Diet, exercise crucial parts of breast cancer treatment plan

Special Reports

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Matt Crane has helped hundreds of people get stronger, but thinking back on his 11-year career as a personal trainer, one client’s story hits especially close to home for him.

His mother, Donna Crane, was started training with Matt after being diagnosed with breast cancer diagnosis in 2013. Her oncologist advised she follow a healthy diet and start exercising regularly throughout her treatment.

“He was there for me,” Donna said. “And it really made a difference in my life and in my treatment and how I survived.” 

“If you go back and look at pictures of her when she’s at her absolute lowest going through treatment, there’s never a time when you don’t see a smile on her face,” said Matt.

Matt helped Donna get moving on a daily basis.

“To know that it was my profession and what I do for a living that could help her,” said Matt. “It was an overwhelming sense of responsibility.”

Even when chemotherapy and radiation left Donna weak, it never broke her commitment to physical activity.

“Some days were worse than others,” said Donna. “And on the bad days, my goal was ‘I will make it to the mailbox and back.’”

Donna’s plan was in line with what doctors recommend. Dr. Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, associate director for cancer prevention and control for the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB, said exercise is crucial for those going through breast cancer treatment.

“Make sure that you get exercise,” Demark-Wahnefried said. “Because it’s really the only way to preserve the lean body mass.” 

Diet also plays a role in keeping the body strong.

“What we really encourage people to do is to eat a plant-based diet, a diet that is rich in vegetables in particular.”

In a 2017 UAB study performed with mice, researchers found a lethal form of breast cancer turned into a more treatable form when a plant-based diet was followed.

Some believe a natural diet alone is key to beat cancer. And while doctors said it’s not a cure-all, they said it can help with cancer prevention.

“And that’s particularly important for people that may come from cancer families, where moms or aunts may have had breast cancer,” Demark-Wahnefried said.

To reduce breast cancer risk, Dr. Wendy Demark-Wahnefried recommends limiting alcohol consumption, watch weight in adulthood and aim to get at least 150 minutes of exercise a week.

More information on the role diet and exercise has in a treatment plan can be found here.


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