Physical activity and avoiding weight gain are the most powerful tools in stopping breast cancer recurrence in breast cancer survivors. Currently, about 1 in 4 women diagnosed with early stages of breast cancer will eventually die due to later metastases.
Dr. Ellen Warner and Dr. Julia Hamer, co-author’s of a review that looked at over 60 research articles on the topic explain,
“Of all lifestyle factors, physical activity has the most robust effect on breast cancer outcomes. Weight gain of more than 10% body weight after a breast cancer diagnosis increases breast cancer mortality and all-cause mortality.”
The authors also looked at other lifestyle factors that might be at play such as diet, alcohol consumption, smoking, and vitamin intake.
In their report, the authors provide a summarized list of easy-to-follow tips for patients, family members, caregivers, and physicians. Some points are highlighted below:
- Avoid weight gain – patients who are overweight or obese at the time of their diagnosis have lower chances of surviving. In addition, weight gain during or after prognosis is correlated to breast-cancer-related death.
- Exercise – engage in moderate exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week, or, engage in vigorous exercise 75 minutes a week.
- Diet – no diet has been shown to reduce the recurrence of breast cancer. Additionally, soy intake does not increase the risk of breast cancer.
- Vitamin intake – Consuming vitamin C may help ward off the disease but results are inconclusive.
- Smoking – it is still unclear whether smoking affects breast cancer diagnosis or recurrence. However, the authors strongly advise against smoking due to its strong link to mortality and many other health issues.
- Alcohol – limiting the intake of alcohol to one or fewer drinks per day may help reduce the risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer again.
The authors conclude that making positive lifestyle changes may not only improve breast cancer prognosis, but can also help patients feel empowered, a feeling that is often lost during cancer battles.
“Making positive lifestyle changes can also be psychologically beneficial to patients by empowering them, since the feeling of loss of control is one of the biggest challenges of a cancer diagnosis.”
It is important to note that lifestyle modifications should never be used to replace standard medical therapy, and that while making lifestyle modifications may improve prognosis, these tips are not bullet-proof and may not work for all individuals with breast cancer.
The review is open-access, and available for everyone to read.