Breast cancer is the most prevalent type of cancer across the globe. Breast cancer is the abnormal growth lining the breast ducts. These cells grow uncontrollably and can spread to other parts of the body. Some of these factors, including age, family history, genetics, and gender, are not within a person’s control. However, it is one of a few cancers for which an effective screening test, mammography, is available. With the recent progress in cancer therapeutics, diagnostics, and patient-driven care, as well as the scientific advances and public health lessons, it’s now possible to set ambitious goals to combat the dreadful disease.
While researchers are looking at ways to enhance current breast cancer screening options, technological advances in imaging are creating new opportunities for improvements in both screening and early detection. But since the body’s immunity is weakened during this time, one needs to ensure that their dietary needs are not compromised. OnlyMyHealth editorial team spoke to Arushi Jain, Director, Akums Drugs & Pharmaceuticals ltd, importance of a proper nutrition guide for breast cancer patients and foods to eat and avoid.
The importance of a proper diet
Since breast cancer treatment can lead to fluctuations in appetite and body weight, it’s important to pay close attention to your diet. Besides helping you maintain a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet during chemotherapy or radiation therapy can also aid in managing treatment side effects, increasing energy, preserving immune function, and reducing inflammation. In breast cancer patients, extended fasting intervals are typical following chemotherapy sessions; however, if the fast lasts more than 48 hours, muscle mass loss may be encouraged, worsening the patient's nutritional status. Therefore, keep in mind to eat consistently throughout the day. Usually, five to six small meals per day are sufficient.
Research shows that treatment tolerance to some extent also depends on maintaining a healthy weight. Maintaining a body mass index by retaining lean mass and keeping a check on fat mass is crucial. Monitoring weight changes and making efforts to uphold a particular weight involve healthy practices, majority of which are attributed to the diet.
What to include in your diet?
If you are someone fighting with this cancer or know someone who is, here are things that can be included in the dietary plan:
1. Fruits and veggies: According to research, five to nine servings per day of fruits (150 g/serving) and vegetables (75 g/serving) should be incorporated in a diet plan. Your nutrition therapy must also include garlic and cruciferous veggies. B-carotene and vitamins A, E, and C are food-based macro and micronutrients that can both stop the decline in breast cancer patients' nutritional status and enhance their general health and prognosis.
2. Proteins-a must: Say hello to lean proteins! These are found in legumes like beans and lentils. Soy in moderate amounts (one to two servings a day) could also be included in the diet.
3. Be cautious of supplements: Although taking supplements is generally regarded as a healthy practice. In case of breast cancer, supplements should only be embraced after consulting one’s doctor.
Foods to avoid
Caffeine and alcohol products are a big “No” as they both are dehydrating. Unpasteurised dairy products and juices should be avoided as much as possible. In addition, red and processed meat should also be kept at an arm’s length. Processed meats contain sodium in high quantities that can elevate blood pressure in the short term.
Besides having a proper diet, catering to one’s mental health is equally significant. Observing mindfulness by doing meditation is a great way to get peace of mind. Patients need to surround themselves with supporting people. Research shows that participating in cancer support groups has been beneficial to patients and improved their chances of a positive clinical outcome.
Even with a nutrient-rich diet, one still needs regular breast cancer screenings like mammograms and manual checks. We highly recommend consulting the doctor before making a switch in the diet plan. An abrupt change in food intake is never advocated.