YORK- Each year in the United States, about 240,000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in women. While advancements in medical treatments have improved survival rates, proper nutrition plays a vital role in supporting patients’ overall health, immune function, and resilience during their cancer journey.
Breast cancer and its treatments can have a profound impact on a patient’s nutritional status. Many people with breast cancer experience some sort of change in their appetite. Some don’t want to eat at all. Others may be turned off by certain foods. The important thing to keep in mind is that good nutrition is the key to overcoming many of the side effects of cancer and cancer treatment.
Radiation, chemotherapy, surgery, and hormonal therapies can cause side effects like nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and fatigue. Breast cancer patients often experience changes in body composition, such as muscle loss and weight gain, which can further complicate their nutritional needs.
Nutrition therapy for breast cancer patients aims to address these challenges by optimizing nutrient intake to:
· Support Immune Function: A well-nourished body has a stronger immune system, better equipped to fight cancer cells and cope with the side effects of treatments.
· Maintain Healthy Body Weight: Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for reducing the risk of cancer recurrence and managing treatment-related symptoms.
· Minimize Treatment Side Effects: Proper nutrition can help alleviate common side effects improving the overall quality of life for breast cancer patients.
· Promote Healing and Recovery: Adequate nutrition aids in tissue repair and recovery.
· Reduce Risk of Recurrence: Certain dietary choices may help reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence.
It’s important to emphasize a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats. These foods provide essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support overall health. Protein is crucial for muscle maintenance and repair. Include sources like poultry, fish, beans, and tofu in your diet. Fiber-rich foods, such as whole grains and vegetables, help with digestive health and can alleviate constipation, a common side effect of some treatments. Omega-3 healthy fats, found in fatty fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts, may have anti-inflammatory properties and support heart health. Staying well-hydrated is essential, especially during treatments that may cause fluid loss or dehydration.
It’s important to minimize consumption of processed and sugary foods, as they can contribute to weight gain and inflammation. Limit alcohol consumption, as it is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. Some studies suggest a link between high consumption of red and processed meats and an increased risk of breast cancer.
Breast cancer nutrition therapy is an integral part of the holistic approach to breast cancer care. By adopting a balanced and healthy diet, patients can improve their overall well-being, better manage treatment-related side effects, and potentially reduce the risk of cancer recurrence.
Nourishing the body is not only about healing but also about empowering the spirit during this challenging journey.
Sumathi Suppiah, MD, DABO, is the medical director of medical weight management for the UPMC Central PA Weight Management Center. She is passionate about helping her patients achieve optimal health through good diet and nutrition, regular exercise, and mental health support. To learn more about medical weight management at UPMC in Central Pa., call 717-591-5638 or visit UPMC.com/CentralPaWeightLoss.