No diet is guaranteed to “cure” MBC, but it may help you feel better.
You’ve likely heard anecdotes of people who “cured” their breast cancer by adopting a particular diet. While these stories are inspiring, they can’t always be replicated. No diet is guaranteed to “cure” metastatic breast cancer, but focusing on good nutrition may help you feel better during the treatment process.
Both metastatic breast cancer and the treatment for it can be difficult. You may have symptoms of the cancer and side effects from the treatments. Plus, you may also be dealing with the emotional toll of living with cancer. Eating well won’t necessarily get rid of those problems, but it may help prevent those problems from worsening.
Think of it this way: Heavy meals with simple carbs and fried foods are delicious, but they might leave you feeling lethargic and bloated afterwards. When you’re already feeling fatigue from cancer, being lethargic from your meals is an unpleasant combination. On the other hand, eating well and focusing on nutrition may help improve your mood and energy levels.
What is good nutrition during breast cancer treatment?
So what does a healthy diet during metastatic breast cancer treatment look like? Well, it’s similar to what nutrition experts recommend for all Americans, regardless of whether they have breast cancer or not.
A healthy diet during cancer treatment should focus on:
- Complex carbs (whole grains and beans)
- Lean protein (seafood and legumes)
- Healthy fats (nuts and avocado)
- Fruits and vegetables
Plus, you should limit the following:
- Fried food (fries, doughnuts, fried chicken, onion rings)
- Sugar drinks (soda and juice)
- Sweets (cake, sugary cereal, snack cakes, ice cream, candy)
What are tips to cope with a loss of appetite?
One issue that may affect your nutrition during metastatic breast cancer treatment is loss of appetite. Many people experience low appetite due to side effects (like nausea) or simply the stress of it all. However, skipping meals could lead to unintentional weight loss, or fatigue from low-calorie intake.
If you’re struggling with a lack of appetite, talk to a nutritionist or registered dietitian. Your cancer care facility might even have one on staff who is experienced in cancer nutrition needs and issues. In some cases, your nutritionist may recommend prioritizing eating what appeals to you, even if it doesn’t meet the above criteria for a “healthy” diet. Adding protein bars or drinks might be helpful in that case.
Along with that, there are medicines that may help reduce nausea from your treatment, which may then improve appetite. There are also appetite stimulants and medical marijuana, which may improve your desire to eat.
The most important thing is to tell your doctor or dietitian about what obstacles you’re experiencing. In many cases, there are additional treatments that can help you out. That way, you can get the energy-boosting nutrition that you need during breast cancer treatment.
Paula Klein, MD, is a hematologist and oncologist at the Dubin Breast Center of the Mount Sinai Health System.
- American Cancer Society. Benefits of good nutrition during cancer treatment.
- American Cancer Society. Can I lower my risk of breast cancer progressing or coming back?
- American Cancer Society. Nutrition for the person with cancer during treatment.
- National Cancer Institute. Nutrition in cancer care (PDQR) - patient version.