by EBSCO Medical Review Board

Lifestyle changes can help:

  • Keep the body strong through treatments
  • The immune system fight cancer
  • Improve outlook and mood
  • Prevent other problems that could make it harder to get better

Quitting Smoking

Smoking The body needs to heal from cancer treatments. Smoking puts toxic chemicals into the body. This makes it more difficult to heal. Smoking increases the risk of problems from medical procedures. It can also slow tissue healing.

Quitting smoking helps the body repair itself. Quitting will help boost the immune system. This helps fight the cancer and improve recovery from treatment.

Limiting Exposure to Estrogen

Some people have hormone-sensitive breast cancer. If so, they may be advised to limit foods with phytoestrogens. These are soy or soy-based products. Phytoestrogens are found in plants. But, when eaten, it acts like estrogen in the body. Soy milk, tofu, and edamame are common soy products. A dietitian can help with meal planning, if needed.

Reducing the Risk of Infection

Cancer and its treatments suppress the body's immune system. This can increase the risk of infection. It can also increase how severe common infections are, like a cold or the flu. These steps can help decrease the risk of infection during treatment:

  • Washing hands thoroughly and often—or using hand sanitizer
  • Avoiding crowds—especially during cold and flu season
  • Not touching eyes, mouth, and nose
  • Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and objects often
  • Getting vaccines as advised by the doctor. Examples are vaccines for the flu and pneumonia .

Making Diet Changes

A healthful diet can help the body in many ways. It can improve mood and energy levels. Good nutrition also helps tissue heal and recover.

Cancer and some of its treatments can make a person not want to eat. It is important to make the most of the calories that are eaten. A dietitian can make a meal plan to help with these challenges.

Exercising Regularly

Exercise has many benefits. It can help the body cope better with cancer and treatment. Exercise has many benefits. It helps with:

  • Reaching and keeping a healthy weight—which can help lower estrogen levels
  • Promoting fitness
  • Boosting energy levels
  • Making the immune system work better
  • Boosting mood and outlook

The doctor can give guidance on safe exercise.

Managing Tiredness

Seeking Support

It can be difficult to cope with a cancer diagnosis. A serious disease brings uncertainty and anxiety. Worries about treatment and lifestyle changes can be overwhelming. Having support helps a person cope better. Some sources of support are:

  • Family and friends
  • Religious community
  • Support groups for people with the same type of cancer
  • Social workers and counselors who specialize in cancer

Family and caregivers may also need support. Support groups or counseling can help them.

Comfort Measures

Sometimes breast cancer is found in advanced stages. This makes it harder to treat. Some people choose comfort treatments. Or they choose to stop treatment completely. This may be time to start end-of-life planning. Some things to consider are:

  • Choosing home or hospice care
  • Decisions about money
  • Advance directives, which include:
  • Legal issues, like wills
  • Hospital orders for care
  • Power of attorney for medical care and finances
  • Insurance coverage

The healthcare team can provide more information on these concerns.


Breast cancer. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: Accessed March 24, 2022.

Breast cancer in women. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed March 23, 2022.

Sørensen HL, Schjølberg TK, et al. Social support in early-stage breast cancer patients with fatigue. BMC Womens Health. 2020;20(1):243.

Stay healthy. American Cancer Society website. Available at: Accessed March 24, 2022.

Treatment option overview. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: Accessed March 24, 2022

Revision Information