5 Ways to Stay Healthy After Breast Cancer

Though there is no clear link between lifestyle choices and breast cancer, forming good habits benefits your overall health.
No direct link has been established between lifestyle habits and the risk of a breast cancer recurrence, but surviving cancer is a great occasion to evaluate habits. "A cancer diagnosis represents a teachable moment," says Julia Rowland, PhD, director of the National Cancer Institute's Office of Cancer Survivorship. "It gives you a chance to make lifestyle changes that can benefit your general health and cancer status."

Here are some good places to start:

Get moving
You don't need a gym membership to benefit from exercise. The American Cancer Society recommends that survivors get at least 30 minutes of moderate activity five or more days a week. What you do is up to you (and your doctor), but the main point is to get your heart rate up. Exercise can also improve mood and sleep, reduce stress, control weight gain, boost self-esteem, and protect against other killers, especially heart disease and diabetes.

Don't smoke, and eat and drink mindfully
You can still get this disease if you don't smoke or drink and you eat a low-fat diet. But some studies draw a link between breast cancer and the same poor lifestyle habits that encourage heart disease and diabetes. Research has shown that being overweight or obese (especially if you're past menopause) increases your risk of breast cancer, especially if you put on the weight as an adult.

Get regular checkups
Set up a schedule of regular visits to your doctor. Each year without a recurrence marks an important drop in your risk, and five years out is a big milestone. Still, recurrences can occur 20 or even 25 years after a first bout with breast cancer, so experts say you'll need to continue screenings.

12 Next
Lead writer: Lorie Parch
Last Updated: July 03, 2008

Stay fit, feel younger, and get special offers and insider health news—from beauty to breast cancer—just for women.

More Ways to Connect with Health