Each year more than 20,000 Australians – mostly women – are diagnosed with breast cancer. If you are one of them or know someone who is, the good news is that 92 out of 100 women will survive for five years or more after their diagnosis.
But women are often surprised by the life-altering side effects of their cancer treatment that can last for years, such as pain and fatigue. And many live with the fear that their cancer will come back, even after passing the famous milestone of five years of survival.
So what can you do to improve your chances of living a longer, healthier life after a breast cancer diagnosis?
1. Stay physically active
Move more and sit less. Ideally, this includes gradually progressing to and then maintaining about 150 minutes (two and a half hours) of planned, regular exercise. exercise weekly. It involves a mix of aerobic exercise (like walking) and resistance exercise (targeting specific muscle groups), done at a moderate or high enough intensity to get you a little puffy.
Women with breast cancer who exercise and are more active have a better quality of life, better strength and fitness, and fewer and less severe side effects during active treatment.
2. Have a high-quality diet
Women with a better diet – which includes a high intake of vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, whole grains and fish – have been shown live longer after a breast cancer diagnosis than those who eat a diet high in refined or processed foods and red meat.
This is mainly due to the benefit of a good diet in reducing the risk of other health problems, such as heart disease, rather than a direct effect on the risk of dying from breast cancer.
Many women, especially older women or those with early-stage breast cancer, are actually at a higher risk of dying from breast cancer. heart disease than their breast cancer. A high-quality diet can help maintain a healthy body weight and heart health.
There have been growing interest in specific diets (such as ketogenic or low carbohydrate diets) and fasting during cancer treatment. But the most recent guidelines state there is no evidence yet to say that these are of significant benefit.
Further research is underway following the results of a study 2020, which suggested a “fasting-mimicking diet” (low calorie, low protein) in the days before and after chemotherapy, produced a better response to treatment. However, adherence to the diet was difficult – only one in five women in the study were able to stick to the fasting diet for all of their chemotherapy treatments.
3. Maintain a healthy weight
Excess weight was also linked to lower survival after the diagnosis of breast cancer. But so far there has been no any clinical trial to show the opposite: that weight loss following a diagnosis of breast cancer can improve survival. The trials are In progress to answer this question.
Weight gain is common following treatment for breast cancer. The causes are complex, and carrying extra weight can make some of the side effects of treatment worse. Our recent study of women undergoing treatment for breast cancer, found that when encouraged to lose a modest amount of weight (5% of their body weight), it improved their physical quality of life and reduced their pain levels. They also reduced their risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Besides these well-established tips, a small body of research suggests that two other behaviors, linked to our biological clock, can impact health after a breast cancer diagnosis.
4. Sleep well
Sleep disturbances – common in women with breast cancer – can persist for years after your treatment ends.
Women with breast cancer who struggle regularly fall asleep or stay asleep at night – compared to those who rarely or never – are at greater risk of dying from any cause.
And it’s not just about how goodbut also how long you sleep. sleep longer more than nine hours a night – compared to seven to eight hours – is associated with a 48% increased risk of breast cancer recurrence. But, studies have yet to unravel possible reasons for this. Is the increased risk of cancer recurrence the result of sleeping longer or is sleeping longer a consequence of disease progression or recurrence?
5. Be careful when you eat
Preliminary research suggests that when you eat matters. delay time between the last meal of the day (lunch or supper) and the first meal of the next day (breakfast) can help reduce the risk of breast cancer recurring.
When women reported fasting overnight for less than 13 hours – versus 13 hours or more – after a breast cancer diagnosis, it was linked to a 36% increase risk of breast cancer recurrence. But the study authors note that randomized trials are needed to test whether increasing the length of overnight fasting can reduce disease risk.
Small steps to big changes
The World Cancer Research Fund has developed a list of recommendations to reduce the risk of cancer and reduce the risk of cancer recurrence. But our research found that most women do not meet these recommendations after their breast cancer diagnosis. Changing habits after breast cancer can also be more difficultmainly due to fatigue and stress.
Starting to exercise after treatment can be intimidating and even scary. It’s a good idea to start small, for example: try to increase exercise by 10-15 minutes each week. Having an exercise buddy really helps and there are a lot of exercise programs for people who have had breast cancer.
Common questions about exercising after a breast cancer diagnosis understand how to avoid swelling and discomfort from lymphedema, which develops in about 20% of breast cancer survivors who have had their lymph nodes removed. People also worry about discomfort from exercise and wig or irritation from radiation. Specific tips is available.
Similar to exercise goals, rather than striving for the perfect diet, you can aim to eat more vegetables each week.
Sleep can be difficult if you’re worried about a cancer diagnosis or treatment, but tips Getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night means exercising earlier in the day, avoiding snacks before bed, and practicing good sleep hygiene.