In one report on the Breast Cancer News page of my web site it states that:

“The survey of more than 400 health professionals in Britain also found most GPs and oncology nurses were unaware of the guidelines on exercise — just 41pc and 42pc answered correctly.”

“More than half (56%) of GPs, practice nurses, oncologists and cancer nurses also did not speak to their patients about the possible benefit of exercise, or only spoke to a few of them.”

When I see any health specialist especially for example my surgeon or oncologist, I would expect them to advise me the best way to help and possibly prevent re occurrences. Just like the report that only one in ten breast cancer patients get offered reconstructive surgery – the same thing happens with diet and exercise – no one is advised and not enough information provided.

On a visit to my surgeon, I had switched to soya milk as an alternative to normal cows milk. I’d heard reports about oestrogen in cows milk that can, if you have oestrogen receptive cancer, cause problems. Then another report stated that photoestrogens in soya milk can act in the same way. Confused? I questioned this as I was unsure as to what to do but was advised to ‘try to stick to organic milk and organic meats’. I was surprised that I wasn’t laughed off but this was only confirmed BECAUSE I had spoken up and asked the question.  There still is no scientific proven confirmation that milk can contribute or cause breast cancer but there are books written about dairy free diets for breast cancer patients.

I have already changed to a ‘mostly organic diet’. We rarely have anything but organic meats, fruit, vegetables and anything else that I can source organic. I don’t stress though if I can’t get all my produce as organic.  If you do choose organic, don’t deny yourself.  You are going to find things that you can’t source or they’re just too costly. When I go out to a restaurant I don’t think ‘it’s got to be organic’ – you have to be realistic.

Parabens and other so called ‘nasties’ in toiletries etc also raise concerns.  Again, I try to source anything organic like shampoo & conditioner and limit sprays and cleaning agents. There are reports about these, but nothing that fully confirms and links them to a contributory factor why some women get breast cancer.

Organic products and produce are more costly, some cases just a few pence but on others £’s than normal products and produce BUT seeing as I don’t actually know what caused my cancer in the first place (and have been told will never know what caused it) I would rather try ‘damage limitation’.  When I see comments from ‘news’ from the public saying ‘oh here we go again, another thing we have to eat or not eat’ – I would ask that person – ‘What would you rather do? Try for example 4/5 walnuts a day to possibly help stop/slow cancer growth or not bother?’  Try living with a cancer diagnosis. I totally understand that there are many, many press releases on various cures or drugs or what to eat or drink or not eat or drink BUT I would rather try small changes in my control than do nothing.  These people have never had cancer and gone through treatment for cancer – it’s something you don’t ever want to have to do again…

The Genesis 2 day diet

I have had email discussions with Dr Michelle Harvie from The Prevent Breast Cancer Centre about diet and exercise and this is what she quotes in regards to secondary breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.
“The most important thing for women with secondary breast cancer is to maintain muscle mass which helps to limit toxicity from chemotherapy and maintains muscle function and mobility. This is helped by doing resistance exercise (patients need to check what is safe for them to do with their medical team, especially if they have breast cancer in their bones).
We have conducted research trials looking at Mediterranean diet every day and the 2 day diet where carbohydrate is restricted for 2 days followed by 5 days of a Mediterranean diet. We have shown that the 2 day diet can help people to control their weight and lower insulin levels which are linked to cancer risk. We do not recommend that normal weight or underweight women do the 2 day diet as they are likely to lose muscle mass when they lose weight and could therefore be less tolerant of their chemotherapy.
Overall the best advice is to keep exercising and to follow a Mediterranean diet with plenty of omega 3 fats i.e. oily fish and nuts. There is ongoing research with fish oils and omega 3 fats in advanced breast cancer patients in the USA which look promising in the lab but we don’t know their effects in women.
Dr Michelle Harvie
Research Dietitian – Prevent Breast Cancer Centre, University Hospital South Manchester

B-AHEAD 3 Breast Activity and Healthy Eating After Diagnosis 3

Researchers at  the Genesis prevention centre and Christie Hospital  (Dr Harvie, Tony and Sacha Howell) are running a ground breaking study to test the effects of diet and exercise on response and toxicity to chemotherapy for women receiving chemotherapy for secondary breast cancer .

Who can take part?

We are recruiting women with secondary breast cancer who are:

  • Starting a new course of chemotherapy treatment for secondary breast cancer (unfortunately not women who are already part way through a course)
  • Are willing and physically able to undertake a diet and exercise programme.
  • Have a body mass index of 24 or higher.

We are recruiting women from the Christie hospital, aswell as patients from East Lancs, Leighton Macclesfield, North Manchester and Oldham, Tameside, and Wigan hospitals. We are planning to start recruiting patients soon from North Staffs, Bolton, Liverpool / Clatter Bridge, Stepping Hill Preston and Southampton. For more information about the study please speak to your breast cancer team or contact the research dietitians at University Hospital South Manchester 0161 291 4412 or