How You Can Stay Strong After a Breast Cancer Diagnosis
If you have just been diagnosed with breast cancer, you may not realize how regular exercise can make you stronger in the fight. Find out what you need to know.
The best advice for moving forward after a breast cancer diagnosis is simple, yet powerful advice: Start moving.
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You may feel like you’ve lost control of your body. It’s a helpless and scary feeling. But you can take back some control by embracing the healthy lifestyle you’ve always meant to live — and stepping up your exercise routine if you are someone who already exercises regularly.
Eating well is important, but exercise is the real key to living well after a breast cancer diagnosis, says Debra Pratt, MD, Medical Director of the Breast Health Center at Cleveland Clinic’s Fairview Hospital.
Exercise not only helps lessen the side effects of treatment, but it may also help prevent cancer recurrence.
Eating a healthy diet is important for everyone including people who have had breast cancer. What’s important to know, however, is that it’s not a magic bullet.
“There is no specific diet that will help you get cured from breast cancer. A healthy diet is important to help tolerate treatment and be healthy,” Dr. Pratt says.
Dr. Pratt recommends following the My Plate recommendations by filling your plate first with at least 50 percent vegetables and fruits — and eating those first to help fill you up with healthy foods.
Women who get regular exercise are one-third less likely to die from breast cancer, and they reduce the risk of recurrence by almost 25 percent. But there are also a host of other reasons to get moving.
Exercise will help you:
Dr. Pratt says resistance training, including weight lifting or yoga, is important. But for breast cancer patients, aerobic exercise is the best focus, she says.
The American Cancer Society recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity each week.
Dr. Pratt advises that you start exercising as soon as you learn you have cancer. She recommends beginning with daily walks.
During treatment, your activity level will likely be reduced by up to 50 percent, she says, but regular activity is important for lessening fatigue and other side effects. The key here is to rest on bad days and do whatever you can on good ones.
Exercising regularly is easier said than done, but there are a lot of options to help get you moving. To support these goals, consider that many hospitals offer diet and exercise programs for cancer survivors at low or no cost.