6 Tips for Breast Cancer Survivors

By Patricia Thangaraj

The initial diagnosis of breast cancer can naturally be devastating to any woman. Unfortunately, for these woman their journey has just began. Then comes the treatment and the associated side effects that includes fatigue, changes in weight and mood disorders. The worst thing these women can imagine after they have endured aggressive and toxic treatment is a reoccurrence of this disease.

Fortunately, there are steps that these women can take to maintain a healthy lifestyle overall and, at the same time, to reduce their risks of dying from recurrent breast cancer, according to Medical Oncologist at the Odette Cancer Centre, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Dr. Ellen Warner.

Sunnybrook Oncologist, Dr. Ellen Warner

6 Tips


In addition to adhering to their oncologist’s treatment plan, women diagnosed with breast cancer should maintain a regular exercise routine, starting or continuing from the time of diagnosis and continuing throughout active treatment (including chemotherapy, radiation and surgery) and thereafter.

Dr. Warner recommends that these women get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily five days a week. This increases a woman’s chances of survival by 40% and reduces the side effects such as fantigue, depression, anxiety and nausea.

Exercise can be more beneficial if these women can increase the number of hours that they exercise (not the intensity of their exercise program). She suggested that combining aerobic exercise with muscle strength training makes for a good exercise formula.

Healthy Diets

While there is no specific diet for breast cancer survivors, Dr. Warner advices that a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, lean protein, and fiber is ideal. She also stated that these women should reduce their intake of foods that are high in saturated fats and sugars.

Weight Management

This tip aligns with the aforementioned tips. Dr. Warner said that cancer patients tend to put on weight after their diagnosis for several reasons and they find it hard to loose this weight afterwards. While modest weight gain does not have an impact on their survival rates, it does have a negative effect on their body image and mood. Therefore, a regular exercise routine combined with a vitamin and nutrient rich diet goes a long way towards maintaining healthy and positive physical and mental health.

Reduce Alcohol Intake

Another helpful tip for breast cancer survivors who want to reduce their chances of a reoccurrence of breast cancer is to reduce the amount of alcohol that they consume.


While there are no studies to confirm that eliminating smoking after a diagnosis reduces a breast cancer survivor’s odds of a recurrence, it does reduce the health risks associated with smoking and results in an overall healthier lifestyle, the Sunnybrook Oncologist stated.

Vitamin Supplements

Vitamin D supplements can help to enhance bone strength, which is crucial since chemotherapy and hormonal treatments reduces bone density, said Dr. Warner.

Additional Advice

Dr. Warner added that these healthy lifestyle tips are not a substitute for the cancer treatments that their oncologist would provide during their clinical sessions. These breast cancer survivors still have to abide by their doctor’s treatment plan.

Furthermore, there are some breast cancers that are associated with aggressive biology and therefore, there are times when maintaining a healthy lifestyle would not prevent a recurrence of breast cancer. Therefore, while it may be difficult do so, they should not feel as if they did something wrong like did not exercise enough or eat enough healthy foods if a recurrence does occur.

However, since these tips do lead to overall physical and mental well-being, it is well worth the effort.


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