View Full Version : Diet and breast cancer

09-11-2011, 10:39 AM
When I was diagnosed I received literature from the hospital that said there is no evidence that what we eat can affect our cancer outcome. I don't think that's true.

Whether it's true or not, the one thing we do know about eating foods and spices thought to have anti-cancer effects is it can't hurt. People have been eating olive oil, fish, vegetables, fruits, turmeric and ginger, and drinking green tea, for millennia. Another good thing about seeking optimum health through diet is it is pleasurable. The beautiful colors, textures and flavors of a mostly-plant-based diet are delightful. However many days I have left, I want to live them to the fullest.

I found the attached booklet this week. If I were running the hospital's breast cancer education program, I'd have this in the packet. http://www.ucsfbreastcarecenter.org/downloads/nutr_breastca.pdf

09-11-2011, 11:47 AM
Thank you for the informative link. Very interesting !! Very helpful !!!!!!! I am going to keep the link and refer to it often.
I think your cancer center has it wrong. What we put in our bodies does affect our health. Only a small percentage of breast cancers originate from family history, so diet, environment and lifestyle do affect our bodies in various ways, including not so good ways.

09-11-2011, 04:17 PM
Thanks for posting this - I have been looking for a single comprehensive document just like this.

09-12-2011, 04:20 PM
I disagree completely with the information you were first provided at the hospital. While nutrition/diet research faces many challenges we can safely say diet and/or weight is at least one risk factor for breast cancer. There is evidence to support improved outcomes in those diagnosed with breast cancer when certain dietary guidelines are followed. I am glad you were wise to seek out your own answers. If you are not already familiar with the document you may find the AICR/WCRF Expert Report interesting. You can find it at the link below.


09-13-2011, 10:42 AM
The article listed in the Washington Post link below does not mention breast cancer (for that, be sure to follow the link provided by Tanya: http://www.aicr.org/research/research_science_home.html (http://www.aicr.org/research/research_science_home.html)), but I thought it's an interesting read. [I'm going to eat some ice cream anyway even though my ovaries are gone... :)]

http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/foods-that-benefit-various-body-parts/2011/09/07/gIQANsgJPK_story.html (Foods that benefit various body parts)

09-13-2011, 09:56 PM
Hi Jackie,

Forgive my ignorance, Is there a reason your not supposed to eat ice cream with out your ovaries?

09-17-2011, 05:02 PM
I too was told to follow the basic guidelines - everything in moderation etc... that as my diet was ok according to the national guidelines to keep going along. I have decided differently and am following a vegan diet mostly - occasional eggs and I am eating fish 1-2 a week. I firmly believe that food can be medicine too. I don't feel we can rely simply on medication alone to deal with this disease and that by making significant dietary changes I will enhance the outcomes of the treatments I am having.

Amy - the link is awesome - so much information in one place. I was due to go to a seminar today by Ian Gawler - an Australian man who has survived a very aggressive osteosarcoma in the 1970's - he made significant lifestyle changes that include diet and meditation as key principles - when he was given no hope by the medical fraternity. Back then he was considered a bit whacky but medicine is catching up to the concept of healing being more holistic. I can't make it as I've had a temp overnight and need to rest up. I am attending a 12 week program run by the Gawler foundation and hope to receive more information about diet and cancer. It can be overwhelming how conflicting the information is at times but it seems that a common denominator is being plant based.

Tanya - the link you provide is interesting too. Is there any research on diet in people with Stage 4 breast cancer?

Amy - have you changed your diet and if so how?

09-19-2011, 10:12 AM
The link below has a lot of web information on diet and cancer. I received it from CancerConnect and haven't checked out the credential of the featured author of the cancer guide listed ...


09-19-2011, 04:21 PM

You might find this recently published study to be of interest:

Low-carbohydrate diets, dietary approaches to stop hypertension-style diets, and the risk of postmenopausal breast cancer.


"A diet high in fruits and vegetables, such as one represented by the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet score, was associated with a lower risk of ER- breast cancer. In addition, a diet high in plant protein and fat and moderate in carbohydrate content was associated with a lower risk of ER- cancer."

09-24-2011, 02:39 PM
Hi Amanda,
I am not aware of any nutrition related research in Stage IV breast cancer specifically. However, based on the research in early stage and breast cancer prevention I would be very supportive of your vegetarian/vegan diet.

I thought you might enjoy this link to Diana Dyer's website. She is an RD and breast cancer survivor. She follows a vegan diet and is a wealth of information on the subject.


Best wishes,

09-28-2011, 06:26 AM
Thank you for posting this awesome resource! I've posted it to my desktop for easy reference.
Ironically, now that I've read it...this sounds remarkably like the diet I followed while carrying my sons. I wanted to give them the best start possible.
I'm embarrassed to admit it...but once they were born, my diet went downhill rather quickly. I still fed them a healthy diet...but my stash of M&Ms was never far away!!

Time for me to get back on track! Colorful fruits and veggies, instead of colorful, candy-coated chocolate! :)

Thanks again!

09-30-2011, 03:15 AM
I find the site whatbreast cancer patients and survivors taking herceptin treatment very usefull and have been following it with your help in regulating Hems's diet

09-30-2011, 10:03 AM
Greetings HER2+ Sisters

I am so confused by all the diets and which one I should follow. As of now the only thing that I should ingest that is agreeable so it seems is WATER.....

I've been researching Diets for BC, Diets for HER2+ BC, and Diets for ER+ BC. Completely conflicting as to what is great for overall BC is not great for ER+ as the food contains too much estrogen then, a good food choice for ER+ is not good for HER2+......

I've come to terms with my BC and I'm prepared to let go of my 26" of long thick black hair, my eyebrows and eyelashes. I want to take all my treatments and kick cancer's @ss to the curb but.....how can I be diligent and prepare to fight this Cancer for the 2nd time (diagnosed 1st time IDC stage 2, right breast....lumpectomy and radiation followed by Tamoxafin....Tamox did absolutely NOTHING for me as my new cancer Left side is stage 1 triple positive) with NO FOOD???

Ladies, I want to thank you all for your courage, strength, openness, intelligence and humor. You all are amazing!!


10-01-2011, 01:42 AM

Like Tanya and another Lisa on this board, my Sister-in-law is also a registered dietician. She's been teaching nutrition/food science for almost 30 years. She had told me one time to eat whatever that I felt like to eat (and can digest) during chemotherapy.

I remember reading something on Reader's Digest many years ago that young children are capable of picking the right food for themselves. If they are in need of protein, they would go for meat/egg/milk.

Since chemo destroys lots of our sensation/appetite, we can't go by our 'natural instinct' (because we don't have appetite :) I would try to cook some plain rice soup and gradually add extra meat/egg/vegies.

10-01-2011, 12:59 PM

Thank You for your response. You are always so good about replying to posts. I hear from my onc that rather then losing appitite I may just have the opposite effect due to the steroids. I'm so confused by the diet i should follow after chemo. As I mentioned I am ER+ as well as HER2+ and it seems from what I've been reading the reccomended food list for these two are conflicting. I may just have to quit stressing over this and enjoy everything in moderation....that was my grandmother's favorite saying "everything is good for you in moderation"

10-02-2011, 05:55 AM
When I was on chemo I was trying to get more protein, so I ate grass fed beef, chicken, and a bit more fish than I used to. Now I'm eating about the same as before I got cancer, but trying to have more vegetables (especially cruciferous ones). I go out of my way to get turmeric, ginger and fresh herbs fairly often. I also eat a lot of yogurt. I make it myself with half organic grass-fed whole milk and half skim milk.

I wasn't eating many sweets (except dark chocolate), and it's been years since I had any artificial transfats or high fructose corn syrup. My diet is primarily plant-based. I avoid white flour, white sugar and white rice as much as possible, which means I prepare almost all my food from scratch. I don't find that as hard to do as it might sound. I make big batches--of red beans and brown rice, lentil soup, split pea soup, etc.--and freeze portions for later.

Information on soy foods is all over the place. As far as I can tell, soy is neither great for breast cancer nor bad for it. Tofu is such a good, cheap source of protein, I eat it several times a week with stir fry vegetables and brown rice. I also eat edamame. I make my own bread with whole grain flour (wheat and rye) and sourdough.

Basically I try to go for "protein and produce," limiting things that have a high glycemic index and trying to get a lot of fiber.

10-02-2011, 09:20 AM
Sounds wondrful Amy, Thank You!! Like the idea of making the big batches of soup.

10-02-2011, 10:07 AM
You are my new diet role model! You've summed up what I'm shooting for...except for making my own yogurt. I think that may be beyond my current skill set. I don't think I've ever even known anyone who made their own yogurt. That's really cool!

I have 2 teenage sons, so we still have some processed foods around...and pizza from time to time...but luckily, my boys love soup. Any soup! They'd eat it 5 days a week if I made it...so I do!!

And I've eaten a low fat diet for my entire married life because my husband's family has a very strong history of heart and cholesterol issues.

The hardest thing for me to give up is sugar. I admit it. I'm an addict. Once my surgery is behind me, I have to just suck it up, and stop. Cold turkey. No excuses. Because, as someone pointed out in another thread (Pray, I think...please forgive me if I'm mistaken)...I don't know whether all that sugar helps my cancer grow...but I'm not willing to chance it!

Protein and produce is my new mantra! Thanks, Amy!
All the best to you!

11-06-2011, 03:00 PM
Bumping this up so some of the new members can see it.

11-10-2011, 10:28 AM
Thanks for the additional links. I will make good use of them. I can always learn more about healthy eating.
I cook mostly from scratch too. As you mentioned it is not as hard as many people think it is. The time consuming part is washing and cutting all the produce, but once that is done the rest is pretty easy.
If you have a block of time one or two days a week you can cut and wash some produce and other ingredients and make pots of healthy stews, chili and soup. You can freeze some in small containers for use in the future.
Also if you are feeling a little under the weather some day all you have to do is take a container of something healthy you made from the freezer and heat it up.
I use fresh herbs. I eat alot of different fresh veggies and fruit. I keep a couple bags of frozen veggies and fruit in the freezer for when I run out of the fresh variety. I am vegetarian, but I do eat about 3 eggs a week, and dairy(mostly yoghurt). The only thing with a face I eat is wild salmon. I eat various kinds of beans including edamane and an occassional serving of tofu with stir frys. I eat natto once in awhile.
I buy whole grain breads, English muffins, bagels,crackers and waffles from the health food store.

11-10-2011, 11:32 AM
Navigating the road of what to eat and what not to eat is something we all grapple with. I agree with Amy as well, balance. Prior to breast cancer I ate well mainly fish dotted with grass fed organic meat (minimal pork), veggies and fruit organic as well so I continue on with this regiment however I have reduced the red meat and increased my beans and legumes. Recently, I read that when possible eat organic as it it richer in vitamins and minerals, however the organic farmers still use over 100 pesticides on their produce but they are still safer than the non-organic farmers. It was suggested that I buy my meat/fish/veggies/fruit from local farmers that are organic and have the animals to produce fertilizer so that it is organic. It is very easy for me to do this as I live in Niagara Canada where the farmers are plenty. In my opinion food makes a difference in our overall physical, mental and spiritual health.

Eating well is a full time job, LOL...have a great day and thanks so much for sharing!

02-01-2012, 12:46 PM
The link to the pamphlet has changed. Here it is again: http://cancer.ucsf.edu/_docs/crc/nutrition_breast.pdf. (I downloaded it this time--don't want to lose it!)

I have switched my focus from "protein and produce" to "whole grains and vegetables." The "whole grains and vegetables" idea is from The New Laurel's Kitchen. It's not just a vegetarian cookbook. It's a rich resource for facts about foods and for suggestions for lifestyle and attitude changes that include a plant-based whole foods diet. It's a nice, holistic approach. The recipes are good too.

The authors suggest a basic eating plan of four servings of whole grains and one serving of "super-vegetables" a day, plus either a serving of beans, a serving of dairy, OR another serving of "super-vegetable." Super-vegetables are sturdy leafy greens like kale, collards, and bok choy, plus broccoli, brussels sprouts and other cruciferous vegetables. Calorie needs are rounded out with fruits, other vegetables (including salad vegetables and starchy ones like squash or sweet potatoes), fruit, nuts and seeds, and additional servings of the basics. A grain serving is one slice of bread, 1/2 c. cooked grain, etc.

I find it helpful to think about what to eat rather than what I "don't" eat, so I like that approach. I also think we need Omega 3, so I take fish oil supplements. I also take Vitamin D. (Plant based Omega 3 has to be converted before it can be used. Since I'm not a vegetarian I'm OK with a fish source.)

02-14-2012, 12:37 PM
Diet has to help! My wife, stage 4 almost 6 years and NED almost 4 years, eats all the right foods daily. A Quaker Oats breakfast, salad for lunch, munches almonds and walnuts throughout the day, an apple daily, salmon once a week, and so on. She also walks two miles a day and does weights with me. She's a walking miracle.
Best to You,

02-22-2012, 08:12 PM
This page from the link recommended by TanyaRD does emphasize on eating more fruit and vegetables to fight cancer:


[This link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Internet_top-level_domains gives details about domain names.]

02-27-2012, 03:26 PM
The hospital gave me a book on breast cancer treatment that said to avoid fad diets and eat from "all the food groups," as if "food group" means the same thing to everyone. It also had a little information (but no context or guidance) about glycemic index. And they gave me a booklet called "Eating Hints" from the National Cancer Institute that says, "Many people want to know how they can help their body fight cancer by eating certain foods or taking vitamins or supplements. But, there are no studies that prove that any special diet, food, vitamin, mineral, dietary supplement, herb, or combination of these can slow cancer, cure it, or keep it from coming back. In fact, some of these products can cause other problems by changing how your cancer treatment works."

The last sentence is true, and everyone should let their care providers know if they are taking supplements. Also some foods, like grapefruit, are restricted in the case of certain drugs. But the rest of it, although technically true, is misleading. I'm sure that antioxidants from vegetables, fruits, legumes and grains, and eating to avoid insulin peaks and inflammation, are a good eating plan. It helps me keep my energy up. It is helping me gradually lose body fat. I don't need "proof" that it is helpful in fighting cancer, but it seems like a pretty safe bet. And it can't possibly do any harm.

03-06-2012, 01:10 PM
Completely CONFUSED, I'm currently in treatment and just not sure what to eat.Do I eat the Cancer Fighting Foods or What? I know I need to eat to get me thru this.

I'm not a cook from scratch person. What are some easy Ideas that I can eat and how to remind me to eat

03-06-2012, 07:35 PM
Dear Dragonmom,

Welcome to our family of feisty, fearless, friendly people, though of course it's too bad you had to join us.

Don't be concerned about doing everything right all at once. No one can make sustainable changes in that fashion. Just do one thing at a time, then as that becomes easy and comfortable, add the next thing.

A half hour a day of moderate exercise should perhaps be the first thing. That helps calm the mind and lift the spirits.

Start eating lots of fruits and vegetables. Try to get one "super vegetable" every day--kale, broccoli, chard, collards, brussels sprouts, bok choy. A glass of tomato/vegetable juice every day is an easy 2 servings of vegetables. Have fruits, vegetables or both every time you eat--a large variety, all different colors, some lightly steamed or roasted and some fresh.

Then start eating only natural complete grains--nothing refined.

Eliminate processed meat such as bacon, ham, hot dogs, lunch meat. You really don't need to eat meat at all.

For an eating plan, try the "plate" method. I think there's a thread about that, or you can Google it.

One step at a time, one day at a time. You can do it.

03-11-2012, 07:29 AM
I agree with Mtngrl's response. As you go through treatment I recommend focusing on some basics, like hydration. Water or some type of non-caloric beverage is so important to help minimize symptoms. Treatment may be a good time to start thinking about the dietary/health lifestyle changes you might make as you move forward. There is strong evidence to suggest that a low fat (especially saturated fats-those found in animal products), whole grains and high intake of fruits and vegetables is beneficial not only in prevention of breast cancer but prevention of recurrence. Exercise, even during treatment is also very beneficial and may reduce treatment related fatigue.

I think you'll find these message boards to be full of support and information.

Best wishes.