A Healthy Lifestyle

Although obviously no-one would choose breast cancer as a way of improving their life style, many women report that having cancer did have the benefit of helping them to live in a healthier way.  A healthy lifestyle will generally give you more energy, make you more able to get pleasure out of life, and reduce the chance of your cancer coming back (recurring).

Breast cancer as a wake-up call: some ways to improve your general health before, during and after treatment.
  • Eat well. By this we mean a varied diet that includes lots of fresh foods and cuts down on things like processed foods, most fats and sugar. BREASTCANCER.ORG has a good section which explains healthy eating and gives advice on what to eat.  We know it can be difficult in remote communities to get fresh food, so see below this box for information on this, and on traditional foods.
  • Stop smoking. The link between smoking and lung cancer is well known but it is also thought to increase the risk of breast cancer.  Smoking can also lead to complications from treatment side effects: for example by increasing the risk of a blood clot if you take hormone therapy.
  • Cut down on alcohol. Research is clear that drinking even moderately increases the risk of getting breast cancer or of it recurring. If you can, it is probably best to stop drinking completely; otherwise make it an occasional treat, and not more than two drinks a week. See the BREASTCANCER.ORG website.
  • Exercise: we split this into two parts:
    • Particular exercises to do to help you recover from surgery and other treatment side effects, and reduce the risk of lymphedema.  Your healthcare team should give you details of these, or ask your doctor or nurse responsible for your care at home.
    • General exercise that everyone is advised to do to keep their body (and mind) in good shape throughout their life. This doesn’t have to mean vigorous workouts at a gym. It can mean walking rather than always travelling by car, for example.

BREASTCANCER.ORG has several pages on exercise, including how to introduce general exercise gradually during and after treatments.

If you are overweight or obese, this increases your chance of breast cancer recurring. A healthy lifestyle, following all the points mentioned here should help you to lose weight.

We do know it’s a lot easier to talk about making these changes than actually doing them. You can ask your healthcare provider for help.  Below are some links that could help you.

NWT advice on healthy eating:

NWT Quitline to help stop smoking.

NWT help with alcohol issues.