Lifestyle changes – making positive decisions
After breast cancer treatment some women choose to make some positive lifestyle changes. It’s not to say you didn’t follow a healthy lifestyle before breast cancer, but you may be more focused on making the most of your health. We’ve included information here that may help you focus on what you can do.
Eat well and keep to a healthy weight
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After breast cancer treatment, it’s not unusual for women to find they’ve gained weight. Hormonal therapy, which is usually given for a number of years after treatment, may cause weight gain. Once you’re feeling up to it, it’s a good idea to achieve a healthy weight that’s within the normal range for your height. Your GP can tell you what your ideal weight is.
Our section on weight management after cancer treatment has some helpful tips.
There’s some evidence that keeping to a healthy weight after the menopause may help reduce the risk of breast cancer coming back. It also reduces the risk of some other cancers, heart problems and other illnesses such as diabetes.
Here are some tips to help you lose weight:
only eat as much food as you need
eat a balanced diet with lots of fruit and vegetables
eat less fat and sugar
become more physically active.
Following the suggestions above will help you look and feel better. There’s more information about this in our section on Eating well after cancer treatment.
Being physically active helps to keep your weight healthy and can reduce stress and tiredness. It also helps to keep your bones strong and your heart healthy. There’s some evidence that taking regular physical activity may help to reduce the risk of breast cancer coming back and of getting some other cancers. Your GP or cancer specialist may be able to refer you to special exercise groups run by exercise trainers.
Our section on Physical activity and cancer treatment has more information.
Aromatase inhibitors and treatments that cause early or temporary menopause increase the risk of bone thinning (osteoporosis), as they reduce the amount of oestrogen in the body. Oestrogen helps keep bones healthy and strong.
Keeping physically active, eating a healthy diet with enough calcium and vitamin D, and stopping smoking helps to keep your bones healthy. Regular physical activity that forces you to work against gravity (weightbearing exercise) is best, such as walking, climbing stairs, dancing, hiking and resistance/strength training.
Our section on bone health has more information.
Some treatments for breast cancer may increase the risk of getting heart problems later in life. Look after yourself by keeping physically active, eating healthily, not smoking and sticking to sensible drinking guidelines. The British Heart Foundation has helpful information and advice.
If you’re a smoker, giving up smoking is one of the healthiest decisions you can make. Smoking increases your risk of bone thinning (osteoporosis) and is a major risk factor for smoking-related cancers and heart disease.
We have more information and tips to help you quit.
Stick to sensible drinking
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Drinking more than two units of alcohol a day over many years can increase breast cancer risk. It’s a good idea to stick to sensible drinking guidelines, which recommend that women drink less than two units a day or 14 a week.
It’s common to have different and sometimes difficult feelings after cancer treatment. But as you recover and get back to your everyday life, these usually get easier to deal with.
The type of treatment you’ve had can have an effect on how you feel. Some women may experience a significant change in their appearance or ongoing side effects, which can be difficult to cope with emotionally. Talking to family and friends about how you’re feeling often helps. Ask your doctor or nurse for advice and support.
Some women find the impact of the cancer leaves them feeling depressed, helpless or anxious. Let your doctor or nurse know how you’re feeling as there’s specialist help available to help you cope with these feelings. Your hospital consultant or GP can refer you to a psychologist or counsellor who specialises in the emotional problems of people with cancer.
Our cancer support specialists on freephone 0808 808 00 00 can tell you more about counselling and let you know about services in your area.
Self-help or support groups offer a chance to talk to other women who may be in a similar situation and facing the same challenges as you. Joining a group can be helpful if you live alone, or don’t feel able to talk about your feelings with people you know. Not everyone finds talking in a group easy, so it might not be for you. Try going along to see what the group is like before you join. You can call us on 0808 808 00 00 or visit our support organsition section for information about cancer support groups across the UK.
Many people get support through the internet. There are online support groups, social networking sites, forums, chat rooms and blogs for people affected by cancer. You can use these to share your experience and to ask questions, get and give advice based on your breast cancer experience.
Our online community is a social networking site where you can talk to people in our chat rooms, blog your journey, make friendships and join support groups.