Lifestyle changes for breast cancer

Dr. Sean Devlin has worked as an emergency room physician and hospitalist in rural communities in Idaho, Nevada and California. He’s been practicing at the Reno Integrative Medical Center for the past year.

A cancer diagnosis of any kind can be crippling and wrought with fear of both the unknown prognosis as well as the process of being treated for the diagnosis. The following are lifestyle changes that can ease and speed recovery of breast cancer and other types of cancer.

Get support: Patients should use their primary care physician for consultation. The primary care physician should be the backbone of a woman’s program for both treatment and education. When a woman chooses to make changes in nutrition, exercise, vitamins or herbs, she should always consult her primary care physician before making any major lifestyle changes.

For non-medical support, patients should seek communication and advice from friends, family, religious communities and empathetic support groups. Patients are also encouraged to support their spiritual needs by attending their churches or partaking in prayers, mantras or inner journeys for soulful enrichment.

Reduce stress: Lifestyle changes should include reduction of emotional, physical and mental stress. This can be done by avoiding the normal stressors that patients come in contact with daily, including arguments with loved ones or workplace stresses. Some people may opt to leave jobs or take medical leaves to avoid work-related stress. Sometimes, in cases where stress comes from family or loved ones, it is best addressed through counseling.

Many studies have shown that patients with positive emotional outlooks typically have the best quality of life—no matter how long that life is—and will respond better to treatment protocols in the long run.

Discontinue things that impair the body’s immune system; focus on things that build it up: The patient often needs to make healthier choices. This includes the cessation of drinking alcohol and caffeinated products, smoking, and the use of illicit drugs, all of which may impair the body’s immune system. Stopping these activities should be paired with starting good activities, including diet and exercise changes. A balanced diet is heavy on organically grown fruits and vegetables and may include organically grown white meats, sparingly. All simple carbohydrates should be avoided.

Patients should also set aside 45 minutes to an hour every day for aerobic exercise paired with 20 minutes of anaerobic exercise (three to four times per week). Patients are encouraged to do resistance training in order to build lean muscle and promote the release of endorphins, which elevate mood. Patients are also encouraged to partake in regular meditation, which may involve relaxation, movement and breathing exercises like yoga or tai chi.

Overall, a courageous and positive outlook, good communication with love ones, and a strong relationship with a primary care provider can make all the difference in the world when dealing with a diagnosis like breast cancer.