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Breast Cancer : Foods To Have And Avoid During And After Treatment

By Dr. Mayuri Pandey +2 more


Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in women. It may also occur in men, although very rare. Breast cancers can start from any of the different parts of the breast. The breast is an organ composed mainly of glands, ducts and fatty tissue. In women, the breast makes milk for feeding newborns and infants. 

The most common types of breast cancer are:-

  • Invasive ductal carcinoma: The cancer cells begin in the ducts and then grow outside the ducts into other parts of the breast tissue. Invasive cancer cells can also spread or metastasise, to other parts of the body.
  • Invasive lobular carcinoma: The cancer cells begin in the lobules and then spread from the lobules to the breast tissues that are close by. These invasive cancer cells can also spread to other parts of the body.

There are other types of breast cancers as well, which a doctor usually diagnoses with the help of lab tests and biopsies.

Breast cancer must not be left untreated once diagnosed. The treatment for breast cancer comprises surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Proper diet and food supplements help in combating and overcoming, partially or otherwise, the side effects of the treatment cycle, especially chemotherapy and radiation.

Best foods for breast cancer warriors

Good nutrition is the key for cancer patients throughout the various phases of treatment and after. The treatment may affect the way your body metabolises certain foods and uses nutrients and this varies for each individual.

During the treatment process, your diet must help build up your strength. You must eat high-protein, high-calorie foods which will promote the following-

  • Better health and faster recovery.
  • Enhanced strength and energy.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Help you overcome the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
  • Lower your risk of infection.

In my opinion, depending on whether you are vegeterian or follow other diets, increase your consumption of poultry, fish, and legumes like beans and lentils for a healthy source of protein. Scientists suggest daily protein consumption may help cope with breast cancer. One to two servings of soy food per day, such as tofu, edamame, and soy milk, may also be included assuming soy is used in moderation.

Dr. Rajeev Singh, BAMS

11 Food recommendations during and after treatment of breast cancer 

1. Protein:

If you had surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy, you need a lot of protein to feel fit and fight off infections. The body loses substantial immunity in the process of breast cancer (and other cancer) treatment. Fish, poultry, lean meat, eggs, low-fat dairy products, nuts and nut butter, dried beans, peas, lentils and soya foods are all good sources of protein.

2. Grapes:

Grapes are a rich source of the antioxidant resveratrol, which has the potential to possibly stop cancer from starting in the breast. You must eat grapes with their skin intact as it has the most resveratrol.

3. Figs:

These have always been popular for their medicinal properties. They contain high levels of the flavonoid quercetin beneficial for lung and colon cancers. Figs can reduce inflammation which is the major cause of cancer. 

4. Broccoli and cauliflower:

Cruciferous vegetables must be included in your regular diet. Broccoli has a high amount of a phytochemical called sulforaphane, which is a cancer-fighting plant compound. These vegetables are effective sources of nutrition and also boost immunity.

Also Read: Foods to Avoid When Taking Anastrozole: A Research-Based Survival Guide 

5. Garlic and onion:

The antimicrobial and antitumor properties of garlic and onion have been known for over 1000 years. They must be part of your daily diet.

6. Tea:

Tea (both green and black) has active antioxidants that keep the harmful effects of free radicals in check, which cause cellular damage. Fresh tulsi tea can be a good choice.

7. Turmeric:

It is already an integral part of Indian foods. Curcumin I, II and III inhibit carcinogenesis and have proven anti-inflammatory properties. It is also an antitumour agent. 

8. Rosemary:

This herb is rich in carnosol, a phytochemical that can slow the growth of cancer cells, strengthen the immune system and limit the production of cancer-related hormones. It acts as an antioxidant and can be included in your diet during and after breast cancer treatment.

9. Fenugreek:

This ingredient in every Indian kitchen helps inhibit tumour cell growth. It is useful for patients with breast cancer and it has anticancer potential. You may include it in your diet during and post-treatment.

10. Saffron:

This exotic flower product has excellent inhibitory properties against cancer cells.

11. Soya products:

Nutritional properties of soya milk and other soya products make them preferred inclusions in your breast cancer diet.

If you ask me, roughly 25 to 30 grams of fibre should be taken daily. To my knowledge, whole grains are rich in vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, fibre, and complex carbs. According to a study, eating a lot of fibre may keep you away from breast cancer and other hormone-dependent tumours. Make sure that at least 50% of the grains in your diet are whole grains, such as brown rice for dinner or whole-grain bread for lunch.

Dr. Siddharth Gupta, B.A.M.S, M.D (Ayu)

Also Read: Breast Pain Before Period: Understanding the Causes and Management Options

Foods to avoid when affected by breast cancer

Apart from the usual culprits like sugary foods, fatty foods and processed and preserved food, if you suffer from breast cancer, make sure you avoid the following:

  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Raw or undercooked meat, fish or poultry.
  • Raw or soft-cooked eggs.
  • Unpasteurised dairy products or juice.
  • Unwashed fruits and vegetables.
  • Leftovers that are more than three to four days old, whether refrigerated or not.

Also Read: What is Edamame: A Comprehensive Research-Based Guide on Its Benefits


The most important part of breast cancer treatment is a regular follow-up, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and following a good diet. Apart from keeping to a diet rich in proteins, minerals, vitamins and nutrients, you must always be well hydrated. Drink plenty of water, exercise and keep your weight in check, as fat and obesity are inimical for breast cancer. Form a habit of taking small meals rather than heavy ones, spaced throughout the day. Do enough activities caring to avoid stress on the arm where the axillary nodes have been surgically removed. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What should a breast cancer patient eat?

Your diet should be such that you eat enough nutrients to keep your body strong. A balanced diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, nuts, seeds, meats/eggs and dairy products is ideal. Talk to your doctor about any additional supplements that you may need.

What are the juices best for breast cancer patients?

Cruciferous vegetable-based juices, i.e. juices that contain vegetables like cabbage, spinach or any other belonging to the family of cruciferous vegetables containing loads of vitamin A.
You may go for any of these juice combinations:
Orange, carrot, turmeric.
Green apple, beetroot.
Beetroot, carrot orange, cucumber.
Make sure to consume freshly prepared juices and not packaged ones. Whole fruits are always better than juices because they include all the fibre content. 

Are eggs permitted for breast cancer patients?

Eggs are rich in powerful antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin. It inhibits cancer cell growth in breast cancers. It is good to have an egg a day unless you suffer from any other health conditions and must avoid it.

What food should I take to fight breast cancer naturally?

Berries, broccoli, tomatoes, walnuts, grapes and other coloured and leafy vegetables, fruits and nuts from the list. All plant foods that contain phytochemicals typically comprise foods for fighting your battle against breast cancer naturally.

Disclaimer: The information included on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.



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