Nutrition tips during metastatic breast cancer treatment

Food can help your body heal. Make sure your diet provides the nutrients you need most.

Food is fuel. When you're battling metastatic breast cancer, the right fuel can provide healing nutrients and energy.

Unfortunately, treatment side effects such as nausea and mouth sores might harm your appetite or make eating painful. As a result, it's even more important that you make your meals count by choosing foods packed with nutrients.

While further research is needed to determine the exact role diet plays during treatment for metastatic breast cancer treatment, there are a few basic nutrition guidelines you can follow to support your body.

Foods for healing

When cancer cells spread in your body, chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy and other treatments destroy those cells. But, in the process, treatments can damage healthy cells. A diet rich in a wide variety of healthy foods may promote healing during breast cancer treatment.

For example, antioxidants, such as vitamin C and vitamin E, might help prevent cell damage and the development of second, different types of cancers in breast cancer survivors. Research is unclear about the safety of antioxidant supplements, so it's best to get antioxidants through a healthy diet. Antioxidant-rich foods include:

  • Spinach, Brussels sprouts and broccoli
  • Sweet potatoes, squash and carrots
  • Tomatoes, citrus fruits and strawberries
  • Vegetable oils
  • Seeds, nuts and peanut butter

Protein helps repair tissues and boost your immune system — particularly beneficial properties in women with metastatic breast cancer, who are already at greater risk for infection. Try these healthy proteins:

  • Dried beans, peas and lentils
  • Fish
  • Lean poultry and lean red meat
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Eggs
  • Low-fat dairy products, such as milk, cheese or yogurt

Flaxseeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, minerals, vitamins and fiber. Research shows that they may play a role in slowing cancer cell growth in breast cancer patients, and may improve the effectiveness of some cancer treatments.

Calcium and vitamin D build stronger bones. Undergoing chemotherapy, being menopausal or post-menopausal, and taking estrogen lowering-aromatase inhibitors all contribute to bone loss. To boost your bone health, choose low-fat dairy products, leafy green vegetables such as spinach and broccoli and vitamin D-fortified milk, breads and cereals.

Foods for energy

Carbohydrates supply your body with energy — something you're likely lacking during your cancer treatment. The best choices are whole grains, fruits and vegetables, particularly:

  • Potatoes
  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice and barley

Healthy fats also provide energy. It's important to watch how much fat you eat to avoid weight gain — a common problem in women after breast cancer treatment — and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. But healthy unsaturated fats help carry vitamins throughout your body. Try canola, olive, peanut, safflower and other vegetable oils, as well as seafood.

Vomiting and diarrhea, common treatment side effects, can deplete your fluids — leaving you dehydrated and low in energy. Aim to drink about 64 ounces of liquid each day. Drink tea, juice and sports drinks and enjoy soup to replenish lost fluids.

Oct. 13, 2017 See more In-depth