Beating breast cancer treatment troubles

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, serving as a reminder that beating the disease is not always the end of the fight for women who overcome it. Many women face overwhelming exhaustion during and after undergoing treatment. However, there are ways for survivors to literally eat away fatigue with certain foods.

Kelly Trombitas battled breast cancer and won. But treatment to knock-out the disease led to constant fatigue, “I slept a lot. Chemo takes a lot out of you” says Trombitas.

A study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology finds that soon after surgery, one in four woman experienced fatigue. That number increased to one in three by the end of treatment. For some women, experiencing fatigue continued for up to a year after they finished treatment.

To help ease fatigue associated with breast cancer treatment, Stacy Bursuk, Florida Hospital Registered Dietician says there are some foods that can help.

“When you’re choosing foods that help you fight fatigue during and after cancer treatment you want to try and choose foods of all different colors” says Bursuk.

Bursuk says that red peppers are great for fatigue-fighting anti-oxidants, “they’re also an excellent source of Vitamin C.”

While endorsing some foods, Bursuk recommends that breast cancer patients avoid Acai and Noni juices, "Because your cancer treatment is trying to destroy those bad cells and those high anti-oxidant juices might actually protect those cells."

According to Bursuk, up to three servings a day of whole soy foods like Tofu, soy milk, and Edamame can help keep calorie levels up to a healthy level. But women struggling with exhaustion should steer clear of soy protein isolate, found in some protein bars and shakes.

Other protein-rich foods such as red meats and Garbanzo beans are excellent for breast cancer survivors. “In a little bit of beans you can get as much protein as you can in a couple ounces of meat” says Bursuk.

Kelly Trombitas has her energy back after ten months of exhaustive treatment, saying, “It’s just a good feeling.” recommends that survivors dealing with fatigue should eat half a gram of protein for each pound they weigh each and every day. For a 140-pound woman, that’s the equivalent of 70 grams of protein daily. Bursuk says that protein should be eaten throughout the day during meals and snacks.

REPORT #1922

TREATMENT SIDE EFFECTS: A whole range of different breast cancer treatments now exist for women to choose from, but the treatments also have unwanted side effects. Certain chemotherapy treatments (especially the medicine Adriamycin), radiation therapy, Herceptin, Avastin, and some hormonal therapies can possibly cause heart problems along with breathing problems. Other side effects of various breast cancer treatments include bone and joint pain, kidney problems, liver problems, menopausal symptoms, appetite changes, vomiting, and many more. (Source:

MANAGING CHEMOTHERAPY SIDE EFFECTS: Chemotherapy destroys cancer cells with medicines that target rapidly dividing cells but normal cells in the blood, mouth, nose, nails, hair, and intestinal tract divide rapid rapidly as well so chemotherapy can affect them too, leading to certain side effects. Patients should tell their doctors or nurses about any side effects they are having because certain medications can help alleviate side effect symptoms and most should go away once the chemotherapy is finished, although some side effects can take months or longer to completely disappear. If medication doesn't help and the side effects are severe, treatment may need to be changed. Overall, it is important for patients to weigh the benefits of treatment against the side effects with their doctors before deciding on a particular treatment. (Source:
FIGHT FATIGUE: Many women experience fatigue after breast cancer treatments, but nutrition may help restore some of their vitality.

1. Eat small, frequent meals throughout the day in order to maintain a stable blood sugar level.
2. Eat low glycemic foods like whole grains, brown rice, oatmeal, and green vegetables.
3. Avoid junk foods which will raise blood sugar and energy fast but then also cause it to drop just as rapidly, leaving the person feeling spent.
4. Dehydration is another common side effect from breast cancer treatments, so drink a lot of water and also fruit juices, like pomegranate juice, which will provide vitamins and other nutrients.

For More Information, Contact:

Stacy Bursuk MS, RD, CSO,
Medical Nutrition Therapist
Florida Hospital

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