from treatment.

Eat a healthy diet. Some research suggests that food choices can affect the chances of breast cancer coming back, as well as survival. No single food or food group is a magic bullet, though. It’s an overall healthy diet that makes a difference. That means:

  • Lots of fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables are not only low in calories and fat, they are also packed with the nutrients needed to help your body function well. Try to consume at least 2 ½ cups of a variety of fruits and vegetables each day. Coming up short on that count? Add choices from the produce section to the foods you already eat. For example, slice a banana onto your cereal, load lettuce and tomato onto your sandwich, or jazz up a simple soup by stirring in a handful of spinach.
  • Whole grains: Whole grain foods not only retain more nutrients than processed foods, they also have more of the important fiber that can help your body run at its best. A simple switch to 100% whole wheat bread instead of white bread or brown rice instead of white rice is an easy way to make whole grains part of your routine.
  • Less red and processed meats: Cut back on how much beef, pork, lamb, and processed meats ( hot dogs, bacon, sausage) you eat. When you’re thinking about what to have for dinner, consider skipping the sausage or steak and choosing chicken, fish, or beans to fill your plate instead.
  • Healthy fats: Get your fat from olive oil or nuts instead of butter or trans-fats. Choose low-fat and non-fat dairy products instead of full-fat ones.

Reviewed by: Members of the ACS Medical Content Staff

ACS News Center stories are provided as a source of cancer-related news and are not intended to be used as press releases. For reprint requests, please contact permissionrequest@cancer.org.

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