Breast Cancer Survivors Get Healthier

Breast cancer patients reported positive changes in health behaviors

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) There’s nothing like a cancer diagnosis to make a person sit up and take notice of how they’ve been taking care of themselves. So do breast cancer survivors engage in healthier habits after treatment?

A recent study analyzed the lifestyle habits — smoking, diet and physical activity — of women who had been treated for breast cancer.

The researchers found that most of the women made positive, healthy changes, even without being counseled to do so.

"Eat more foods that don't come in a package."

Lisa Steinhilper, of the Medical Sociology Unit of Hannover Medical School in Hannover, Germany, led this study.

The goal of the study was to evaluate changes in diet, physical activity and smoking habits among women who’d had surgery for breast cancer.

A total of 229 women in Germany participated. They were interviewed just after surgery and then 14 months later.

The researchers asked these women how many daily servings they ate of six different food groups: bread, dairy products, fruits, vegetables, meat and snacks.

The participants were also asked about the types and amount of physical activity they engaged in during a “usual” week, and if they smoked before surgery.

Here’s what the study uncovered:

  • 50 percent of the study members reported eating more fruit.
  • 43 percent of the women increased their daily intake of vegetables.
  • 43 percent of the participants also reported consuming less dairy products.
  • Snacks, meat and bread consumption remained about the same among the group.
  • At follow-up, 50 percent of the women reported exercising more, and half of the women were meeting the recommendations of exercising 30 minutes a day at least five days a week.
  • The majority of smokers (73 percent) did not reduce their daily nicotine consumption, and only five women (17 percent) reported reducing the amount they smoked or quitting.

“The results demonstrate that breast cancer patients change their lifestyle habits in a significant way even without intervention. Patients who smoke are in particular need of professional support to implement health-promoting behavior, and intervention should especially focus on this group,” the authors concluded.

This study was published in the August issue of the International Journal of Public Health.

The research was supported by the German Research Association. No potential conflicts of interest were reported.

Review Date: 
August 1, 2013
Last Updated:
August 2, 2013