Breast Cancer Survivors Say, “What Can I Do?”

I just got back from Delaware where I gave the keynote at the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition’s Annual Breast Cancer Update, a conference attended by cancer survivors, health care professionals and others interested in breast cancer prevention.  With so many ideas out there on how to make a positive difference for survivors – from dietary changes and exercise to supplements – it’s hard to know which steps are most likely to help (and which can possibly cause harm).

One of the physicians participating in a panel discussion noted that we need to look at both “the seeds and the soil”.  That is, look at treatments that target any remaining cells that could be “seeds” for cancer recurrence, and also focus on how we can create “soil” – meaning an environment within our body – that does not support cancer cell growth.

Although weight gain and decreases in physical activity are common among breast cancer survivors, part of my presentation at the conference included studies showing that efforts to stop the gain and find ways to work in physical activity daily seem to deserve spots high on the priority list.

Moderate physical activity alone, without changes in diet, usually leads to only modest and slow weight loss. Conference participants were buzzing when they saw data showing that physical activity seems to have important protective effects quite soon, even without weight loss.

Cancer survivors in the U.S. are now a group numbering nearly 12 million strong, and about 22 percent of them are breast cancer survivors. AICR’s 2007 expert report recommends that after treatment is concluded, unless otherwise advised, cancer survivors should follow the recommendations for cancer prevention.

In the April AICR eNews, AICR’s Director of Research Dr. Susan Higginbotham points out that the growing number of cancer survivors in the U.S. has now made it possible for more researchers to study survivors to identify lifestyle choices that can decrease cancer’s toll and support quality of life.

Breast cancer survivor research is one of the upcoming topics in AICR’s Continuous Update Project (CUP).  You can read more about the CUP survivor research and prevention findings here.

Are you a cancer survivor? Are there unique obstacles you face when trying to live a healthy lifestyle? Please share.

This is a guest blog by Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN, AICR Nutrition Advisor. Karen is a speaker, writer and consultant who specializes in helping people make sense of nutrition news.


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