A woman can make two lifestyle changes that will prominently help prevent a recurrence of her breast cancer as well as reduce mortality.
- The No. 1 ranking lifestyle change that helps prevent recurrence of breast cancer is exercise.
- The next big lifestyle change is fat loss if the patient is overweight.
A gain of fat more than 10% of a woman’s body weight, after a breast cancer diagnosis, raises BC mortality — but also all-cause mortality.
This comes from a paper in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (Feb. 2017). The report’s conclusions are based on an analysis of 67 published articles.
The precise exercise protocol has not been established, meaning, researchers do not know if Zumba is better than yoga, or if Pilates is better than basic strength training, etc., when it comes to breast cancer recurrence.
However, there are general guidelines for exercise – which of course, will also either help prevent fat gain or help the patient lose excess body fat.
Exercise Guidelines for Women Who Are New to Structured Workouts
• Half an hour or more a day of moderate exercise, five days a week.
• Or, 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week.
• Two to three sessions per week of strength training.
The definition of “moderate” varies, but as a former personal trainer, my definition is a rating of 5 or 6 on a scale of 10 for perceived exertion — whether the exercise is a group fitness class, jogging at a park or lifting weights.
Vigorous activity has been defined by duration (e.g., five-mile run), but my definition pertains to intensity: a subjective rating of 7 or 8 on that perceived exertion scale.
- Learn to master proper form and technique.
- Focus on big movements (rather than small) that get more than one muscle group involved, such as squats, presses utilizing the chest or shoulders, or pulling exercises (which target the back).
- This includes cardio equipment and group fitness classes.
- If you use a treadmill, do not hold on other than for momentary balance checks. Start slowly to get used to the moving tread. Swing your arms naturally. Holding on skewers posture and can result in tight upper back muscles.
Avoiding Weight Gain
Weight gain, as mentioned, is that second biggest lifestyle factor linked to a recurrence of breast cancer.
Exercise will help with this. Being overweight and especially obese at the time of diagnosis is associated with even greater mortality.
In addition to exercise, a breast cancer survivor — as with any person — needs to control portion sizes of food to prevent gaining pounds.
According to the paper, there is no research available that clearly points to a particular anti-breast-cancer diet for preventing recurrence.
But common sense rules: Snack more on natural foods (fruits, figs, berry smoothies, green salads, nuts, hard boiled eggs) and less on unnatural foods (munchies, cookies, donuts, ice cream, candy).
Cut back on fast food, alcohol and soda and try to maintain a plant based diet.