Changes In Diet, Exercise Help Breast Cancer Survivors

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

When women are diagnosed with breast cancer, along with the fear and uncertainty comes the opportunity for physicians to educate and encourage patients to eat better and exercise more, in an effort to help reduce the long-term side effects associated with breast cancer and treatment.

Researchers at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center found that healthier diets and increased exercise can help lessen fatigue and improve overall quality of life in women with a diagnosis of breast cancer who often have an increased risk of cancer-related fatigue and overall poor physical functioning.

The findings are published online in the journal of Psycho-Oncology.


"Not all breast cancer survivors in the study made these changes in terms of exercise and dietary changes, but among those who made changes and increased their exercise, we saw lower levels of reported fatigue," said Electra Paskett, senior author of the study and associate director for Population Sciences at Ohio State's Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Participants in the study could change their health behaviors in several ways –increasing exercise, decreasing fat intake or increasing fiber intake and increasing fruits and vegetables.

More than half of the 227 women who participated in the study made positive changes in their diet or exercise. Overall, 58 percent of the long-term breast cancer survivors reported making positive changes in exercise and/or dietary intake in the period following their diagnosis. Nearly 32 percent of the participants increased their exercise, which resulted in less fatigue. Reduced fatigue also was reported for the 43 percent of study participants who increased intake of fruits and vegetables.

"It's great that more than 50 percent of the women did make changes and improvements in their diet and exercise habits, but that's not enough," said Catherine M. Alfano, assistant professor of the College of Public Health at Ohio State and lead author of the study. "Physicians need to encourage more breast cancer survivors to modify their diet and increase exercise."