CINCINNATI - Beating breast cancer is not always the end of the fight for women who overcome it. Many face overwhelming exhaustion during and after treatment. Experts say survivors can fight their fatigue with food.
Kellie 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," said Trombitas.
A study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology finds soon after surgery one in four women experienced fatigue. By the end of treatment one in three had it. And for some it continued for up to a year after treatment ended. But women can fight it with food!
"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."
Registered dietician Stacy Bursuk says red peppers are great for fatigue-fighting anti-oxidants and they're also an excellent source of vitamin C. Bursuk recommends 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," said Bursuk.
Bursuk says up to three servings a day of whole soy foods like tofu, soy milk and edamame can help keep calorie levels up. But women struggling with exhaustion should steer clear of soy protein isolate found in some protein bars and shakes. Bursuk says red meat can be a good source of protein for breast cancer survivors, but garbonzo beans are a great alternative.
"In a little bit of beans you can get as much protein as you can in a couple ounces of meat," said Bursuk.
After 10 months of exhaustive treatment, Kellie has her energy back.
Breastcancer.org recommends survivors dealing with fatigue eat half a gram of protein for each pound they weigh, every day. For a 140 pound woman, that's 70 grams of protein daily. Dieticians say that protein should be eaten throughout the day during meals and snacks.