October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a yearly movement aimed at spreading awareness about the effects of breast cancer. Each year, it comprises a campaign dedicated to increasing the public’s knowledge about breast cancer detection, treatment, and the need for a permanent cure.
Breast cancer is diagnosed through various tests such as a an ultrasound, diagnostic mammogram, breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or a biopsy.
The recommended guidelines to help lower one's risk for breast cancer include being physically active, maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding alcohol.
A healthy weight can be achieved through proper nutrition. It is recommended to consume a nutrient-dense, whole-food diet.
Nutrition can also play a key role in helping the body heal from cancer treatment and its side effects such as a lack of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and mouth sores. It is recommended to eat a balanced diet inclusive of a wide variety of colours.
Foods high in fiber such as chia seeds, flax seeds, and vegetables can be incredibly beneficial. Fiber is important in order to help combat constipation that occurs during treatment.
Protein is an essential macronutrient that may help preserve muscle mass and strength. Protein-rich foods include eggs, fish, turkey, and chicken.
Fatty acids are important to help nourish hair, skin, and nails during treatment. Foods high in healthy fats include nuts, avocados, and olive oil. Healthy fats are also essential in helping cancer patients gain or maintain body weight.
Phytochemicals are important compounds that may help combat cancer. These chemicals are mainly present in plant-based foods. The three most influential phytochemicals include polyphenols, carotenoids, and isothiocyanates.
Polyphenols may prevent metastasis and cell growth. Polyphenols-rich foods include green tea, olives, and berries.
Carotenoids may prevent growth of malignant tumors and may reduce the negative side effects of chemotherapy medicine. Carotenoids are found in carrots, sweet potatoes, and papaya.
Isothiocynantes can help stop the growth of breast cancer cells.
Isothiocyanate rich foods include cruciferous vegetables such as bok choy, cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, and cauliflower.
It is important for cancer patients to avoid their consumption of certain foods such as alcohol, spicy acidic foods, sugary beverages, highly processed foods, and raw foods.
Alcohol compromises the immune system and may interact with cancer medication. Spicy foods may increase soreness in the mouth. Sugary beverages may decrease immunity and ultra-processed foods may increase breast cancer risk, while raw foods can increase the risk of infection.
Proper nutrition can help cancer patients improve their quality life by improving their immune symptoms, help them maintain a healthy weight, and reduce fatigue.
The writer is a certified functional nutritionist