Diet & Breast Cancer

Many women are so terrified when they are diagnosed with breast cancer that they make their diet change drastically within a short span of time which can be shocking to the body system. It is important to maintain good nutritional status and to reduce the risk of recurrence of breast cancer during and after breast cancer treatments.
During Treatment we should try to:
  • Prevent or reverse shortage of nutrition
  • Manage side effects of treatment better
  • Increase body immunity and resistance
  • Maintain a healthy weight exercise regularly if overweight or obesity, avoid fast foods, avoid too much sweet food and drinks, eat / drink only small amounts of energy-dense foods such as ice cream, chocolate, cake, muffin, biscuit with cream, milk shake.
  • Maximize benefits of treatment and quality of life
  • Avoid or minimize alcohol intake as alcohol can irritate the body system
If you have Loss of Appetite during Chemotherapy:
  • Eat and drink your favorite food and beverages
  • Take small and frequent meals or snacks
  • Find ways to manage stress and depression
  • Gain good family support and eat together
  • Be creative about variety of foods
Managing Nausea and Vomiting:
  • Take small and frequent meals to prevent stomach bloating
  • Avoid oily and deep fried food because they can be heavy and take longer to digest
  • Eat foods that has low fiber Avoid eating spicy foods and caffeine
  • Eat food at cold or room temperature to avoid food odor (smell) Avoid having an empty stomach to prevent gastritis
  • Take good amount of fluids (8 glass water, fruit juice or clear fluid …..) to prevent dehydration
  • Avoid eating 1-2 hours before chemotherapy session
  • Ask your doctor for Anti-emetics (anti-vomiting) medicine if you need it
Managing Change in Taste or Smell:
  • Keep your mouth fresh and clean before and after eating.
  • Gargling with warm water and salt can help.
  • Try new foods with different flavors
  • Eat small and frequent meals and snacks
Managing Dry Mouth:
  • Eat soft or pureed / blended moist foods
  • Use extra sauce and gravy with meals
  • Sip water after each bite
  • Swallow small amounts of food at one time
  • Suck on hard candies, flavoured ice cubes, ice cream
  • Use artificial saliva if it is very bad Keep your mouth fresh and clean before and after eating
Managing Mouth Ulcer:
  • Eat soft, moist and bland food Avoid very hot or very cold food
  • Avoid spicy or sour food
  • Drink fluids with meals
  • Keep your mouth fresh and clean before and after eating
Swallowing Difficulty:
  • Eat minced or pureed (blended) food
  • Eat thickened and moist food such as blended oat with milk, yogurt, mashed porridge, mashed potato, milk shake, red bean porridge
  • Eat slowly
Some tips
  • Inform the doctor if you are taking anything besides your normal diet. Avoid Gingko, Ginseng, Spirulina, too much Vitamin E, Herbs and other supplements at least 2 weeks before and after surgery. These can interfere with the treatment
  • Take a balanced diet of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals always. Natural foods are better than taking them in the form of pills or medication
  • Do not take too much of anything. Consume food in moderation
Food to avoid
  • Artificial additives and colouring in food
  • Processed food
False beliefs
  • Antioxidants will knock out free radicals in the body- Some amounts of free radicals are required to help with body defenses and they are naturally present in the body
  • Low Fat diet means No Fat diet – Do not stop taking fats completely. Fats are required for absorbing and synthesizing important nutrients in the body.
  • Preventing the risk of recurrence means preventing recurrence totally- Preventing the risk means reducing the chances of getting the disease again.
  • Starving would lead to killing cancer cells- Starving will cause body weakness, low immunity and other medical conditions.

Consult the doctor or dietitian for further advice.

BCWA would like to thank the following for their invaluable contribution of the above:

Dato’ Dr. Mohd Ibrahim Wahid, Consultant Clinical Oncologist, Wijaya International Medical Center, Petaling Jaya

Prof. Yip Cheng Har, Consultant Breast Surgeon, University Malaya Medical Centre

Dr. M. Suseela, Consultant Breast Surgeon, Hospital Selayang

Dr. Harjit Kaur, Consultant Breast & Endocrine Surgeon, Prince Court Medical Centre, Kuala Lumpur

Ms Tah Pei Chien, Dietitian