March 30, 2014 by Kimberly Beauchamp, ND
Hi Doctor Mama,
I’m the mom of a 14-month-old girl and I’m a breast cancer survivor. I was diagnosed and started treatment when I was 19 weeks pregnant. I did the traditional treatment of chemo and surgery (mastectomy and preventive hysterectomy) and I’m on Anastrozole for the next 10 years. But my oncologist does not advise me on nutrition. I’ve been trying to find that out on my own. I had a hair analysis done to check my mineral levels and I take several supplements to balance out the minerals that need it. I also just cut down on my wine intake after reading that 8 glasses of wine per week is considered too much. But other than that, I don’t know what to do. I should mention that I don’t eat red meat, pork, or dairy (I haven’t in more than 20 years) and I eat clean much of the time. I know there is no fail-safe plan. But what would you do?
Thanks for your question, Michelle. Fortunately, there are lots of things you can do to help stay healthy over the years and decrease your chance of cancer recurrence.
Let’s look at some of things that contribute to cancer formation and how you can help limit these factors through your diet and lifestyle.
Inflammation is key to cancer formation and progression. Therefore, it stands to reason that controlling chronic inflammation may help decrease the chances of developing cancer in the first place and preventing its recurrence. In fact, many studies have shown that anti-inflammatory medications like aspirin can decrease the risk of many cancers.
Foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, walnuts, and flaxseeds can help fight inflammation in the body.
Practicing yoga may also reduce inflammation, potentially lowering breast cancer recurrence risk among women who have had the disease.
Anti-oxidants help protect cells against damage from unstable compounds called free radicals.
All types of berries, dark green leafy vegetables (like kale, collards, and chard), red beans, and artichokes are wonderful sources of anti-oxidants. Include plenty of them in your daily diet.
Breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and endometrial cancer are called hormone-sensitive cancers. Many drug therapies focus on limiting the amount of estrogen in the body that may contribute to the development/progression of these cancers.
Foods in the Brassica family (which includes broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, and collards) contain substances called isothiocyanates that may influence healthy estrogen metabolism and help with detoxification in the body. One of the richest sources of these substances is broccoli sprouts, readily available in the produce section of the grocery store.
The Rest of the Picture
Exercise is one of the most powerful things you can do to decrease the risk of cancer recurrence. This has been confirmed in many large-scale studies. In one, breast cancer survivors who walked for 3 to 5 hours each week at an average pace were 50% less likely to die from breast cancer than women who exercised the least.
Alcohol, even in small amounts, has been linked with breast cancer risk. It’s probably best for people who’ve had breast cancer, and those at high risk for developing it, to avoid alcohol entirely.
Vitamin D may help prevent breast cancer. It may also help ease some of the musculoskeletal discomfort caused by Anastrozole (a drug used to treat breast cancer). Talk to your doctor about getting your vitamin D levels tested and taking extra vitamin D if your levels are low.
My friend and colleague, Dr. Lise Alshuler, is a breast cancer survivor and author of the book, The Definitive Guide to Thriving After Cancer: A Five-Step Integrative Plan to Reduce the Risk of Recurrence and Build Lifelong Health. This book goes into so much more detail than I’ve given here and is a must read for anyone who’s had cancer!
I hope this information is helpful!
Disclaimer: The information contained in this blog is for educational and/or informational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any condition. If you have any concerns about your own health or that of a family member, you should always consult with a healthcare professional.